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UK Immigration update and new UKBA proposals

06 June 2011

On 6 April 2011, the UK Border Agency brought into force the Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules (HC863) published on 16 March 2011. This article offers a snap shot of the most pervasive makeover of the UK immigration system seen in recent years with a discussion of the new proposals announced today and their likely impact on prospective migrants.

Amongst, the most important changes, the closure of the Tier 1 General Scheme has heralded the shift in UK's policy from highly skilled migrants to high net migrants. However, Tier 1 G holders who are already in the UK will be able to extend their current status as long as they meet the requirements. The UK Border Agency has, also, decided to keep open the Tier 1 (Post-study) Work route at least until April 2012. Under this scheme, foreign graduate students will be allowed to work for a period of two years. However, they will need to have obtained a recognised UK degree or higher qualification from a UK institution while on a student visa before the closure of the Scheme.

In addition, the UK Border Agency has introduced a new Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) open for 1000 migrants who have "won international recognition in scientific and cultural field, or who show exceptional promise". It will be interesting to review the approval rate in the following months.

Finally, in line with the new policy of "rolling out the red carpet" for high net migrants, the UK Government has amended the Immigration Rules to permit absences to 180 days in any 12 months period under the Tier 1 Investor and Tier 1 Entrepreneur Schemes. It has also shortened the qualifying period to 2 and 3 years depending on the amount of funds invested in the UK. It also introduced a lower threshold of £50,000 for entrepreneurs whose funds are received by (i) one or more registered venture capitalist firms regulated by the Financial Services Authority, or (ii) one or more UK Entrepreneurial seed funding competitions which is listed as endorsed on the UK Trade & Investment website, or(iii) one or more UK Government Departments, and made available by the Department(s) for the specific purpose of establishing or expanding a UK business.

On a positive note, on 30 April 2011 the Worker Registration Scheme for A8 countries, who joined the European Economic Area in May 2004, was abolished. Restrictions, however, remain in place for A2 countries, namely Bulgarian and Romanian nationals. Also, on 9 May 2011 the UK Government abolished the requirement to obtain a Certificate of Approval before marrying or entering a civil partnership in the UK. This has not affected the eligibility criteria to be met for an entry clearance application as a fiancée/proposed civil partner or spouse/ civil partner.

There has been also discussion of introducing a same day service of applications submitted under the 2006 EEA Regulations as the current processing times can be up to 6 months. However, the plan has been put on hold since it is unclear whether the UK Government would be allowed to lawfully charge for this service. The 2006 EEA Regulations have also been amended at paragraph 12(b) to implement the European Court of Justice's ruling on Metock whereby an a non-EEA family member will not need to reside in another EU country to qualify for a family permit.

Sadly, the UK Border Agency has also tightened the requirements to apply for settlement in the UK. In particular, applicants for settlement will need to meet a new criminality threshold and a new income requirement to claim 75 points as Tier 1 General holders or by showing the appropriate salary as work permit holders and Tier 2 applicants in line with the UKBA Codes of Practice.

Finally, the UK Border Agency has also announced the following proposals:

• re-branding Tier 2 (the skilled worker route) as temporary, ending the assumption that settlement will be available for those who enter on this route;
• allowing certain categories of Tier 2 migrant, for example those earning over £150,000 or occupations of a specific economic or social value to the UK, to retain an automatic route to settlement;
• creating a new category into which, after three years in the UK, the most exceptional Tier 2 migrants may switch and go on to apply for settlement;
• allowing Tier 2 migrants who do not switch into a settlement route to stay for a maximum of five years with the expectation that they and any dependants will leave at the end of that time;
• introducing an English language requirement for adult dependants of Tier 2 migrants applying to switch into a route to settlement;
• restricting the maximum period of leave for Tier 5 Temporary Workers to 12 months; and
• closing or reforming routes for overseas domestic workers.

Again, it appears that the UK Government's focus is to attract those migrants who might be able to to create wealth for the UK economy by shortening their qualifying period for settlement, while making it tougher for other migrants, in particular low skilled/low salary migrants by rebranding them as temporary workers in the UK.

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Migra & Co is a private immigration company, regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), reference number F200900038. This website is not a government website and as such, we are not linked or affiliated with the UK Visas and Immigration. We offer expert legal advice and flexible tailored solutions to both private and corporate clients to ensure that their immigration needs are met. If you wish to download or prepare a UK visa application form, you can do so free of charge by visiting the Official UKVI website.