Recent changes to UK Immigration

The Statement of Changes presented to the Parliament on 22 November 2012 introduced significant changes to the PBS visa categories and family routes. In particular, the Statement has implemented the following:

– changes for entrepreneurs and investors in Tier 1 of the Points- Based System. The English language requirement is being lowered from level C1 (advanced) to level B1 (intermediate), in line with other Points-Based System categories, in response to concerns that the high requirement was a possible deterrent to potentially successful entrepreneurs.

– changes are being made to the Tier 1 (Investor) category, which caters for high net worth individuals making a substantial financial investment in the UK:

Initial applicants must provide evidence of the source of the required £1 million funds to invest. On 6 April 2011 a change was introduced allowing applicants to qualify for accelerated settlement in 2 or 3 years (rather than 5 years) if they invested larger sums of money. A change is now being made to require applicants to provide evidence of the source of the additional funds, in the same way.A change is being made to allow a Tier 1 (Investor) Migrant’s leave to be curtailed if they fail to maintain the required level of investment for the duration of their leave.

– changes in Tier 2 of the Points-Based System to increase the maximum stay in the UK for senior intra-company transferees earning £150,000 or above from 5 years to 9 years and to make the operation of 12-month “cooling-off periods” more flexible for applicants;

The Rules are also being amended to clarify the absences that are permitted from the UK during the continuous period of lawful residence required for indefinite leave to remain in all these categories. Up to a maximum of 180 days in any of the 12 calendar month periods preceding the date of the application for indefinite leave to remain may be spent outside the UK, provided the absence is due to an employment, including annual leave, or business related reason or there are serious or compelling compassionate reasons for the absence.

Finally, a minor amendment is being made to the Points Based System policy on requesting specified documents that are copies or in the wrong format, to improve flexibility and allow applications to be exceptionally granted in cases where the UK Border Agency has no concerns.

On 12 December 2012, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, gave a speech expressing satisfaction that “Home office visa statistics, which are more recent than the net immigration figures, show falls of 4% in work visa, 15% in family visas and 26% in student visas”. Theresa May stated that “I want to talk today about the measures we’re taking to make sure that the immigration system truly works in our national interest, by bringing down net migration to sustainable levels, while still attracting the brightest and the best talent from around the world. In particular, I want to talk about measures we’re taking to make us more discerning when it comes to stopping the wrong people from coming here, and even more welcoming to the people we do want to come here.

Thus, it’s likely that new schemes will be introduced in 2013, for instance to allow MBA students who wish to stay in the UK and start a business. Similarly, as of April 2013, all PhD students who have completed  their studies will be allowed to stay in the UK for 12 months to find a job or set up a business.