New UK immigration rules announced by Home Office

28 October 2020

New UK immigration rules announced by Home Office.

The UK’s new points-based visa system was announced by the Home Office in July 2020 they have now followed up by publishing the statement of changes on 22 October 2020 which gives a detailed overview of the new points-based immigration system. It will be applicable to EEA and Swiss nationals, but exclude Irish (EEA) nationals.

The new rules are set to go ‘live’ on 1 January 2021 but applications will be possible from 9 am on 1 December 2020. However; EEA nationals will not be able to apply until 11 pm on 31 December 2020, unless they are applying under the EU Settlement Scheme as an S2 healthcare visitor or a service provider from Switzerland.  However it is important to note that those who apply for entry clearance (other than under the same categories) will have this granted from 1 January 2021 at the earliest. Changes relating to Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) take effect on 31 January 2021.

Skilled worker

The Tier 2 route is to be replaced by an Appendix Skilled Workers. The main changes as previously announced here include:

  • The minimum skill threshold is lowered from RQF level 6 to RQF level 3.
  • The general salary threshold is lowered from £30,000 to £25,600; with this salary being “exchangeable” when other requirements are met, including having a PhD qualification relevant to the job; a PhD qualification in a STEM subject relevant to the job; a job in a shortage occupation; being a new entrant (with this definition being amended to allow those sponsored in postdoctoral research position; those working towards professional qualifications; and those who were on the Student route up to 2 years before the application); or being in a job in a listed health or education occupation.
  • The current Tier 2 cap is suspended.
  • Sponsors will no longer need to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test.
  • The 12-month “cooling off period” and the six-year maximum length of stay in the route are being removed.
  • The £35,800 salary threshold for indefinite leave to remain applications is being removed and replaced with £25,600 or the going rate for the occupation.

Applicants will be allowed to ‘switch’ to the Skilled Workers route other than those in the UK as a visitor, short-term student, parent of a child student, seasonal worker, domestic worker or a person with leave outside the immigration rules.

Intra-company transfers

For this route too, the cooling-off period is removed. There will still be a time limit on how long an applicant can be under this route, but it will be up to five years in any six-year rolling period or, for high earners, up to nine years in any ten-year rolling period.

High earners will be those earning an annual salary above £73,900 (instead of £120,000). Those workers can have leave as Intra-Company workers for up to nine years and do not need to have been working for the business overseas for 12 months.


There are more flexible “switching” provisions, although applicants still need have been working for the sponsor for 12 months at the date of application (except for high earners).

English language

The English Language for the majority of routes will be amended. Following are the changes:-

  • allow applicants to only prove the required level of English once.
  • introduce Malta as a “majority speaking English language country.”
  • allow people with a degree from Ireland to rely on that as proof of English language 
  • allow applicants to rely on GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK to prove the English language. This change will, initially, only apply to applications for students, Skilled Workers, Start-up and Innovator migrants. 
Finances

The following are the changes to the financial requirements:-

  • Students, Skilled Workers, Intra-Company Workers, Tier 2 Ministers of Religion, Tier 2 Sportspersons, Tier 5 (Temporary Workers), Start-up and Innovator applicants will not need to meet the maintenance requirement if they have been in the UK for more than 12 months.
  • Applicants can rely on electronic bank statements without needing to have the bank stamp every page (note that this does not apply to Appendix FM-SE applications).
  • Applicants will be able to rely on a wider range of accounts (not just cash or cash savings), so long as the funds can be accessed immediately.
  • Most applicants will need to submit evidence ending within 31 days of the date of application.
Visitors

Visitors, who so far could only study for up to 30 days, will be allowed to study for up to six months. This also means that applicants who previously had to apply for a short-term student visa to study for a period of between 30 days and six months can now apply for a visit visa. There is still a short-term study route for those who want to study for a period of between six and 11 months. In addition, visitors who want to study recreational courses are still limited to 30 days.

Volunteering no longer needs to be “incidental to the main reason for the visit”, although it should be limited to 30 days.

Academic visitors will have more liberty to apply to extend their permission to stay in the UK for up to 12 months.

Students

One additional change brought by these rules is the maintenance level, which will now be £1,334/month for students in London and £1,023 for students outside London.

In addition, students and their dependents who are allowed to work will now be able to work as postgraduate doctors or dentists in training.

The parents of Child Students will be granted leave to expire at the same time as the Child Student, or on the Child Student’s 12th birthday, whichever is sooner. This is a positive change as, with the current rules, a parent had to re-apply every twelve months instead.

Continuous residence

A new Appendix Continuous Residence is introduced, to apply to most routes (but not Appendix FM and Appendix EUSS, for example). Many requirements will be familiar, including that continuity of residence is broken by absences of more than 180 days in any one year. This specifically refers to absences due to a “pandemic” as an exception to the rule.

Youth Mobility Scheme

San Marino is being added to the Youth Mobility scheme country list as a country without Deemed Sponsorship Status with an allocation of 1,000 places. The Republic of Korea is being added to the list of countries where an invitation to apply arrangements apply.

EU, Swiss and Turkish nationals

EEA and Turkish nationals who are arriving after 31 December 2020 will need to meet the “normal” Immigration Rules, the following changes are made:

  • Appendix ECAA Extension of Stay is introduced to replicate the existing ECAA arrangements so that Turkish workers, business persons, and family members currently covered by those arrangements can continue to apply. However, suitability requirements are amended so that conduct committed before the end of the transition period is considered under the previous arrangements for restricting rights, whereas conduct committed after that date will be considered under the UK criminality thresholds.
  • Appendix Service Provides from Switzerland is introduced, creating a brand new immigration route for individuals employed by Swiss companies and Swiss self-employed individuals to come to the UK for up to 90 days/year to fulfill contracts in the UK. To be eligible under this route, the contracts must have been signed and commenced before the end of the transition period. The route is expected to run for five years, until 31 December 2025.
  • Appendix S2 Healthcare Visitor is introduced to allow eligible patients, and those accompanying them to provide them with care or support, to come to the UK free of charge to receive a course of planned healthcare treatment provided by the NHS under the “S2 route”.  
  • Appendix FM is amended to allow “new” family members of EU nationals with limited leave under Appendix EU, and of Turkish workers or business persons with limited leave, to apply under those Rules. In other words, family relationships which started before 31 December 2020 fall under Appendix EUSS and Appendix ECAA, while relationships starting after that will fall under Appendix FM.
  • The rules will provide for those who have not applied under the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021 to apply after that date if there are “reasonable grounds why they missed the deadline”. 
  • The generous “assumed dependency” of a parent or grandparent of an EU national will be discontinued from 1 July 2021, at which point it will still be possible to apply, but dependency will no longer be assumed and will instead need to be evidenced.
Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas)

The visa scheme for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) citizens are covered in two routes:

  • The BN(O) Status Holder route, for BN(O) citizens ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the UK and their dependent family members
  • The BN(O) Household Member route, for adult children, born on or after 1 July 1997, of BN(O) citizens; and their dependent family members, provided they form part of the same household as the BN(O) citizen.


The Hong Kong British National (Overseas) routes allow work and study in the UK and are both routes to settlement.

Switching

Applicants will be allowed to ‘switch’ from within the UK from most immigration categories other than visitor, short-term student, parent of a child student, seasonal worker, domestic worker or a person with leave outside the immigration rules. 

With the changes set to take effect from 01 December 2020, we await the relevant guidance(s) to be published any time now.