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A Collection of The Current Immigration Rule Changes - New Update April 2021

The world of immigration law is in a constant process of change and evolution, and this has been especially so in the past few months since the UK formally left the European Union. The Home Office has introduced new visa schemes and overhauled existing routes to allow the UK to adjust to its new place in the world and future trends and demands. In this article, we will summarise some of the key changes to the immigration rules as of April 2021.

New Skilled Worker Visa Scheme

Perhaps one of the main changes to the immigration rules in recent months has been the retirement of Tier 2 (general) visa and its replacement by the new points-based Skilled Worker visa. The main changes this introduced include:

  • A lowering of the minimum salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600. This reduces to £20,480 for those in shortage occupations, recent graduates, and those with PhDs.
  • 70 points are required as a minimum to be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa.
  • Points can be traded by those with PhDs or roles in a shortage occupation where the salary requirement is not met.
  • The skill level requirement has been reduced from RQF level 6 to RF level 3 – this is the equivalent of reducing the skills needed from degree level to college level (A-level in the UK). This means that the range of occupations available under the scheme has been widened considerably.
  • Employers no longer need to complete a Resident Labour Market Test to prove that no settled worker is available to fill a vacancy being offered to a migrant worker.
  • EU nationals not already in the UK will now need to apply for a visa to work here, in the same way as migrant workers from any other country.

In addition to the above changes to the immigration rules for the Skilled Worker route, from 6th April 2021, sponsoring employers will need to check that the hourly rate being paid to Skilled Workers is at least £10.10.

New Graduate Visa Scheme

As of 1st July 2021, the Home Office will be opening applications for the new UK graduate visa scheme. Until now, international students in the UK have been required to apply for a different visa type or leave the country once their study visa expired. As such, this placed pressure on graduates wishing to stay in the UK to find employment immediately.

Under the new route, students at bachelor’s degree level or above who are about to graduate will be able to secure the right to remain in the UK for two years (or three years for those graduating with a Ph.D.) to allow them to live, travel, work, and look for long-term employment. The visa cannot be further extended. After two years, graduate visa holders will need to apply for a different visa type, such as a Skilled Worker visa or family (e.g. spouse/partner) visa.

2021 COVID-19 Immigration Rule Concessions

The Home Office continues to provide a number of concessions for UK immigrants who have been affected by COVID-19:

  • For those who intend to leave the UK but have been unable to do so and require assurance they will not be classed as an overstayer, it is still possible to apply for ‘exceptional assurance’ (this applies for those whose visa expires by 30th June 2021). You will need to ensure that you provide sufficient evidence for why you cannot leave the country (e.g. a medical letter if you have been in hospital with COVID-19).
  • Start-up visa holders who have had their business plans disrupted by COVID-19 can apply for an additional leave of one year.
  • Entrepreneur visa holders who have had their business plans affected by COVID-19 will no longer need to employ at least two people for a year. The immigration rules now state that this can be “made up of multiple jobs across different months, but this must be equivalent to two full-time jobs”.
  • The automatic NHS healthcare visa extension scheme has extended– this allows eligible healthcare visa holders whose visa will expire between 1st April 2021 and 30th September 2021 to extend their stay for an extra year at no charge.

New British National (Overseas) Visa

At the end of January 2021, the Home Office opened a new immigration route for those with British National (Overseas) (BNO) status in Hong Kong. The new scheme allows eligible BNOs from Hong Kong to live, work, and study in the UK for a period of up to two years and six months or five years. After five years in the UK, they can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

EU Nationals Studying In The UK

With the end of free movement, students from the EU now need to apply for a visa to study at a UK school or university (assuming they do not already have settled status). Prospective EU students must have been offered a place on a course, meet the requirements for speaking, reading, writing, and understanding English, and have sufficient funds to support themselves.

Global Talent Visa Changes

From 5th May 2021, migrants wishing to apply under the Global Talent route will no longer have to be endorsed. The statement of changes to the immigration rules published on 4th May 2021 states, “Changes to the Global Talent route to allow applicants who have reached the pinnacle of their careers to bypass the endorsement requirement and expedite the application process”. This will make it much easier for migrant workers with industry-leading skills and experience to come to the UK on a Global Talent visa.

Final Words

Brexit and COVID-19 have played a large part in driving the latest set of immigration rule changes. There will be more to come as the Home Office seeks to respond to business needs and anticipated future demands. We will keep you up to date with the key changes to the immigration rules over the coming months.

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