Immigration Changes 2018
The new year brings new changes to immigration rules and January 2018 has brought a raft of new changes to immigration rules in the UK. In this article, we look at the changes individually and try to address what they mean going forward for migrants in, or considering moving to the UK in the foreseeable future. We also look at where we think the future lies for the routes in question.
The changes this year are rather small and are more of an interim update to the rules than a large-scale overhaul. Expect major changes next year after negotiations are concluded between the UK and the European Union as to the terms of Brexit. We will then have a much clearer picture of what the UK intends to do with migration for the long term and whether it can produce a system capable of reflecting the new needs that the country will have.
Tier 1 Entrepreneur
While the visa route itself has not changed, the Home Office has changed some of the wording around the recycling of funds (the use of proof of funds being used by more than one applicant), this closes a current loophole and is not intentioned to do anything else.
Expect rule changes like this to continue as the British Government continues to refine the visa routes and potentially make huge changes going forward to try and stave off some of the more worrying effects that Brexit could bring to the UK and in particular immigration. The likelihood is that the Tier 1 routes will actually receive greater incentives so that wealth creators in these areas are free to help to build businesses and positively affect the economy moving forward.
Tier 1 Exceptional Talent
Good news for this visa route in 2018 as the annual quota has been doubled to 2,000 places. They will be allocated on a first come first served basis to qualifying applicants. This doubling is very welcome as it encourages the best and brightest to come to the UK and ensures a healthy supply of well-qualified migrants to the UK. Moving forward, the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa is likely to be expanded even further to try and capture even more talent in the UK.
Exceptional talent visa holders will now also qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain after three years rather than the usual five. These changes mean the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa will be even more in demand than ever. Though as a very specialised route, it is only ever going to have so many people who qualify for it and is therefore self-limiting. The calibre of the migrants via this route is first class and it is little wonder that the British Government seeks to have more of them come to live and work in the UK.
Tier 4 switching to Tier 2
Tier 4 students will no longer need to pass their course before switching to a Tier 2 General Visa. This change is a welcome one and will help many superb students stay in the UK. The students will still need to prove that they have completed their course but can apply for a job and gain sponsorship before receiving their results, this gives them far more time to make arrangements for their life after studying.
This is a very welcome change in this area, the short time between receiving results and getting a sponsorship means that many students are in limbo over their future and it is unknown how many will simply choose to go home rather than risk overstaying in the UK and affecting their future chances of coming back to the UK in the future.
Electronic entry clearance visa
Another new feature for 2018 is a new Electronic Entry Visa system that replaces the current vignette system. The system will be piloted, to begin with, and then rolled out to become a common method at the point of entry.
The UK is currently trying to refine border controls in order to speed up processing and enhance efficiency at the border. The level of technology that is now available means that border control is a lot easier to manage now than it has ever been and UKBA is taking full advantage of it.
One of the more worrying aspects of the 2018 immigration changes is to PBS dependents. From Jan 11 2018 PBS dependents cannot be away from the UK for more than 180 days in a year as it will have a detrimental effect on an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
This worrying change means that there will be wholesale changes to the lives of many who are not permanently based in the UK and will need to consider being here permanently in order to maintain their rights to stay in the country in the long term. These sorts of changes are to be expected as part of a process that is refining the current rules to remove loopholes to the current system as it stands today.
What about 2019?
With Brexit due to take place in 2019, expect a lot more changes than have been made this year. With a lack of clarity on the future of EU migrants, expect a raft of changes that address the needs of those who are already here and a way of catering to new arrivals from the European Union.
There are likely to be major changes to Tier 2 General Visas and although there is nothing going through Parliament, the Conservative Government will need to try and find a way to balance the needs of the country with the changes that Brexit will undoubtedly bring to the UK and importantly to immigration. Immigration is still the biggest issue of the Brexit negotiations and there is nothing like an agreement on the future of immigration between the UK and the EU at this point.