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Latest Changes to the Immigration Rules Presented to Parliament – September 2021

The Home Office is as busy as ever making changes, both subtle and more substantial, to the immigration rules. On 10th September 2021, a statement of changes to the immigration rules was presented to parliament, including a wide range of areas of immigration law. Areas affected include the COVID-19 concessions, additional support for Afghan Locally Employed Staff, a new International Sportsperson visa route, rebranding of the Tier 5 routes, improvements to the Global Talent route, changes to the EUSS joining family member rules, and changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme. In this article, we will provide a brief summary of the September 2021 proposed immigration rule changes presented to parliament.

Changes to COVID-19 concessions

The proposals include changes to three current Coronavirus concessions. In relation to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route, the changes clarify that while there is a concession which means it is possible to extend the visa without demonstrating two full-time jobs have been created for at least 12 months, applications for a settlement still require these criteria to be met.

Another concession is available for EU Settlement Scheme applicants whose continuous residence in the UK had been affected by COVID-19. As of 6th October 2021, the concession which currently allows permitted absence from the UK to be exceeded due to the pandemic will come to an end.

And finally, in this section, a change is being implemented which will enable those who secured a Skilled Worker visa or Tier 2 Sportsperson visa between 24th January 2020 and 30th June 2021 to use the time waiting for their decision to be counted towards the five years needed for settlement.

Changes to identity requirements for those entering the UK

The rule changes clarify that in line with Citizens’ Rights Agreements, EU/EEA and Swiss nationals resident in the UK prior to the end of 2020 can continue to use their EEA national identity card to enter the UK until at least the end of 2025. The guidance states this applies to anyone who is:

  • a national of Switzerland with a valid entry clearance granted under Appendix Service Providers from Switzerland to the Immigration Rules.
  • an EEA citizen with valid indefinite or limited leave to enter or remain granted
  • under the EUSS (in Appendix EU to the Immigration Rules), or who has made
  • a valid application under that Appendix (other than as a joining family
  • member of a relevant sponsor, as defined in Annex 1 to that Appendix) which
  • has not yet been finally determined.
  • an EEA citizen with a valid entry clearance in the form of an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit.
  • an EEA citizen with a frontier worker permit.
  • an EEA citizen seeking to come to the UK as an S2 Healthcare Visitor.

Changes for Afghan Locally Employed Staff (LES)

The two main changes in this area are intended to widen the eligibility and length of stay for Afghan LES applicants' seeking relocation to the UK. The first change enables applications from locally employed staff outside of Afghanistan; “To reflect the changing security situation in Afghanistan, we are enabling current and former Afghan LES and their family members who are outside Afghanistan to relocate to the United Kingdom under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy and the ex-gratia scheme. The schemes were previously only available to those in Afghanistan”. The second will allow successful applicants to secure Indefinite Leave to Remain (i.e., permanent residence) in the UK rather than just five years of limited leave; “We are also enabling LES who are approved for relocation to be granted indefinite leave to enter the UK, replacing the five years’ limited leave they are currently granted. Those already in the UK will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain before their limited leave expires if they choose to do so”.

New International Sportsperson route

The Home Office is gradually removing references to Tier 2 (as was the case with the replacement of Tier 2 general visa with the Skilled Worker visa). The existing T2 and T5 Temporary Worker routes for professional sporting workers are now being replaced with a new streamlined International Sportsperson route. The new route will effectively merge the T2 and T5 streams. The changes state, “The new International Sportsperson route will replace the T2 and T5 Temporary Worker routes for professional sporting workers with simplified, dedicated visa arrangements. The new route will continue to offer a dedicated option for anyone wishing to come for 12 months or less but will bring together the T2, and T5 offers into one dedicated category, thereby making it more straightforward for professional sportspeople and their sponsors to access”.

Rebranding of the Tier 5 temporary worker routes

As with Tier 2, Tier 5 is getting a makeover and will be rebranded by the Home Office. References to Tier 5 (or T5) will be removed altogether, and a new set of application forms is being made available for those applying for a temporary work visa. There will also be a new dedicated route for temporary creative workers who wish to come to the UK (the Creative Worker visa), which will cater for the unique requirements of the sector. The guidance on the changes clarifies, “This approach will make the Immigration Rules governing these routes easier to find and deliver better service for customers. These changes will deliver a dedicated route for temporary creative workers, who will be subject to the same requirements and be subject to the same grant conditions. The separation of the old T5 Creative and Sporting Worker route will deliver a Temporary Work – Creative Worker visa which recognises the unique requirements of the sector”.

Global Talent visa route changes

A series of changes have been proposed to improve the evidence requirements, which must be met by applicants under this scheme. These changes depend on whether the application relates to arts and culture, digital technology, or science, engineering, humanities, and medicine. A full breakdown of the proposed evidential requirements can be found on the statement of changes explanatory memorandum from section 7.14. These include (for digital technology endorsement evidential requirements), “being a board member of product-led digital technology companies as a role that can be used to evidence an exceptional talent in this field”, and “reduce the number of examples required for each of the exceptional promise criteria from at least two to at least one”.

In addition, the list of qualifying prizes for the global talent visa is being expanded; “Following advice from the relevant endorsing bodies, the list of prizes in Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes has been expanded to cover a wider range of prizes. In the opinion of our expert bodies, the prizes listed demonstrate irrefutable evidence of prize holders being at the pinnacle of their profession”. This also means that global talent visa applicants with a prestigious prize will not need an endorsement from an endorsing body. The changes also clarify that in order for these rules to apply, the award given must be to a named individual rather than a group of people (or an organisation) or a prize given for a piece of work (e.g. best film). In addition, the proposed rules will ensure that prizes eligible under this route must be open to all nationalities, and winners must be determined by experts or peers, not just by a public vote.

Changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme (YFS)

Another of the proposed changes is to the YFS. Specifically, it is proposed that the Tier 5 reference be removed so that this route is simply called the Youth Mobility Scheme. The other changes include adding Iceland to the Youth Mobility scheme country list as a country without ‘Deemed Sponsorship Status’ with an allocation of 1,000 places. In addition, India will be included in the list of countries where the invitation to apply arrangements are applicable. And finally, the scheme will be altered to enable “citizens and nationals or the rightful holder of a passport issued by a territory without Deemed Sponsorship Status to apply for this route from any post that accepts such applications worldwide”.

Changes to UK visitor visa rules

With regard to the UK visitor visa, the proposed changes provide greater clarity on studying as a visitor. The first is driven largely by the ongoing prevalence of distance learning due to COVID-19. It states that students studying at UK educational establishments but doing so through distance learning can use a visitor visa to come to the UK to carry out activities relating to their course.

The second change is to allow students studying nursing overseas at the equivalent of degree level to come to the UK on a visitor visa in order to do electives with a UK higher education provider. To do so, this must be “unpaid and involve no treatment of patients”. The reason for making this change, according to the Home Office, is to bring nursing students in line with medical, veterinary medicine and science, and dentistry students who can already do this.

The third change to the visitor visa rules is to make it clearer that “research students who have been accepted by a UK higher education provider to undertake research or research tuition as part of a course of study they are undertaking overseas can do so at a UK research institute, provided a formal partnership exists between the higher education provider and the research institute”.

And finally, the proposed changes intend to make it easier to understand when overseas manufacturers or providers can send staff to the UK to install, repair, maintain, or service equipment using a visitor visa. This may include machinery, IT hardware or software, or other specialist equipment.

Changes to the settlement guidance for refugees and that given humanitarian protection

The proposed changes intend to make the settlement protection rules clearer. Under these rules, those with refugee protection can apply for permanent settlement in the UK after five continuous years. The changes will include a simplified structure and improved/easier guidance on how to apply for settlement, the eligibility criteria, and the suitability requirements. The changes will also make the rules clearer for main applicants versus dependants (i.e., spouse or partner and children). The changes are primarily intended to make the rules clearer to aid decision making. The Home Office provide an example of the clarity these changes will bring; “For example, the Rules are now clear that spouses must continue to be in a genuine and subsisting relationship in order to qualify for settlement on a protection route”.

The changes will also make it easier for those assessing settlement applications for refugees and those with protected status to understand the options available where the applicant is not eligible for settlement; as the changes state, “for example, there can be a grant of further permission to stay where the applicant continues to qualify for refugee status, humanitarian protection or as a dependant”.

Minor corrections to the Skilled Worker visa route

Some corrections have been proposed to the Skilled Worker visa route rules, including:

  • Where an applicant has a job offer from an approved sponsor in the UK, if that sponsor is certifying the financial requirement on behalf of the applicant, they must be A-rated.
  • The £10.10 minimum hourly rate applies to applications for settlement as well as for entry clearance and permission to stay.

Summing up

While there are several amendments being proposed by the Home Office in this latest set of immigration rule changes, most are minor in nature and impact. There are several drivers behind the proposed changes, including the COVID-19 pandemic, issues that have arisen from the experience of operating particular visa routes, a lack of clarity in some areas, and the phasing out of old structures (such as Tier 2 and Tier 5). We will continue to keep you up to date with future immigration rule changes when they are proposed or implemented by the Home Office.

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