UNITED KINGDOM – April Changes Affecting Tiers 1, 2, 5, Domestic Workers and Visitors
The UK Home Office published another Statement of Intent on 29 February announcing proposed changes to take place from April 2012. This statement covers changes to Tier 1 (highly skilled), Tier 2 General (employer sponsored), Tier 5 (government authorised exchange schemes), the domestic worker category and finally introduces a new visitor category for some short term paid engagements. It follows a previous Statement of Intent on study and post-study work.
Key Changes to Tier 2 General
The key changes to Tier 2 from 6 April 2012 are as follows:
- Tier 2 General migrants will continue to be able to apply for settlement after five lawful and continuous years in the UK; but applications for Settlement from April 2016 must, unless exempt (e.g. working in a PhD or shortage occupation) meet a pay threshold of £35,000 p.a.*, or the going rate for their occupation (if applicable), whichever is higher. (*The pay threshold applies to applications submitted between April 2016 and April 2018, after which time the threshold will be revised).
- Temporary leave will be limited to six years. After this time, the applicant will not be able to extend leave to remain under Tier 2.
- If a migrant in the UK under Tier 2 General leaves the UK and wishes to re-enter under Tier 2 for a different employer, a minimum cooling-off period of 12 months will be introduced before re-entry in this category is permitted.
Key Changes to Tier 1
- No changes to settlement will be introduced for Tier 1 migrants. However applicants are subject to the rules in place at the time of their application.
- A new route for Graduate Entrepreneurs will be introduced from April 2012. Time spent in this route will not lead towards settlement.
- The Tier 1 Post Study Work category will be abolished from 6 April 2012. However the Resident Labour Market Test will not apply for migrants switching from this category (and Tier 4 Student) into Tier 2 General.
Key Changes for Tier 5
- Only Government Authorised Exchange schemes and International Agreement sub-categories are affected. The maximum length of leave for internships, work experience and exchanges will be limited to 12 months (down from 24)
Key Changes for Domestic Workers
- Overseas Domestic Workers (ODW) with visas granted before 6 April 2012 will be able to apply for Settlement - the pay threshold will not apply.
- From 6 April 2012, ODWs of private households of an employer applying to enter the UK will be:
- limited to six months’ stay
- only able to enter if accompanying their employer (or the employer’s spouse or child) who is coming to the UK at the same time as a visitor.
- unable to change employer or switch immigration category whilst in the UK
- this route will not lead to settlement
- ODWs in this route may not bring dependents.
- ODWs of private households of a foreign diplomat will:
- be limited to five years’ stay or the length of the employer’s posting, whichever is shorter.
- No change of employer or switching immigration category is permitted
- this route will not lead to settlement
- Dependent applications will be permitted.
New Visitor Category for Permitted Paid Engagements
Individuals coming to the UK from 6 April 2012 for a short period of up to one month to carry out one of the following permissible activities may apply under a new Visitor category. No formal sponsorship is required but the engagement must be evidenced by an invitation relating to the individual’s expertise and/or qualifications and main occupation overseas. Visa nationals must obtain prior Entry Clearance to demonstrate that they are genuine visitors and intend to leave after one month. Switching into other categories or extensions will not be permitted.
- Visiting examiners or assessors
- Visiting lecturers
- Designated overseas air-pilot examiners
- Qualified lawyers providing advocacy, arbitration or alternative form of dispute resolution
- Professionals in the arts, entertainment and sporting sectors
- Note the above proposed changes, particularly to settlement routes for Tier 2 General and the introduction of a 12 month “cooling off” period for Tier 2 General
- Notify employees and colleagues as necessary
- Contact your UK immigration service provider for assistance or further clarification