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Changes to the UK immigration rules

Published:Tuesday | May 8, 2012 | 12:00 AM
John S. Bassie

Dear Mr Bassie, I understand that there have been changes to the United Kingdom immigration rules. I also understand that more changes are to come. Could you possibly give me a brief idea of what sort of changes can be expected?Thanks in advance.

- G.L.

Dear G.L.,

You are correct. There are going to be some changes to the immigration rules. In March of 2012 a ministerial statement was laid in the Parliament of the United Kingdom (UK) that outlined a number of changes to the immigration rules. These changes have actually come into effect as of April 2012 and some of the changes are retroactive and will in fact affect those who have already been granted leave after April 6, 2011.

The changes that have taken place affect different categories of migrants under the points-based system.

With respect to Tier 1, high-value migrants, it should be noted that Tier 1 (post-study work) route has been closed and there has been introduced the new Tier 1 (graduate entrepreneur) route. In addition, new provisions have been introduced for switching from the Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur or Tier 1 post-study work into Tier 1 entrepreneur. Also, there has been a renewal of the 1000 place limit for Tier 1 exceptional talent for each of the next two years.

There have also been changes in Tier 2 - skilled workers. These changes include limiting the total amount of temporary leave that may be granted to a Tier 2 migrant to six years and this applies to those who entered after April 6, 2011. There has also been introduced a new minimum pay requirement of £35,000 or whatever the appropriate rate for the job is, for Tier 2 general and sportsperson migrants who wish to settle there from April 2016 but this is with exemptions for those in PhD level and shortage occupation categories.

Cooling-off period

There will also be introduced a 'cooling-off period' across all the Tier 2 routes. This means that Tier 2 migrants will need to wait for 12 months from the expiry of their previous visa before they may apply for a further Tier 2 visa. Also, there will be the introduction of new post-study arrangements for graduates switching into Tier 2.

The Tier 4 - students has been focused on implementing the final set of changes to the student visa system that were announced in March 2011. These include extending the interim limit for sponsors that have applied for 'educational oversight' and 'highly trusted sponsor status' and have not yet been assessed. Also, there have been introduced limits on the time that can be spent studying at degree level and there have been tightening work-placement restrictions.

There have also been changes to Tier 5 - temporary workers. There has been a change in the limit to the length of time that temporary workers can stay in the UK, under certain government authorised exchange schemes, and this is up to a maximum of 12 months. The schemes that are affected are intern, work experience and youth exchange type programmes.

Also, there are changes that allow sportspersons who enter under the Tier 5 - creative and sporting subcategory to undertake some guest sports broadcasting work where they would not be filling a permanent position.

Mandatory curtailment

As you can see there have been changes in all tiers of the points-based system. There has been mandatory curtailment where a migrant who has applied under Tiers 2, 4, or 5 of the points-based system has failed to start, or has ceased his or her work or study with their sponsor. This includes cases where a sponsor notifies the authorities, via the sponsor management system (SMS), that a migrant is no longer pursuing the purpose of his/her visa. It should also be noted that the rules will set out the limited exceptions to mandatory curtailment.

The reduction of the curtailment threshold, that is the level of leave that a person has left, means that the authorities will not normally pursue curtailment from six months to 60 days.

Also, there has been an increase in the amount of funds that applicants will need to provide evidence of, in order to meet the maintenance requirements for all routes in the points-based system. It should be noted that for Tier 4 and Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme the changes have already come into effect from April 6, 2012. For Tier 1, Tier 2 and temporary workers under Tier 5 the changes will come into effect on June 14, 2012.

John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a supreme court-appointed mediator, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a chartered arbitrator. Email: lawbassie@yahoo.com