On 6 September 2013, a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules was laid before Parliament. The Government intends for the changes to come into effect on 1 October 2013.
Changes to Visit Visa Categories
1. Expansion of the activities a business visitor may undertake in the UK
The Statement sets out new permissible activities that business visitors may undertake in the UK including:
(i) Internal auditors from global corporations may enter the UK as business visitors to undertake short internal audits; and
(ii) Training that a business visitor may undertake is to be expanded to include corporate training for the purposes of the business visitor’s employment overseas. The training must be delivered by a UK company that is not part of the business visitor’s employer’s corporate group. Furthermore, the main activity of that UK company must not be the provision of training.
Changes to Tier 1 of the Points-Based System
Although closed in April 2011, the Tier 1 (General) category remains open for extension and settlement applications. The following changes are proposed to this category:
1. Introduction of “genuine earnings” test to the Tier 1 (General) extension and settlement applications
A “genuine earnings” test is being introduced in response to concerns that Tier 1 (General) is being abused by applicants submitting bogus claims of their earnings, particularly self-employed earnings. The new test gives caseworkers greater scope to test the evidence presented in cases where abuse is suspected.
2. Enabling those who demonstrate exceptional promise in the arts to apply under Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category is designed for individuals who lead the world in the fields of science, humanities, engineering and the arts, or show exceptional promise in the fields of science, humanities and engineering. Applicants in this category must be endorsed by a Designated Competent Body, and wish to work in the UK. The Arts Council will now also endorse applicants who show exceptional promise in the arts.
Changes to Tier 2 of the Points-Based System
The Statement of Changes proposes the implementation of changes to Tier 2 of the Points-Based System intended to improve flexibility for businesses and migrant employees. These include:
1. Removal of the English language requirement for Tier 2 intra-company transferee migrants
At present, any Tier 2 (ICT) migrant who wishes to extend his or her stay in the UK beyond three years must demonstrate an English language ability that is at least the equivalent of level A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference. As the Tier 2 (ICT) route no longer leads to settlement in the UK, the need for integration is less relevant and therefore, in response to representations from businesses in the UK, the English language requirement for applicants in the Tier 2 (ICT) category extending their stay in the UK beyond three years is to be removed.
2. Removal of share ownership restrictions for senior staff within the Tier 2 (General) immigration category
A deregulatory change will introduce a waiver of the prohibition that Tier 2 (General) migrants must not own more than 10% shares in the Sponsor’s business. The waiver of this rule will apply only to applicants on a salary of £152,100 pa or more.
Changes to the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme
Currently, the countries and territories participating in the Tier 5 Youth Mobility scheme are Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan. The Statement of Changes proposes that Hong Kong be added to the list of participating countries and territories.
The Statement of Changes also sets out the annual allocation of places for 2014. There is to be an increase of allocations for Australia from 35,000 to 38,500 places, as Australia attracted a higher number of British youth under its reciprocal scheme in 2012 than in the previous year.