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New statement of changes to the Immigration Rules: HC 1248


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The Home Office published a new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules today. It is 108 pages long and the changes take effect on 6 April 2021 unless otherwise specified. Most relate to the work and study routes branded as the Points Based Immigration System, although there are various tweaks to other parts of the Rules as well.

There are, inevitably, several new appendices, including one to implement the new Graduate visa and another listing prizes that automatically qualify someone for a Global Talent visa. The Rules for domestic workers have also been re-written in the new, “simplified” format.

Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson: the new Graduate visa

There will be a new section of the Rules called Appendix Graduate. This says, among other things, that someone applying for permission to remain in the UK must be here already on a Student visa. The conceit that the UK operates a proper points-based immigration system is taken to absurd lengths: Graduate visa applicants must score 70 entirely notional points, accrued by being eligible for the visa. The eligibility criteria are:

  1. Successfully completing their studies as a Student at an institution with a “track record of compliance”.
  2. Getting a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or certain professional qualifications like the LPC for lawyers or PGCE for teachers.
  3. Being actually in the UK for a minimum length of time, depending on the duration of the course and subject to exceptions for distance learning between January 2020 and September 2021 (a nod to coronavirus).

PhDs and other doctoral graduates get three years’ of permission to stay on a Graduate visa; all other grads get two years. All kinds of work, at any skill level, is permitted (apart from being a professional sportsperson). This means that Graduate visa holders will potentially become an important pool of labour for employers unable to sponsor Skilled Workers: those hiring them will not need a sponsor licence.

The same restrictions on dependants apply as for the Student route: only partners and children already in the UK as Student dependants qualify.

These changes will take effect, and the Graduate route go live, on 1 July 2021.

Minimum hourly salary for Skilled Workers

The minimum salary thresholds for the Skilled Worker route need to be worked out by the hour, not just annually. Minimum pay can now be no less than £10.10 an hour, even if the annual salary is above £25,600 a year (or the lower annual thresholds for new entrants, shortage jobs and people with PhDs). So for example, paragraph SW 8.2 will now say:

SW 8.2. The salary for the job for which the applicant is being sponsored must equal or exceed all of the following:

(a) £25,600 per year; and

(b) £10.10 per hour; and

(c) the going rate for the occupation code.

Point (b) is new. The explanatory memo says that “the purpose of this change is to safeguard against sponsors requiring their employees to work long hours, to compensate for lower pay rates in meeting the minimum salary floor”.

Other changes: sponsors of Skilled Workers who think that the worker now qualifies for one of the lower salary thresholds (e.g. if the person has somehow acquired a PhD since starting the job) and wants to reduce their pay to that lower threshold will have to submit a fresh application to the Home Office.

To the profound relief of the fishing industry, experienced deckhands on large fishing vessels can now be sponsored as Skilled Workers. So too vent chicken sexers, doubtless to the relief also of that industry, although perhaps not to the chickens.

There are some other tweaks to Skilled Worker flagged in the explanatory memo, none of which seem earth-shattering.

Expanding the Shortage Occupation List, finally

In September 2020, the Migration Advisory Committee published its latest review of the Shortage Occupation List. This is a technocratic exercise involving lots of sums and normally the Home Office accepts the recommended changes without fuss. This time it didn’t accept any of them.

Now some (but not all) of those changes are finally being implemented. The following roles will now be shortage jobs in all four nations of the UK:

  • 1181 Health services and public health managers and directors – all jobs.
  • 1242 Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors – all jobs
  • 3111 Laboratory technicians – all jobs
  • 6146 Senior care workers – all jobs
  • 2213 Pharmacists – all jobs
  • 2219 Health professionals not elsewhere classified – all jobs
  • 2221 Physiotherapists – all jobs 
  • 6141 Nursing auxiliaries and assistants – all jobs

Chefs are being removed from the list, since they can now be sponsored as Skilled Workers. A bizarre and mean-spirited amendment is being made to the requirements for welding as a shortage job: “only high integrity pipe welders, where the job requires 3 or more years’ related on-the-job experience. This experience must not have been gained through working illegally“, the bit in red being new.

Changes to Global Talent: glittering prizes

Getting a Global Talent visa normally requires an endorsement by an organisation in the UK, testifying to one’s talent. There will now be a list of “prestigious prizes”, the winning of which will qualify you for a Global Talent visa without the need for an endorsement. These include Nobel Prizes, Oscars, Golden Globes, Tony Awards and of course the Hugo Boss Prize. The full list is in a new Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes. This kicks in from 5 May.

There are also a few technical amendments in the main Global Talent appendix.

Other work routes

The temporary Creative or Sporting Worker route is being adjusted. In the words of the explanatory memo:

Under the current system, any migrant working in the UK within the creative sector, must have no more than 14 days between paid engagements. The new Rules allow migrants and their sponsors to ‘stop the clock’ by only counting time spent within the UK. This arrangement will better reflect the working-practices of the creative sector.

The Youth Mobility Scheme allocations for 2021 have been decided:

  • Australia – 30,000 places (no change)
  • New Zealand – 13,000 places (n/c)
  • Canada – 6,000 places (+1,000)
  • Japan – 1,500 places (+500)
  • Monaco – 1,000 places (n/c)
  • Taiwan – 1,000 places (n/c)
  • Hong Kong – 1,000 places (n/c)
  • South Korea – 1,000 places (n/c)
  • San Marino – 1,000 places (n/c)

There is also one tweak each to the Innovator and Intra-Company routes.

Beefing up the ATAS rules

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) requires overseas students taking certain courses to get approval in case they learn anything of military value to a hostile foreign power. The scheme is now being extended to some sponsored workers whose job involves academic research in those areas. A new paragraph in Appendix ATAS reads:

ATAS 1.2. An applicant (who is not a national of a country listed at ATAS 3.1.) requires a valid ATAS certificate if they are applying in a work route which requires a Certificate of Sponsorship, that Certificate of Sponsorship is issued by a work sponsor that is also a licensed student sponsor, and the role set out in the Certificate of Sponsorship:

(a) is in one of the following occupation codes:

• 2111 Chemical scientists

• 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists

• 2113 Physical scientists

• 2114 Social and humanities scientists

• 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified

• 2150 Research and development managers

• 2122 Mechanical engineers

• 2123 Electrical engineers

• 2124 Electronics engineers

• 2127 Production and process engineers

• 2129 Engineering professionals not elsewhere classified

• 2311 Higher education teaching professionals;

• 3111 Laboratory technicians

• 3112 Electrical and electronics technicians

• 3113 Engineering technicians

• 3114 Building and civil engineering technicians

• 5235 Aircraft maintenance and related trades

(b) includes an element of research at PhD level or above; and

(c) that field of research is a subject set out at ATAS 4.1.

Certificates of sponsorship for the Skilled Worker, Intra-company, International Agreement, and Government Authorised Exchange visas will in future have to confirm whether the ATAS rules apply. If so, the application must be accompanied by an ATAS certificate.

All the ATAS-related changes take effect on 21 May 2021.

Hong Kong BNO visa

Those on the new Hong Kong visa for British National (Overseas) citizens and their families cannot access public funds in the UK. The statement of changes softens this: it will now be possible to apply for a change of conditions if destitute or at imminent risk of destitution. I understand that the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association successfully lobbied for this one.

EU Settlement Scheme

The impenetrable drivel of Appendix EU is being made more so. Come with me, for example, into the house of horrors that is the revised sub-paragraph (c)(ii) in the definition of “continuous qualifying period” in Annex 1 of Appendix EU:

(aa) the person acquired the right of permanent residence in the UK under regulation 15 of the EEA Regulations (or, where there are reasonable grounds for the person’s failure to meet the deadline applicable to them in the entry for ‘required date’ in this table, would have acquired such a right had the EEA Regulations not been revoked), or the right of permanent residence in the Islands through the application there of section 7(1) of the Immigration Act 1988 or under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations of the Isle of Man; or

(bb) the period relates to: 

(aaa) a relevant EEA citizen, where, in relation to that EEA citizen, the applicant relies: 

(i) for all or part of the period to which sub-paragraph (b) of condition 3 in the table in paragraph EU11 of this Appendix refers (or, as the case may be, for part of the period to which sub-paragraph (b) of condition 3 in the table in paragraph EU12 refers) on having been a family member of a relevant EEA citizen; or 

(ii) on being or having been a family member who has retained the right of residence by virtue of a relationship with a relevant EEA citizen, provided (in any case) the period relating to that relevant EEA citizen continued (unless sub-paragraph (c)(i), (c)(ii)(aa), (c)(iii) or (c)(iv) of this entry applied to that relevant EEA citizen instead) either, as the case may be, throughout the period the applicant relies on in (i) as having been a family member of a relevant EEA citizen or, as relied on in (ii), until the applicant became a family member who has retained the right of residence by virtue of a relationship with a relevant EEA citizen; or 

(bbb) a relevant sponsor, where, in relation to that relevant sponsor, the applicant relies for all or part of the period to which sub-paragraph (b) of condition 1 in the table in paragraph EU11A of this Appendix refers on having been (or, as the case may be, relies for all or part of the period to which sub-paragraph (b)(ii) of the condition in the table in paragraph EU14A refers on being) a family member who has retained the right of residence by virtue of a relationship with a relevant sponsor, provided (in either case) the period relating to that relevant sponsor continued (unless sub-paragraph (c)(i), (c)(ii)(aa), (c)(iii) or (c)(iv) of this entry applied to that relevant sponsor instead) until the applicant became a family member who has retained the right of residence by virtue of a relationship with a relevant sponsor; or…

Stare long enough into the abyss, and the abyss stares back.

Nobody understands this stuff except our friends at Seraphus, who we’ll ask to write something separate to this article if any of the changes are particularly significant. The explanatory memo does highlight changes to the suitability rules allowing applications to be refused for conduct (i.e. a criminal conviction) committed after the end of the Brexit transition period.

Selected other changes

A new scheme for relocating Afghan citizens at risk because of their work with the British armed forces is being introduced. It is called the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy and is being sold as an improvement on the existing intimidation policy. More background here. This goes live on 1 April.

Postgraduate students taking “integrated” courses that involve getting a lower-level qualification before then progressing to a higher qualification will not fall foul of the academic progress rule if they only complete the lower-level bit. This applies from 1 July.

Parents of a Child Student applicants can meet the financial requirement by relying on funds held by their partner.

Applicants for a family visa extension now meet the English language requirement “if they have already shown they met the requirement in this manner at the level required for their current application, in a previous successful application for entry clearance or permission to stay”.

“Simplified” Rules have been introduced for domestic workers. That involves three new appendices: Appendix Overseas Domestic Worker; Appendix Domestic Worker in a Private Household; and Appendix Domestic Worker Victim of Modern Slavery. These apply from 5 May.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.