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Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas to be scrapped in Points Based System shake-up


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We expected a full statement of changes to the Immigration Rules to be laid before Parliament yesterday but instead we got a statement about the statement. The immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, gave us a sneak preview of a range of tweaks to the rules that will be laid “shortly”. The changes include:

  • Introducing the “Start-up” visa (announced in June)
  • Scrapping the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route and replacing it with an “Innovator” visa
  • Big changes to the Tier 1 (Investor) route which is suspended in the meantime (more in this post)
  • Allowing architects to get Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas
  • Some “minor, more technical changes” to Tier 1 and Tier 2 (i.e. nasty surprises in the small print)
  • Clamping down on the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Religious Worker) route, “prohibiting Tier 5 Religious Workers filling roles as Ministers of Religion”
  • Introducing a cooling-off period for Tier 5 so that nobody can get a second Religious Worker or Charity Worker visa until a year has passed since their first one expired
  • Introducing the pilot scheme for seasonal agricultural workers (announced in September)

For some analysis of the entrepreneur/innovator changes, see Nick’s Twitter thread:

I am afraid we are still none the wiser on the suspension of the investment visa route apart from yesterday’s press reports. There is still no official statement from the Home Office other than whatever was in the press release that went out to news outlets. It is also not clear when the statement of changes incorporating the points above is actually coming out. The flurry of announcements, non-announcements, delays and general confusion may be connected to the cancellation of the immigration White Paper, which might have been expected to cover some of these policy developments this week but was kicked into the long grass yet again.

It all feels like a mess, frankly, and not a ringing endorsement of the Home Office’s command of immigration policy.

Here is the written statement in full. We will update this blog post once we have an actual statement of changes to chew on.

My rt hon Friend, the Home Secretary, will shortly be laying before the House a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules.

The Government is clear that entrepreneurs play a key role in creating jobs and driving economic growth, which is vital to the prosperity of the UK. In June of this year, we announced a new Start-up visa route. This will build upon the successes of the current Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route, expanding it to ensure that the UK can benefit from a wider pool of overseas talent looking to establish new businesses in the UK. Applicants will be endorsed by either a business or higher education institution sponsor.

We are announcing that we will build on this offer further by introducing a new Innovator route, for more experienced business people. This will replace the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route and have a similar emphasis on endorsement by a business sponsor, who will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability.

Alongside this, we will reform our Tier 1 (Investor) route.

These reforms will be introduced in the spring and will ensure the UK remains a world-leading destination for investment and innovation. We will shortly be publishing a Statement of Intent setting out the details of how the reformed routes will work and I will place a copy in the House Library.

We are also introducing wider changes through these Immigration Rules which demonstrate our commitment to supporting talented leaders in their fields, and promising future leaders, coming to the UK under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route. The changes will expand this route to provide for a route of entry for leading architects endorsed by the Royal Institute of British Architects, under the remit of Arts Council England (ACE). This change builds upon other reforms to the route earlier this year, including doubling the number of places available, providing for faster settlement to existing leaders in their fields endorsed under this route, and expanding the route to leading fashion designers, also endorsed under the remit of ACE. We will continue to work closely with our partners in this route to attract more leading international talent to the UK.

More broadly, the changes also include a number of minor, more technical changes to our Tier 1 and Tier 2 routes for highly skilled workers. These changes will be made to ensure the Immigration Rules remain up-to-date and for consistency purposes.

The Government greatly values the roles played by our charities and religious institutions and those who wish to come to the UK to contribute to these organisations are extremely welcome. However, there are some issues with the routes as they currently operate.

Our immigration system makes specific provision for both Ministers of Religion and those coming as religious workers. This distinction between the two roles reflects the importance we place on our faith leaders speaking English to a high standard, whilst at the same time still permitting other members of religious communities to contribute to the UK in non-pastoral roles.

Whilst it is not the intention of the Tier 5 Religious Workers route, our current rules could permit religious workers to perform roles, that include preaching and leading a congregation, without first being required to demonstrate that they speak English to an acceptable standard. To address this, we are prohibiting Tier 5 Religious Workers filling roles as Ministers of Religion and direct them instead to do so through the correct Tier 2 Minister of Religion sub-category. This will require Ministers of Religion to demonstrate a strong command of English and ensure they can interact with the community around them.

The Tier 5 arrangements for Religious Workers and Charity Workers have always been intended to provide for only limited periods of residence in the UK of up to two years. We have however seen instances of migrants in these categories repeatedly applying for consecutive periods of leave, in effect achieving ongoing residency in the UK. We will therefore introduce a ‘cooling off period’, preventing Tier 5 Religious Worker and Tier 5 Charity Worker visa holders from returning to the UK, via these immigration routes for 12 months after their visa expires. This change ensures that we will continue to welcome those coming to make a contribution to our religious and charity organisations, whilst at the same time underpinning the Government’s intention that these are temporary routes.

On 6 September the Home Secretary issued a Written Ministerial Statement (HCWS940) announcing the introduction of a new pilot scheme for 2019, enabling non-EEA migrant workers to come to the UK to undertake seasonal employment in the Horticultural sector. These amendments will set out the legislative framework for introducing this pilot.

This small-scale pilot will test the effectiveness of our immigration system at alleviating seasonal labour shortages during peak production periods, whilst maintaining robust immigration control and ensuring there are minimal impacts on local communities and public services.

The organisations chosen to fill the role of scheme operators for this pilot have been selected following a fair and open selection process, undertaken by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The formal date of implementation for this pilot will be announced in due course.

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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.