19/12/2023

More Changes to UK Immigration

Alex Christen and Nina Holmes report on the changes, which are set to come into effect in January 2024 and we have summarised the key changes to the visitor and youth mobility routes applicable to UK businesses.

Hot off the back of the Home Secretary’s announcement regarding a new bout of changes to the Immigration Rules (see our blog here), the Home Office has announced further changes.  Compared to the changes announced last week, these should have a more positive impact on UK businesses. 

These changes will take effect on 16 January 2024.

What are the changes to the visitor rules?  

Permitted Intra-Corporate Activities: The government is removing the restriction that currently bans intra-company visitors working directly with clients in the UK. The change will mean that visitors from an overseas company coming to visit the UK entity within the group can do client facing work. However, client-facing activity must be incidental to their employment abroad and must relate to a project or service being delivered by the UK entity, not a product or service being sold to the client from the overseas entity.  

Remote Working Permission: Visitors will be expressly allowed to work remotely while in the UK but any remote working must not be the primary purpose of the visit. Remote working is already allowed in this way, but the changes will make this clearer. 

Aviation Industry: Flight crew members will be allowed to come to the UK as part of a Civil Aviation Authority-approved wet lease agreement between March and October. For those not in the airline industry, wet leasing is where one airline provides aircraft and crew to another as part of a lease agreement. This change will make it easier for airline crew to make use of the current immigration concessions allowing aircrew the opportunity to enter the UK for limited periods without having to get advanced immigration permission. 

Enhanced opportunities for Scientists, Researchers and Academics: Visitors to the UK under these categories will now be permitted to engage in research activities that fall outside the scope of the original purpose of their visit. Note that these changes do not apply to academics applying for a 12-month visit visa or those seeking to extend their permission from within the UK.  

Legal professionals: The scope of permitted activities for legal professionals is being expanded to include taking part in arbitrations, conferences and transactional legal services such as contract drafting 

Paid Engagements for Conference Speakers: Conference speaking is being added as a Permitted Paid Engagement. Currently, people can come to the UK to speak at conferences, but the general rule is that they must not receive payment from a UK source (although they can get expenses). The change will enable people to come to the UK to speak at a conference and be paid for that work. 

These changes will take effect on 31 January 2024.  

What are the changes to the youth mobility scheme? 

  • Addition of Uruguay: The UK is adding Uruguay to the list of countries participating in the Youth Mobility Scheme. Up to 500 Uruguayan citizens aged between 18 and 30 will have the chance to live and work, without sponsorship in the UK each year.  
  • Enhancements with Japan and the Republic of Korea: The total number of allocated places for Youth Mobility visas is being increased to 6,000 and 5,000 respectively. The age range for nationals of the Republic of Korea is also being expanded from 18-30 to 18-35.  
  • Simplified application process for Japanese and South Korean citizens: The requirement to obtain an invitation to apply is being removed. 
  • Consolidation of Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor Route: The provisions of the Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor route are being merged into the Standard Visitor route. Currently, visitors from certain countries (known as non-visa nationals) can come to the UK as a visitor without needing to apply for a visa in advance.  Anyone currently coming to the UK to undertake a permitted paid engagement, must get a visa in advance (regardless of whether they are a visa national or not). The change means that non-visa nationals wanting to do permitted paid engagement in the UK will not be required to apply for a visa, making it easier for them to simply come to the UK and carry out the paid engagement.  However, permitted paid engagements must have been arranged before travelling and be carried out within 30-days of arrival in the UK.  These changes will make it easier for people to visit the UK for business and widen the scope of activities that business visitors are allowed to do when they are in the UK.  It is still important for businesses to understand the limitations for visitors, and despite these changes, there are still strict rules on what visitors can and cannot do while they are in the UK.  Non-visa national visitors also need to be aware of the new ETA scheme which is coming into effect for all non-visa nationals in 2024. The scheme requires visitors to have advanced permission to enter the UK – this is separate to the visitor visa rules, and anyone seeking to come to the UK as a visitor will need to comply with the rules for visitors and get an ETA in advance of travel. For more details on these requirements, please contact our immigration team. 

These changes will also make it easier for businesses to employ nationals of these countries without the need for sponsorship.  There are some drawbacks. The visa is only valid in most cases for 2 years and cannot be extended. If you employ someone on a youth mobility visa, and you want them to stay with your company when their visa runs out you may have to sponsor them (unless they can find another form of immigration permission that does not require sponsorship). 

If you would like to discuss these changes or require bespoke immigration advice, get in touchwith our team of expert immigration lawyers.