Changes to Immigration Rules: Key Updates

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What’s changing? 

  • From 17th July 2023, international students will not be able to switch from the student route into work routes until they have finished their course. 
  • From 19th July 2023, Dominica, Honduras, Namibia, Timor-Leste, and Vanuatu were added to the list of countries whose nationals require a visa to travel to the UK as a visitor. Previously nationals from these countries could enter the UK as visitors without needing to apply for a visa in advance.  
  • From 7th August 2023, there are five changes: 
    • the Shortage Occupation List (“SOL”) will be updated to include certain construction and fishing roles. The SOL is a list of roles in the UK where labour is in short supply and concessions are made to the usual requirements for skilled workers where the role appears on this list. In line with this, ‘dry liners’ are being reclassified as ‘plasterers,’ enabling people who do drylining to qualify for sponsorship. 
    • Skilled Worker permission will be granted to GPs in specialty training until 4 months after the end date of their Certificate of Sponsorship (instead of the usual 14 days), allowing GPs further time in the UK to find employment with a licensed sponsor.
    • An extension of the Ukrainian schemes allowing those with permission to extend their stay for a further 3 years. The deadline for applying under the scheme has also been extended to 16 May 2024. 
    • A requirement of genuineness will be added to Global Business Mobility (“GBM”), Scale-up and Temporary Worker routes so that applicants must genuinely intend to take up sponsored work and not work in breach of their conditions. 
    • Confirmation in the immigration rules that New Zealand nationals in the UK under the Youth Mobility Scheme can stay in the UK for up to 3 years (rather than the standard 2 years under this scheme).
    • From 1st September 2023, specific groups with pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme will have their status automatically extended by 2 years if they have not yet obtained settled status by the time their pre-settled status expires. This is a considerable change from the previous requirement for people to actively upgrade their status to settled. The Home Office has also confirmed its plan for those with pre-settled status to automatically move to settled status at the appropriate time, but this is not yet addressed by the recent changes. There are also some changes to the grounds on which people can make a late application to the scheme. The application will now be rejected (with no right of appeal or review) if the applicant cannot overcome the hurdle of persuading the Home Office that they have reasonable grounds for missing the original deadline of 30th June 2021. 
    • From 1st January 2024, international students will not be able to bring dependants, unless they are studying a PhD, other doctoral qualification, or a research-based higher degree.  

What does this mean for Employees?

Changes for Students: 

  • Switching restrictions will still allow students on courses at degree level or above to apply before course completion to switch to sponsored work routes if their employment start date is not before their course completion. Those studying towards a PhD will be able to switch after 24 months of study.   
  • Dependants already in the UK can extend their stay. Students making applications relating to courses in Autumn 2023 will not be impacted by the change on bringing dependants, only those starting 1st January 2024. As well as potentially reducing the number of students who apply for student visas in the UK, it will impact those who were planning to move to the Graduate route once their studies had ended. Currently, those on Graduate Visas are only allowed to bring dependants if they had been dependants during their Student Visa.

The amendments to the EU Settlement Scheme mean that: 

  • the cliff-edge of pre-settled status expiring is being prevented and people can remain lawfully resident in the UK. 
  • persons granted pre-settled status can have their leave extended without making a valid application and 
  • it is even more important to be as persuasive as possible if making a late application to the Scheme. 

SOL changes mean that 

  • While the additions of construction and fishing occupations does mean people who are sponsored for these roles can be paid less (which does not seem particularly attractive for sponsored employees) it does mean that more roles are available for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route and anyone coming to the UK on a role listed on the SOL will benefit from lower visa application fees and 
  • support is provided to the fishing industry to be fully compliant with the immigration system. 

GBM, Scale-up and Temporary Worker routes mean that 

  • employees undertaking temporary work in the UK under the GBM and Scale-up routes must genuinely intend to undertake their sponsored job, and (save for the Scale Up route) not intend to work in breach of their conditions.

What do these changes mean for Employers/Sponsors?   

The change to the student route means employers will need to wait for students to complete their course before they can be sponsored. Where appropriate sponsors must carefully check if the job applicant is eligible to switch in-country by requesting a results transcript or letter from the academic institution confirming course completion. For PhD students – sponsors should obtain written confirmation from the institution that the student has completed at least 24 months of their course. A sponsor might want to defer the start date or ask the applicant to leave the UK and re-enter on a skilled worker visa if they have not completed their course (but they want to start employment as soon as possible). 

The changes for student dependants may result in more people switching from Student Visas straight to sponsored routes so that their dependants can join them in the UK as soon as possible (rather than first using the Graduate Visa route). 

 The new test of “genuineness” on the face of it seems straightforward. This mirrors the sponsors’ requirement to only engage people in genuine vacancies.  While the change introduces new requirements for sponsored workers, it is more important for sponsors to retain evidence of the skills, experience and qualifications of a skilled worker visa applicant should the genuineness of their intentions be questioned. 

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

Statement of changes HC 1496: asylum, EU Settlement Scheme, and restrictions on students – Free Movement