Important changes to the Immigration Rules

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Introduction of the ETA scheme

What is the scheme?

The Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme reflects a government initiative to prioritise security and safety at the border by making sure everyone entering the UK is entitled to do so.

Who does the scheme apply to?

The scheme applies to individuals of certain nationalities who are visiting or travelling through the UK and do not currently require a visa (and short stays in the UK under the Creative worker route). Importantly it does not apply to Irish nationals. The scheme is due to start from 15 November 2023 by requiring nationals of Qatar to apply for authorization ahead of entry to the UK.

Nationals from the following countries will need to apply from 15 February 2024:

  • Bahrain
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates

Further nationalities will be added to the scheme at a later date.

How will applications be made and how long will decisions take?

Applications will be made using the UK ETA app or online with decisions made within 3 working days. The app is not yet available so it remains to be seen how this process will work in practice.

What happens next?

An ETA will be issued electronically and linked to the individual’s passport. Currently, there is no information from the Home Office about the cost of the application.

The ETA will be valid for 2 years, or until the expiry of the individual’s passport.

What happens if an individual is refused?

The individual will need to apply for a visa instead.

Why is this important for UK businesses?

Currently non visa nationals can come to the UK as visitors without having to get prior approval from the Home Office in the form of a visitor visa. The new ETA system will mean adding a layer of process and cost for visitors from these countries.

The Innovator Founder Route

What is it?

This is a new route aimed at replacing the Innovator visa and start-up route with more flexible criteria to ensure that those with genuine proposals for an innovative business with sufficient funds, are better placed to enter the UK and establish business.

How does it differ to the previous Innovator visa?

The £50,000 minimum funds requirement is now removed.

Individuals will also be able to engage in secondary employment if it’s in skilled work of at least RQF level 3 (equivalent to A level and above).

Extension applications will now be possible, provided the applicant has had permission to be an Innovator Founder, or was on the Start-Up or Tier 1 routes. Settlement will be possible after spending 3 continuous years as a resident in the UK.

Will the Start-up route still apply?

The Start-up route will no longer be open to new applications from 13 April 2023, except for where they are supported by endorsements that were issued before 13 April 2023.

Increases to salary requirements for sponsored employees

What are the changes?

In line with national inflation, the Home Office has increased the minimum salary requirements to:

  • £26,200 minimum for the Skilled Worker route;
  • £45,800 and £24,220 for the Global Business Mobility: Senior or Specialist route; and
  • £34,600 for Scale-Up Worker visas.

The calculation of annual salaries will now be based on a 37.5 hour working week, rather than a 39 hour working week.

When will the salary changes come into effect?

They will take effect on 12 April 2023. However, applications for entry clearance or leave to remain made using a certificate of sponsorship issued before 12 April 2023, will not be subject to the new Rules.

What about shift workers?

The changes confirm how salaries are considered when an individual is working a pattern of irregular hours every week, explaining how unpaid rest breaks can be used to calculate average weekly earnings.

What are the other changes to the employment routes?

Jury service and attending court as a witness is now added to the list of reasons where absences from employment for sponsored employees are permitted for assessing continuous employment, for example where a sponsored employee is applying for indefinite leave to remain.

In a similar vein, the settlement requirements have been updated to allow time spent as a Representative of an Overseas Business to be included as part of the 3- or 5-year continuous residence period, making applications for settlement easier for certain groups.

The following changes have also been made to reflect international and trade agreements:

  • Nationals and permanent residents from Australia applying for the Global Business Mobility – Expansion Worker route will not need to show that they have worked for their overseas employer for the 12 months prior to their application.
  • Nationals from New Zealand are now able to apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme up to the age of 35, rather than 30 with the length of stay also increased from 2 to 3 years.
  • Under the Youth Mobility Scheme, Australia have been allotted 5,000 extra places and Canada 2,000.

These changes will give UK businesses greater flexibility when recruiting Australian and New Zealand nationals, by widening the pool of talent to recruit out of and reducing the need for sponsorship.

What are the changes to the Global Talent route?

The evidential requirements and endorsement criteria have been changed. Rather than using purely objective requirements such as qualification level, expert endorsing bodies will consider the applicant’s evidence, skills and experience to satisfy themselves that the applicant is an exceptional talent or shows exceptional promise in the relevant field.

If you need help navigating these changes to the Immigration Rules and understanding their relevance to your business, get in touch with our team of expert immigration lawyers for bespoke advice.