On 22 October 2020, the United Kingdom government issued a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules that will come into force for visa applications submitted after 9 a.m. on 1 December 2020. Under the new rules, the visa application process for European Union (EU) and non-EU-nationals will be the same.
Four New Routes to Obtaining a Visa Have Been Added:
Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Route
New rules have been introduced to reflect the government’s commitment to establishing strong immigration ties with Hong Kong. Changes are being made to entitlements attached to Hong Kong BN(O) citizens. Two new routes will allow for work, study and settlement in the U.K.:
- BN(O) Status Holder route — for citizens who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the U.K. The route is extended to dependent partners, dependent children and potentially other dependent family members if they are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the U.K.
- BN(O) Household Member route — for the child (born on or after 1 July 1997) of a BN(O) citizen, and their dependent family members. All must live in the same household as the BN(O) citizen.
Skilled Worker Route (replacing Tier 2 General Visa)
The Skilled Worker route will bring European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who want to work in the U.K. within the global points-based immigration system (PBS). This will require businesses, charities and voluntary bodies to adopt new processes for recruiting EEA nationals.
- Applicants must be sponsored by an employer licensed by the Home Office, and will need to be awarded 70 points in total under the PBS.
- Applicants must be sponsored to do a specific job.
Other changes are aimed at decreasing the new burden on businesses, including:
- Lowering the minimum skill threshold from graduate occupations to occupations skilled at a level equivalent to A-levels (RQF level 3).
- Lowering annual salary thresholds from £30,000 to £25,600.
- Suspending the annual quota on visas issued. Abolishing the six-year visa limit and the 12-month “cooling off period”.
- Abolishing the minimum salary for Indefinite Leave to Remain applications.
With respect to the Resident Labour Market Test, the requirement for employers to first advertise any job not on the shortage occupation list has been removed for all roles.
The Skilled Worker category will apply to any foreign national that is being sponsored to work in the U.K. from 1 December 2020. It will also be possible to submit Skilled Worker visa applications for EU citizens starting work on or after 1 January 2021.
S2 Healthcare Visitor Route
Eligible patients (and their companion) will be able to enter the U.K. for a period to allow completion of their treatment.
Service Providers from Switzerland Route
In line with the Citizens’ Rights Agreement with Switzerland, service providers could be eligible if it is U.K.-based work, contracted and commenced before the end of the transition period between businesses or individuals established in Switzerland and the U.K.
Changes Have Been Made to the Following Routes:
Afghan Interpreter Rules
Changes will be made to allow Afghan interpreters who served with British forces on the frontline for a minimum of 12 months, and their family members, to apply to relocate to the U.K.
This is a time-limited amendment and applications will need to be submitted between 1 December 2020 and 30 November 2022.
EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
EEA and Swiss citizens, and their family members, living in the U.K. by the end of the transition period, will be able to obtain the U.K. immigration status required for them to remain in the U.K. after 30 June 2021, with the same rights they held before the U.K. left the EU.
- Visitors who so far could only study for up to 30 days will be permitted to study for up to six months under the standard visitor route (previously this access was granted through the short-term study route).This means that applicants who previously had to apply for a short-term student visa to study for a period of between 30 days and six months can now apply for a visit visa.
- Academic visitors will have more liberty to apply to extend their permission to stay in the U.K. for up to 12 months.
- Drivers on international routes will be permitted to collect and deliver goods and passengers across the U.K. border.
- The requirement will be removed for volunteering to be incidental to the main reason for the visit.
Short-term Study Route
- Students wishing to come to the U.K. and study English for between 6 to 11 months will be eligible.
The Student and Child Student Routes (collectively referred to as Student Routes)
- The maintenance levels are being amended in line with the current home student maintenance loans of £1,334 per month inside London and £1,023 outside London.
- Restrictions of post-graduate doctors in training will be removed, allowing them to continue working for the National Health Service.
- A sponsor can no longer self-assess if a student’s language ability is at the initially required B1 level; they can only self-assess if a student’s language ability will improve to the required B2 level.
- Application forms will be updated to reflect the situation of EEA nationals who hold a chipped passport.
- Students and their dependants who are allowed to work will now be able to work as postgraduate doctors or dentists in training.
Parent of a Child Student Visa Rules
- Applicants who do not meet the application requirements will be rejected rather than refused.
- Applicants cannot switch into this route from a visitor or short-term student route.
- The maintenance requirement for parents will be set at £1,270.
- Parents must no longer re-apply every 12 months; instead their leave will be granted until the child student’s 12th birthday or the end of their visa, whichever is soonest.
Intra-Company Route (previously Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa)
- The “cooling-off” period has been removed. However, there will still be a time limit on how long an applicant can be under this route, and it will not provide an avenue to settlement.
- Leave will be granted for up to five years in any six-year rolling period, or up to nine years in any 10-year period for high earners (more than £73,900 per annum).
- High earners are exempt from needing to have worked overseas for the UK company for 12 months prior to entering the U.K.
- Applicants in the U.K. can more easily switch from another route, including the Skilled Worker route, if they meet qualifying criteria. There are more flexible switching provisions if the foreign national applicant has been working for the sponsor for 12 months at the date of application (except for high earners).
Global Talent Route
- Criteria for senior appointments will be revised to cater for emerging leaders.
- The definition of qualifying academic and research roles will be expanded.
Requirements for English Language, Finance, and Knowledge of Life in the UK
The requirements are being revised and simplified, making it more accessible and less time consuming for applicants.
There are new grounds for refusal or cancellation of a visa for being involved in a sham marriage.
Marriage and Civil Partnership Visitor Visa Requirements
These are being simplified for individuals seeking to come to the U.K. to marry or form a civil partnership or give notice that such has occurred.
Turkish ECAA Businessperson Categories
A businessperson under the provisions of the European Community Association Agreement (ECAA) with Turkey for extension of stay can sponsor a partner and children to come to or remain in the U.K.
This route will not exist after 31 December 2020. They will need to meet the normal U.K. Immigration Rules.
Administrative review will be available on relevant decisions made in relation to a wide range of applications. A person awaiting the result of administrative review cannot be removed from the U.K.
Youth Mobility Scheme
- San Marino has been added to the Youth Mobility Scheme country list as a country without Deemed Sponsorship Status with an allocation of 1,000 places.
- The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is being added to the list of countries where invitation-to-apply arrangements operate.
In recent months, the Home Office often has repeated that those who did not have leave in the U.K. due to the pandemic would not be treated as overstayers. This has now made it into the Immigration Rules, by amending paragraph 39E to allow caseworkers to disregard overstaying between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020.
An Important Note for Current Tier 2 Sponsors
For companies that already hold a Tier 2 (General and/or ICT) Sponsor Licence, when the above changes take effect the company’s Sponsor Licence will automatically switch to the new system — that is, their licence will become a new Skilled Worker Licence and/or Intra-Company Transfer Licence with an expiry date consistent with their current Tier 2 Sponsor Licence. Their new licence will also receive an appropriate allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS).