UK Immigration Update – Jan 2011

Since the Coalition government came to office last year, a number of key changes have taken place in UK immigration, in an effort to reduce the overall levels of migration.
Employers and applicants need to be aware of these changes and their potential impact.
Tier 1 (General) visas
Most recently in December 2010, the UK Border Agency announced that the Tier 1 (General) visa category is closed to overseas applicants. 

This category will also be closed to UK based applicants after April 2011.

“UK based applicants” include those living and working in the UK on a substantive visa – such as a work permit, Tier 2 visa or Post Study Work visa.

These changes should NOT affect those who have already secured a Tier 1 (General) visa and wish to apply for an extension in the UK. This should still be possible, as normal.

We advise anyone interested in applying for a Tier 1 (General) visa in the UK, to look at starting this process immediately, before this category is closed in April.

Tier 2 visas

Following a report published by the Migration Advisory Committee, the Home Secretary has announced details of the new migration “cap” or quota for non EU workers.

From April 2011 – April 2012, the Tier 2 (General) visa category will be subject to annual limit of 20,700. This is a reduction of 6,300 compared to 2009 levels. However, there are many applicants that are NOT subject to the cap. These include;

– Tier 2 Dependents
– Those already in the UK on a Tier 2 visa or work permit
– Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer applicants
– New applicants with an offered salary of over £150,000

It is already clear that the government are providing many exceptions to their plans to cap migration levels. However, the imposition of a cap is a new development in UK immigration. Businesses will need to ensure that they plan their recruitment of non EU workers to stay within their annual allocation.

Other Proposals
The Tier 1 General visa category will be abolished for new applicants and will be replaced by a new category for “persons of exceptional talent”.  A limit of 1,000 visas will be available in this category. We await the publication of further details on this, however it is likely to apply only to those who have international recognition in their field.

More positively, the government have stated they will be looking to reform the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route to make it more attractive. This will include more flexible criteria than the current rigid £200,000 requirement. Again, we await further details on this.
A major new consultation has been launched on reforming the student visa system. Several new proposals are included as part of the consultation including stricter entrance requirements and limitations on in-country student visa extensions.

Most importantly, the 2 year Post Study Work visa is earmarked for abolition. This is the work visa, that many graduates obtain allowing them to work in the UK and then switch to a Tier 1 or Tier 2 work visa.

We thank Commonwealth Immigration for providing this information.

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