29 March 2012 #Employment
A number of changes to the Immigration Rules have been announced, many of which will come into effect on 6 April 2012. However, some of the changes to the Tier 2 category will affect those who were granted a Tier 2 visa on or after 6 April 2011. A summary of the key changes is set out below.
Changes to Tier 1 (High Value Migrants)
Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) will close to new applicants from 6 April 2012. This route allows overseas students to remain in the UK and work for up to two years after completing their studies.
A new category for graduates is being introduced from 6 April 2012; Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur). This will allow graduates who have been endorsed by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as having developed world class innovative ideas or entrepreneurial skills, to extend their stay in the UK for up to two years after graduation to develop their business.
To endorse graduates, HEIs must be approved by the UKBA and have an established process for identifying and developing entrepreneurs.
Changes to Tier 2 (Skilled Workers)
Further to the closure of Tier 1 (Post-study Work), graduates on a Tier 4 (General) visa or its predecessor categories, can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa. If they apply within the UK, sponsors will not be required to conduct a Resident Labour Market Test as part of the recruitment process, although all other Tier 2 (General) criteria will apply.
Maximum leave 6 years
Those issued with a Tier 2 visa on or after 6 April 2011 will be able to stay for a maximum of up to six years. They can still apply for settlement, if they meet the requirements, after five years and at any point up to the expiry of their leave.
Those who entered on or before 5 April 2011 will not have their leave capped and can continue to apply within the UK for unlimited periods of Tier 2 leave.
‘Cooling off’ Period
From 6 April 2012, a 12 month ‘cooling off’ period will apply to all Tier 2 migrants. Tier 2 migrants will be unable to re-enter the UK on a Tier 2 visa for 12 months from the expiry date of their last Tier 2 leave.
The ‘cooling off’ period will apply to the following:
Migrants who leave the UK and wish to apply for a new Tier 2 visa from abroad, and
Migrants who have switched from a Tier 2 visa into another category of leave while in the UK and wish to re-apply for a Tier 2 visa.
Pay Threshold for Settlement from April 2016
From April 2016 migrants on a Tier 2 visa applying for settlement must be paid at least £35,000 p.a. or the rate for their job set out in the Codes of Practice, whichever is higher. Although migrants doing shortage occupation jobs or PhD Level roles will be exempt from the £35,000 threshold.
Maintenance funds (affecting all tiers of the points-based system)
From 14 June 2012 the maintenance funds required by migrants and their dependants are increasing, to reflect changes in the costs of living and studying in the UK.
Premium Sponsor scheme
During 2012, the UKBA will launch a Premium Sponsor scheme in Tier 2 and Tier 5. This will be available to A-Rated sponsors providing a range of benefits. For example an applicant will be able to request the immediate return of his/her passport, without having their application withdrawn. However the fees are: £25,000 for large sponsors and £8,000 for small sponsors.