Immigration continues to be a key government policy, as it prepares for the end of the transition period in December 2020. This week the Parliament had its second reading of the Coronavirus, the Home Secretary announced a change in immigration rules, and in dramatic change in policy, the Immigration Health Surcharge for NHS and social care workers.
The Government continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, and whilst several immigration concessions have been announced to protect the immigration status of those affected by the pandemic, the current deadline of 31 May 2020 has still not been officially extended.
This means that those whose visa expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 have until the 31 May 2020 to leave the UK.
While we expect a policy update imminently, with a bank holiday on Monday, this will create unneeded uncertainty for migrant workers in the UK.
The Clarkslegal Immigration Team continues to support employers and individuals affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Statement of changes to the Immigration Rules
Earlier this week, the government announced significant changes to the Immigration rules unrelated to the Coronavirus immigration policy. The changes which will come into force on 4 June 2020 make changes to the following:
Start-up and Innovator visa
The Start-up and Innovator visa categories replaced the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Graduate Entrepreneur routes. The current changes provide clarifications to the existing rules and add provisions to widen their scope. Key changes include:
- Clarification that applicants must be founders of their business and can only rely on their own business plans.
- The Home Office can now request further information from the applicants or the endorsing bodies, if they have concerns that the endorsement was not issued appropriately, and then to refuse these applications, if this is the case.
- Amendment to the ‘viability criteria’ so that the business plan must be realistic
- Applicants intending on changing their business venture are no longer required to submit a ‘new’ application or a fresh endorsement, provided their endorsement body is satisfied of this change.
- The endorsement body criteria is being changed to allow government bodies, including higher education institutions to be able to become Innovator visa endorsing bodies.
Global Talent visa (previously the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa)
The changes to this category are mainly technical, provide clarification for existing rules or correct previous errors. Key highlights for changes to this category are:
- Clarification that applicants currently on the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa can apply to extend under the Global Talent provisions, without needing a fresh endorsement.
- The document limit to demonstrate key and qualifying criteria is being increased to 3 A4 sides from the current 2 A4 side limit.
- The 3-page limit to recommendation letters is now being applied for all endorsing bodies for consistency.
Representative of an Overseas Business Visa
The Representative of an Overseas Business visa received a surge of applications following the closure of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route in March 2019. This visa provides an immigration route for representatives of overseas businesses, who do not currently have an active presence in the UK.
The Home Office has added various clarifications to this route, which has resulted in an overall tightening of the rules. Key changes are:
- Adding a provision to prevent an overseas business from sending a representative when there is no ‘genuine intention’ to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK
- Clarification is being added to reflect that overseas businesses must be active and trading and intend to maintain their principal place of business outside the UK;
- An amendment is being made to reflect that applicants must have the skills, experience, knowledge and authority to represent the overseas business in the UK;
- Clarification is being added to reflect that applicants must be senior employees and cannot engage in their own business or represent any other business in the UK;
- An amendment is being made to reflect that the ownership of overseas businesses is not limited to businesses that issue shares;
- An amendment is being made to prevent majority owners from entering as the dependent spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner of a representative of their own business. This will prevent owners circumventing the rules intended to prevent them relocating their business to the UK under this route.
- An amendment is being made to the extension criteria to clarify that the branch or subsidiary must have been established in the UK, and not overseas.
EU Settlement Scheme
The EU Settlement Scheme immigration rules have received a number of changes. Key changes include:
- Inclusion of family members of British citizens (from Northern Ireland) in the EU Settlement Scheme, the same way that Irish citizens have been able to do.
- In addition to former spouses or civil partners of EU citizens, unmarried (durable) partners, children, dependant parents and dependant relatives would now be able to apply under the EUSS domestic violence provisions, if their family relationship has broken down permanently because of domestic violence.
- The Home Office can now request a certified translation of a document, where required to determine an application.
- EUSS paper applications can now be submitted by email, rather than by post, where a Home Office email address is specified on the form.
Immigration Health Surcharge
Applicants who enter the UK for a period of 6 months or longer must pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), in addition to their visa application fee. The charge which was initially set at £200 per year of visa sought (e.g. £600 for a 3-year visa) was increased to £400 per year in 2019.
This is now set to increase again in October to £624 per year, and currently includes NHS and social care workers.
In a dramatic change of policy, the Prime Minister as urgently asked for the surcharge to be waived for all NHS and social care workers.