Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules Announced

With only a few months to go until the UK general election, the government have increasingly been taking a hard-line approach towards Immigration.

Yesterday, the Home Secretary published the latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, laying emphasis on the government’s “tough” stance on immigration.

The lengthy 243 page document is longer than usual and here are just a few of the changes that will take effect within the next few months:

  • Caseworkers will be able to ask migrants present in the UK with limited leave to remain, to provide documentation and/or attend an interview in order to show that they are still complying with the Immigration Rules;
  • Minimum salary thresholds for Tier 2 migrants will be updated annually. There are already increases to the minimum required salaries under Tier 2;
  • The Tier 2 Codes of Practice that outline those jobs that meet the minimum standards for sponsorship, are being updated from April 2015;
  • In Tier 2 of the Points Based System, the Shortage Occupation list will be revised;
  • Potential Tier 1 (Investor) migrants will be required to open a regulated, UK investment account prior to making an initial application;
  • It will be obligatory for Tier 1 (Entrepreneurs) to pass a “genuine entrepreneur” test for extension and ILR applications;
  • Tier 1 (General) migrants will be restricted from switching into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category;
  • The Home Office will update the list of approved English Language tests;
  • Changes will be made in relation to family and private life;
  • Visitor routes will be reduced from 15 down to 4 categories.

Minister of State, James Brokenshire argues that “The Immigration Act continues to prove itself as a radical new tool to tackle immigration abuse”.

Visa Fee Increases Announced

The Home Office have recently declared that there will be various fee increases for visa applications as of 6th April 2015. Traditionally, the fee increases take place annually and the Home Office publish unofficial figures beforehand. This year’s indicative fees highlight an increase in the majority of applications.

Among those increases, 5 year visit visas are expected to go up from £544 to £588, Tier 2 general, ICT – long term staff, sport & MoR visas, could increase from £514 to £564, Tier 1 investor Residence Permits could cost  £1,500 as opposed to the current fee £1,093, whereas visa applications from overseas may go up from £874 to £1,500.

A Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship is expected to cost £199, as opposed to the current fee of £184.

This year’s indicative fees have not only seen increases but also fees remaining the same, such as Tier 2 Shortage Occupation applications.

In a few rare cases, there have also been decreases in fees, for example Tier 1 Exceptional Talent applications, which are likely to decrease from £1,093 to £562. This could be due to the fact that very few individuals apply for this visa.

Overall, it appears that the fee changes are somewhat selective, however, these figures are not currently official; we will be keeping a lookout for when this becomes the case.

BRPs to be introduced to overseas applicants

The Home Office recently announced that any non-EEA national applying from overseas for permission to stay in the UK (for more than six months), will be required to pick up a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) upon arrival to the United Kingdom. Once the changes have been implemented, successful applicants will be required to collect their BRP’s within ten days of their first arrival in the UK. This has come as a direct result of EU Regulations, which require member states to issues BRP’s to applicants requiring leave for more than six months.

The roll-out of this new process for overseas applicants, will be phased in from 18th March 2015, with additional countries entering the scheme in April and May. As of 31st July, the process will apply to all overseas nationals.

The visa application process remains largely unchanged, with applicants required to provide their intended date of travel, a UK address and post code. The applicant will then also have to collect their BRP from a designated Post Office on arrival in the UK. Previously, overseas applicants have simply been issued with visa endorsements in their passports.

These fresh changes will mean that successful visa applicants will receive a letter informing them of the decision, as well as a short term visa vignette in their passport, valid for 30 days from the expected date of travel, to give the migrant time to travel to the UK as well as collect their BRP.

There is no additional cost and on arrival, migrants will be required to present their specific documents – a valid passport or travel document containing the 30 day short validity vignette, the decision letter and any other information requested by a border officer.

Migrate UK Managing Director, Jonathan Beech, commented that “swift collection of the BRP is vital, especially where employers and educational establishments are required to carry out ‘Right to Work / Study’ checks on their employees & students and maintain accurate records of their continuing ability to remain in the UK. It is also important that the BRP is free from mistakes”.

The Home Office ultimately would like to be in a position where the BRP becomes the principal document for illustrating a non-EEA individual’s right to reside in the UK.