News and communications from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)

21 August 2019

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Biometric Residence Permits to be introduced to visa applicants from abroad from March 2015 The Home Office has announced that United Kingdom entry clearance visas or entry clearance vignettes are soon...
The Migration Advisory Committte ("MAC") was commissioned by the Government in June 2015 to advise on changes to Tier 2 of the Points Based System and on 19 January 2016 MAC published its...
Changes to the Prevention of Illegal working checks announced Following a recent consultation on the prevention of illegal working, the Home Office has recently released a "Code of practice on...
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Immigration Update February 2015

Biometric Residence Permits to be introduced to visa applicants from abroad from March 2015

The Home Office has announced that United Kingdom entry clearance visas or entry clearance vignettes are soon to be replaced by a short validity "travel" vignette followed by a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) after entry to the UK.  The new regulations ensure that the UK is fully compliant with EC Regulations requiring Member States to issue a standard format residence permit document when granting leave for more than six months, and the new BRP will be the sole evidence of leave.

The new initiative is to be rolled out over a period of four months subject to parliamentary approval, expected to commence in March 2015.  The visa application process itself will remain largely unchanged and there will be no additional fees to be paid for the BRP, but instead of being granted the full period of leave, non EEA nationals seeking permission to enter the UK for more than six months will be granted a 30 day travel vignette in their passports to travel to the UK, after which they must collect the BRP within ten days of arrival in the UK from a designated Post Office branch.

Under the new process, applicants who do not travel to the UK within 30 days on their short validity travel vignette will need to apply for a replacement short-term visa to enable them to travel to the UK.  it is therefore important to accurately determine the intended date of travel as the BRP must be collected within ten days of arrival in the UK.

New Fees for 2015/2016

The Home Office has announced new fees for a range of immigration and nationality applications for 2015/2016 which are likely to come into effect from 6 April 2015.

Under Tier 2, the fee for a Certificate of Sponsorship will increase to £199.

Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) Long-Term Staff applications for Leave to Remain and entry clearance will increase by approximately £50 where the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is issued for less than three years in duration, and by £100 where the CoS is issued for more than three years.

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) Short Term Staff, Graduate Trainee and Skills Transfer applications for Leave to Remain applications and entry clearance will go up by approximately £17.

Applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK will increase from £1,493 to £1,900 for a Premium Service application, and applications for naturalisation as British Citizens will be £1,032.

Immigration Update January 2016

The Migration Advisory Committte ("MAC") was commissioned by the Government in June 2015 to advise on changes to Tier 2 of the Points Based System and on 19 January 2016 MAC published its recommendations to tighten the Tier 2 skilled worker route and following its review, has proposed the following:-

Minimum Salary Thresholds

The overall minimum salary threshold be increased in both the Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) categories.

For Tier 2 (General), it is recommended that the minimum salary be increased by £30,000 per annum for experienced workers, and £23,000 for new entrants.

For Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer), the recommended minimum salary for thsoe applying under the Short-Term, Graduate Trainee and Skills Transfer sub-categories will be £30,000 per annum.  The recommendations for the Long-Term Staff sub-category is that the salary should remain unchanged from the current £41,500 per annum.

Immigration Skills Charge

This is a levy that MAC has recommended the Government introduce for all Tier 2 applications with the exception of those applying under the Tier 2 (ICT) Skills Transfer and Graduate Trainee routes.  Although MAC has said it is a matter for HM Treasury to determine the level of the charge and how this will be spent, it is their view that the charge should be an up-front cost, payable at the point of application for a Certificate of Sponsorship and that the charge should be regressive so that employers hiring more highly paid (and therefore by inference more highly skilled) workers are penalised less in proportion to the salary paid.

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer)

Beyond the introduction of the ISC and higher salary thresholds, MAC has not made any substantial recommendations to the ICT route.  However, in order to ensure thta the route is being used to bring senior managers and specialist staff to the UK, and not displacing resident workers, MAC is recommending that the qualifying period of employment overseas be exended from 12 months to 24 months for Tier 2 (ICT) Long-Term and Short-Term applications.  The increase will not affect assignees from applying under the Graduate Trainee or Skills Transfer routes. 

MAC has also recommended that Tier 2 (ICT) applications be subject to the Immigration Health Surcharge that is currently in place for Tier 2 (General) and other immigration categories.

Introduction of a new Tier 2 (ICT) Route

MAC has recommended the creation of a new route within Tier 2 (ICT) to enable sponsor companies to use workers to carry out third party contract work, on one off projects as well as on contracts for continuing services.  MAC has observed that the use of overseas workers from countries such as India where labour costs are lower (predominantly within the IT sector), is affecting the competitive advantage of IT firms within the UK who do not have access to this source of labour.  It has therefore recommended that the salary threshold within the new Tier 2 (ICT) route be set at £41,500 per annum irrespective of the length of time that the worker will be in the UK in order to prevent undercutting and displacement within the UK labour market.

Tier 2 (General)

MAC has recommended that all applications for switching in to Tier 2 (General) from inside the UK be subject to the Resident Labour Market Test, affecting mainly overseas students in the UK under Tier 4 whose prospective employers are currently exempt from the requirement to advertise the position.

The annual limit for Tier 2 (General) applications for those applying from outside the UK is currently set at 20,700.  This will soon be reviewed and MAC recommends that a new expanded limit be introduced to include in country applications in order to ensure fair competition with those applying from outside the UK.

Work Rights for Tier 2 Dependants

MAC has reported that the automatic right to work for Tier 2 dependants in the UK appears to pose minimal risk to the UK economy as evidence suggests that a large proportion of Tier 2 dependants are highly skilled.  It also concluded that restricting dependant work rights would have no significant impact on the overall volume of Tier 2 applicants.  MAC has therefore recommended that the automatic work rights for Tier 2 dependants remains unchanged.

Immigration Update May 2014

Changes to the Prevention of Illegal working checks announced

Following a recent consultation on the prevention of illegal working, the Home Office has recently released a "Code of practice on preventing illegal working" that updates the rules regarding civil penalties on employers who employ
undocumented workers. The new code contains changes to the right to work checks required by employers and raises the maximum financial penalties for non-compliance.

Up until recently, it has been necessary for specified documents to be checked and copied at the start of employment and on an annual basis (where the worker's immigration status in the UK is temporary) in order to provide a defence against a civil penalty for employing an illegal worker. However, the details of how and when the checks should be undertaken will now change.

From 16 May 2014, the main changes are as follows:

Removing the need for annual checks on those who have a temporary status and introducing a requirement to carry out a check when their status is due to expire, introducing a mechanism for establishing a defence for a period of six
months for outstanding immigration applications, and a 28 day period of flexibility in certain cases, requiring employers of migrant students to 'obtain and retain details of the term and vacation dates of the course the employee or prospective employee is undertaking, ruling that some expired passports and Biometric Residence Permits will not be acceptable documents, creating a revised list A and list B of acceptable documents which reduces the range of permissible documents for right to work checks (including removal of certain Home Office letters, non-passport travel documents and work permits which are not in a passport or biometric residence permit);  removing the requirement to make a copy of the front cover of passports that have been checked; requiring that the dates that copies of documents are made is recorded; reducing the civil penalty amount for early payment (fast payment option).

The changes in the new code, in particular the elimination of annual follow-up checks of employees on temporary stay visas will generally reduce the administrative burden in conducting right to work checks for employers. However, the substantial increase in financial penalty of up to £20,000 per worker means that it remains critical for employers to correctly perform the checks to minimise the risk of incurring civil penalties and falling foul of sponsor licence compliance obligations.

Immigration Update March 2015

The Home Office has announced that a new NHS surcharge is to be implemented with effect from 6 April 2015. This will apply to all non-EEA migrants applying for permission to enter the UK for more than 6 months and also to those migrants wishing to extend their existing limited leave to remain within the UK. The surcharge will be £200 per annum per applicant, payable in full at the application stage, for all migrants except students, for whom the charge will
be £150 per annum.

The introduction of this surcharge will represent a significant increase in upfront costs payable by migrants, for example a migrant with three dependants applying for a Tier 2 (General) visa for the maximum period of 60 months will have to
pay an additional £4,000 on top of the usual visa application fee.  There are a number of exemptions, including applications from migrants from Australia and New Zealand and for migrants applying within the Tier 2 (Intra Company
Transfer) category. The surcharge will also not apply to applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Visitors will also not be subject to the surcharge but will be liable to pay 150% of the costs of any treatment received.  EEA nationals will also not be subject to the surcharge, however all treatment will be fully chargeable but can be covered by the European Health Insurance Card.

The Home Office recently released a Statement of Changes advising that revisions to the Tier 2 annual minimum salary thresholds and appropriate salary rates for individual occupations will come into effect as of 6 April 2015. The revision to the minimum salary thresholds are in line with changes to the average weekly earnings of resident workers, which have risen by 1.2% in the 12 months prior to November 2014.  Tier 2 (General) migrants will be subject to the following salary updates:

The minimum salary threshold is being updated from the current £20,500 to £20,800.  For those whose jobs are exempt from advertising in Jobcentre Plus, the current minimum salary threshold of £71,600 will be updated to £72,500.  For high earners, the minimum salary threshold of £153,500 is being updated to £155,300.  Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) migrants will be subject to the following minimum salary threshold updates:

For those whose jobs qualify for the Short Term Staff, Skills Transfer or Graduate Trainee categories, the minimum salary threshold of £24,500 will be updated to £24,800.  For those whose jobs qualify for the Long-Term Staff category, the
minimum salary threshold of £41,000 is increasing to £41,500.  The new salary levels will be applicable to applications where the Certificate of Sponsorship is assigned on or after 6 April 2015, and will not be applied retrospectively.

Migrant workers who fall into the Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (Sportsperson) categories and are applying for settlement on or after 6 April 2020 must receive a minimum annual salary of £36,200 at the time of application.

Changes to the Cooling-Off period for some Tier 2 migrants.  The 12 month "cooling-off period", which currently prevents applicants being granted a Tier 2 visa if they have been in the UK as a Tier 2 migrant within the previous 12 months, is being changed to accommodate business needs.  From 6 April 2015, the "cooling-off" period will no longer apply to migrants with Tier 2 leave of three months or less, improving flexibility for UK businesses requiring short term transfers.

From 24 April 2015, the Immigration rules relating to Visitors to the UK will be amended to reduce the number of visitor categories in order to simplify the system and make it easier to understand. There are currently 15 different Visitor routes set out in the Immigration Rules which will be reduced to 4.

The new Visitor routes will be - Standard visitor (this consolidates 11 existing visitor routes eg general, business, sport, entertainer, visitors for private medical treatment). This route will also contain specific visit visa categories for those entering the UK to carry out academic research, for those receiving private medical treatment and for children.  Visitor for marriage or civil partnership.  Visitor for permitted paid engagements, and Transit visitor.

The student and extended student visit visa categories will no longer be considered as visitor entry routes and have instead been re-branded as short-term study routes. This will make the system clearer for those who wish to come to the UK to study for an English language course for no longer than six months in duration (or 11 months for adults studying longer English language courses).

The permitted activities are being expanded and will now allow visitors to carry out incidental unpaid volunteering for up to 30 days at a UK registered charity; overseas trainers to deliver training to UK based employees of a multinational company in certain circumstances; UK based organisations, which are not corporate entities, to provide training to overseas visitors on work practices and techniques that are needed for their employment overseas, where this is not readily available in their home country; and overseas lawyers to advise a UK client on international transactions and litigation, provided they remain paid and employed overseas.

Immigration Update February 2015

Biometric Residence Permits to be introduced to visa applicants from abroad from March 2015.

The Home Office has announced that United Kingdom entry visas or entry clearance vignettes are soon to be replaced by a short validity "travel" vignette followed by a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) after entry to the UK.  The new regulations ensure that the UK is fully compliant with EC Regulations requiring Member States to issue a standard format residence permit document when granting leave for more than six months, and the new BRP will be the sole evidence of that leave.

The new initiative is to be rolled out over a period of four months subject to parliamentary approval, expected to commence in March 2015.  The visa application process itself will remain largely unchanged and there will be no additional fees to be paid for the BRP, but instead of being granted the full period of leave, non-EEA nationals seeking permission to enter the UK for more than six months will be granted a 30 day travel vignette in their passports to travel to the UK, after which they must collect the BRP within ten days of arrival in the UK from a designated Post Office branch.

Visa applicants will need to provide their intended travel date to the UK, a UK address and a full post code which will be used to identify the Post Office branch to which the BRP will be sent. Any requests to change the designated Post Office
branch will incur an additional fee.  Under the new process, applicants who do not travel to the UK within the 30 days on their short validity travel vignette will need to apply for a replacement short-term visa to enable them to travel to the UK.  It is therefore important to accurately determine the intended date of travel as the BRP must be collected within ten days of arrival in the UK.

As individuals must collect their BRP within ten days of arrival, most will use this as evidence of their right to work.  However, in the event that an individual needs to commence employment before collecting their BRP, employers will be able to carry out right to work checks on the basis of the short term travel vignette in the passport provided that this remains valid. Once this has expired, a further check on the basis of the BRP will then need to be carried out.

Immigration Update December 2013

The UK governmment has announced pre-entry TB screening with effect from 31 December 2013 for those travelling to the UK for more than six months from China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Microneisa.  Residents of these countries must be screened and a certificate obtained from an approved clinic to demonstrate they are free from TB before making a UK visa application.  All children aged 11 and older, and some aged under eleven years must also be tested for TB.  It is also includes applicants for a six month fiance visa.

Immigration Update November 2013

The government has announced a consultation looking at charging principles which begins on 12 Novembe and will last for 3 weeks.  The purpose of this consultation is to look at options for ensuring those who benefit directly from the immgiration system and enhanced border control contribute to its costs in the future.  Topics covered within the consultation will include fee levels, legislation, premium and optional services, commercial partnerships, refunds and administration fees.  if you would like to take part in the consultation please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call on 0207 067 2140 or your via your normal point of contact.

Immigration Update - October 2013

The Home Office has recently announced forthcoming changes across a range of immigration categories which will come into effect from 1 October 2013, and will include:

 

  • Tier 2 - Removal of English language requirement for extensions under Tier 2 (ICT), waiving of share ownership for high earners under Tier 2 (General)
  • Settlement applications made by Tier 2 migrants
  • Expansion of permissible activities for business and general visitors
  • Switching to dependant status
  • Changes to Tier 5
  • Formatting of bank statements and payslips provided in support of applications

 Tier 2 - Removal of English language requirement for extensions under Tier 2 (ICT), and waiving of share ownership for high earners under Tier 2 (General)

 

Tier 2 (Intra Company Transferees) applying to extend their stay in the UK beyond three years will no longer be required to meet the English language requirement. Currently, the exemption from the English requirement at extension stage for Intra Company Transferees only extends to those earning over £152,100 per annum.

The current rules that restrict Tier 2 (General) migrants from owning more than 10% shares in their sponsor’s business will be waived for those who earn more £152,100 or more per year.

 

Settlement applications made by Tier 2 migrants

 

Under the current rules, in order for a Tier 2 migrant to qualify for settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain), the applicant’s sponsor must certify that they are still required for the role and are being paid the appropriate rate for their occupation. A change will be introduced to also require the Tier 2 sponsor to still hold (or have applied to renew) their Tier 2 Sponsor licence in order to “endorse” the settlement application.

 

Expansion of permissible activities for business and general visitors

 

The activities which a business visitor may undertake while in the UK will be expanded to include the inclusion of internal audits. Internal auditors from global companies will be able to undertake short internal audits as business visitors rather than using the Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) route.

Business visitors who will be receiving corporate training that will benefit their work overseas will also be permitted to receive training from a UK company that is not affiliated with their employer’s corporate group, nor whose main activity is provision of training. Currently, corporate training is only permissible for business visitors when conducted by a professional training organisation or at an affiliated entity.

Foreign nationals entering the UK as general visitors will be permitted to undertake recreational study, provided that the study is not the main purpose of the visit and the course is not an English language course. The course must be provided by an institution which holds a Sponsor licence under Tier 4 of the Points Based System, and does not exceed 30 days in duration.

 

Switching to dependant status

 

The current rules that prevent applicants applying to switch to dependant status from within the UK is being amended to bring the rules in line with the requirements for family members of British citizens and settled persons in the UK. The new changes will mean that applicants will be able to apply in-country as a dependant, providing they are not in the UK as a visitor, an illegal entrant, or have temporary admission.

 

Changes to Tier 5

 

Hong Kong is to be added to the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme with 1000 available places a year. The available places under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme for Australia will be increased from 35,000 to 38,500 a year.

Tier 4 graduates who have completed their degrees in the UK will be permitted to switch into a 12 month internship under Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange category, provided the internship directly relates to their degree. The internships must be supernumerary, the maximum duration permitted will be 12 months and switching into Tier 2 at the end of the internship will not be permitted.

 

Formatting of bank statements and payslips provided in support of applications

 

Finally, the Home Office will be permitting electronic bank statements to be submitted for all bank accounts, not just those which are exclusively online accounts!

In addition, the required format of payslips that are required in support of applications will also be simplified and the unnecessary requirement for employers to stamp and sign original payslips which are not on headed paper will be removed.

H&P Associates Limited is registered to Level 2 with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner for the provision of immigration advice and services. Contact H&P Associates Limited on 0207 067 2140, by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via your normal point of contact to discuss these changes or obtain further information. 

Immigration Update - April 2013

Following our March Immigration Update, in addition to those changes which were due to come into effect, the following changes in Tier 2 also came into effect on 6 April 2013:

The cooling off period will no longer apply to those earning over £152,100.00.

  • Those earning more than £152,100 will also be exempt from the English language requirement when they apply to extend their stay beyond three years in the Intra Company Transfer category
  • Intra Company Transferees are no longer required to provide payslips as proof that they have worked for the company for the relevant period when applying for entry clearance.  However, if an entry clearance officer deems it appropriate to request payslips, this will result in a delay to the processing of applications and it is therefore advisable for applicants to continue providing payslips when applying for entry clearance

Following a consultation on Family Migration in July 2011, individuals wishing to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain will need to meet a new Knowledge of Language and Life (KoLL) Requirement from October 2013.  It is intended that this change will apply for both settlement and citizenship from 28 October 2013, and applicants will need to:

  • Pass the Life in the UK Test, and
  • Have a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 CEFR or higher, or an equivalent level qualification

 Life in the UK Test:

The requirement to pass Life in the UK Test is already a requirement for applicants applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, and there will be no change to the existing mechanisms.  Pass certificates for tests taken before 23 March 2013 when the test was revised will continue to be accepted after the new requirement is introduced on October 2013.

English Language Qualifications:

A range of English language qualifications will be accepted as evidence that an applicant meets the requirement to hold a B1 level speaking and listening qualification including:

  • Passing an approved test at B1 or above from the UK Border Agency approved English language test list
  • Qualifications in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at entry level 3, level 1 or Level 2 that include speaking and listening and that have been regulated by Ofqual
  • A national qualification in ESOL at Scottish Qualifications Framework (SCQF) levels 4,5 or 6 awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and taken in Scotland

Nationals of majority English speaking countries and those with degrees taught in English will be automatically considered to meet the language component of the new KoLL requirement and will not need to show a formal speaking and listening qualification, though they will need to pass the Life in the UK Test.  In addition, applicants who have already demonstrated their English language ability (such as a Tier 2 (General) migrant) will not need to take a further test when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

The same requirement for naturalisation as a British citizen will be the same as that for Indefinite Leave to Remain and the same English language qualifications will be accepted.

If you have any questions, or need any further information please feel free to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Immigration Breakfast Feedback

The success of the Immigration Q&A Interactive Breakfast Forum held in London on 20th March 2013 elicited some fantastic reviews and comments in relation to UKBA Compliance, HR Processes, International Employment and Tax issues affecting UK businesses as a result of continuous changes to Immigration law and the knock-on effect in relation to global employment and tax policies and procedures.  The event offered the opportunity for clients to ask a panel of experts any questions they had around Immigration, Tax and Employment.  Questions from the floor were wide and varied creating a lively debate which will be repeated again in London in the Autumn with new experts to challenge.  A few of the comments from a number of International Recruitment organisations stated "very well presented, clear, concise and informative", "all very timely and the right panel pulled together for the current themes", "a refreshing event with a good flow of questions and information gained from the pre-event networking breakfast".