During this time, immigration practitioners across the nation ready themselves (and their reading glasses) to prepare for an overhaul of the immigration rules. This year, more so than others.
Over the past several months, Ministers have been announcing various high-level changes to the immigration rules in 2022 following the publication of the UK Innovation Strategy (published in July 2021). The Home Office has finally issued the "Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules" detailing these changes.
Most of the changes are coming into force from 6 April 2022, with the remainder of the changes staggering to commence periodically until 22 August 2022.
Some of the key highlights are below.
Global Business Mobility Route (commencing 11 April 2022)
1) Senior or Specialist Worker - replacing the current Intra-Company Transfer route. The rules largely stay the same except the minimum salary threshold rising to £42,400 instead of the current £41,500 threshold.
In short, an applicant will need to gain 60 points based on the following:
Job at an Appropriate Skill Level (RQF 6)
Salary at Required Level (£42,400 or SoC, whichever is higher)
As per the rules in rules in place, Specialist or Senior workers can remain in the UK for a maximum of 5 years out of 6 years (or nine years out of 10 years, if they are a higher earner, i.e. £73,900+ per annum).
2) Graduate Trainee - a replacement of the current Graduate Trainee route, which allows Trainees to be transferred to the UK for 12 months or less on a training programme. The rules and requirements again are essentially the same as before, except the salary threshold increase to £23,100 per annum (or SoC)
Job at an Appropriate Skill Level (RQF 6)
Salary at Required Level (£23,100 or SoC, whichever is higher)
3) UK Expansion Worker - this is a new category replacing the Sole Representative provisions in the Representative of an Overseas Business route.
This new category works similar to any employment-based sponsored route except the business that is sponsoring a UK Expansion Worker if the company has not yet begun trading in the UK. If the business is already trading in the UK, the individual must apply under the Skilled Worker or Specialist/Senior Worker route.
This route does not offer a pathway to settlement (unlike its predecessor) and will require the business to hold a "sponsor licence" to sponsor a UK Expansion Worker.
Apart from the above, this new route departs from its predecessor in the following manner:
a. Minimum salary threshold of no less than £42,400 per annum or the SoC to which the role is associated with (whichever is higher);
b. The overseas business must have employed the individual for more than 12 months (or otherwise a higher earner with a salary of no less than £73,900)
c. No English language requirement;
d. Maximum stay of no more than five years out of 6 years (with no recourse to extend beyond this other than switching into another category of stay). The grant period will be for an initial one year followed by subsequent 2-year grants or until five years, whichever is shorter.
4) Service Supplier - this new route is designed to replace the contractual service provide route under the former International Agreement route.
The Home Office indicates that "Service Supplier route is for overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is either a contractual service supplier employed by an overseas service provider or a self-employed independent professional based overseas, and they need to undertake an assignment in the UK to provide services covered by one of the UK’s international trade agreements".
The required points under this route are as follows:
Job at an appropriate skill level (option A) - based on the job required, or
Job at an appropriate skill level (option B) - based on the international agreement and its specification (technical roles)
The maximum period of grant for a single assignment is for 12 months.
5) Secondment Worker - A new route for "overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is being seconded to the UK as part of a high-value contract or investment by their employer overseas";
As with the other routes above, sponsorship by a licensed employer is a must. The role must also meet an appropriate skill level, and the individual must have worked for the business overseas for 12 months or more.
Successful applicants will be allowed a 1-year visa followed by further permission of multiple 2-year visas up to a maximum of 5 years in any six years.
We do not yet know what "high-value project" or "high-value investments" means in this context, but if MAC (the Migration Advisory Committee) recommendation is followed, we will be looking at:
The contract value must be more than £50 million;
The overseas business must have been operating for at least 12 months.
High Potential Individual
The High Potential Individual route is new for graduates from the top 50 global universities. This route is the sister of the current graduate route offered to UK university graduates but with a slight twist.
Under this route, a graduate from a top global university (a list of which will be published by the Home Office periodically) with an overseas degree level qualification or higher. The graduate must also meet a standard of English language and the standard financial requirement necessary for most routes.
A graduate deemed a "high potential individual" may be granted a visa for two years (or three years for PhD / Doctoral Level qualifications) to reside and work in the UK.
Under this visa route, the graduate can work for any employer without sponsorship.
Whilst the high potential individual route does not lead to settlement, those under this route can switch into another route that may offer a path to settlement, i.e. the Skilled Worker Route.
Scale Up Visas
The Scale-Up Visa is a new visa route that bravely attempts the hybrid model of a sponsored and an unsponsored route.
To qualify under the route, a business wishing to sponsor individuals must be a scale-up business and hold a Sponsor Licence to this effect. To be considered as a scale-up, the company must meet the following criteria:
the company must have been trading for no less than three years;
the company must have an annualised growth of 20% for the immediate 3-year period in terms of turnover or staffing;
the company must have no less than ten employees at the start of the three years before the licence application.
In respect of the individual and the role, the following must be satisfied:
the role offered must be skilled to graduate level;
the salary must be at least £33,000 per annum or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher
An individual granted such a visa will be awarded a 2-year initial visa requiring the person to work for the sponsor for no less than six months under the sponsored role. After that, the individual may work for any other employer for the duration of the visa validity.
This route offers a pathway to settle in the UK following five years of stay.
An individual must have a salary of no less than £33,000, no less than 50% of the time under the initial 2-year grant and following an extension of stay, must earn no less than £33,0000 in 24 months of the following three years grant of visa.
This route is dubbed the fast-track visa route for employers and sponsors, but at present and without further indication to the Home Office, one cannot see how this category is different or better (in particular for the employer) than the Skilled Worker route.
Of the 205 pages of change, the above are only the highlight of the changes. There are several changes concerning the start-up and innovator route and the family and private life routes.
These changes will continue to evolve over the coming months as promised by the Home Office, and we will continue to provide updates as further guidance is published.
Shores & Legal are experienced and expert immigration partners for your business and personal immigration requirements. We have years of experience in helping companies and individuals to identify their immigration requirements and strategy to the UK. Our extended family at Partners Immigration can also help with non-UK movements. If you wish to discuss your immigration requirements, contact us at +44 (0) 207 097 6778 or firstname.lastname@example.org.