UK: Changes to the immigration rules – leave to remain and settlement

On 13 March 2006 the Home Office announced important changes affecting people applying for leave to remain and indefinite leave to remain (or settlement) in the UK. The changes will take effect from 3 April this year (just 3 weeks from the date of the announcement).

In summary, the changes are:

  • For all employment-related categories of entry to the UK (including work permit holders, highly skilled migrants, investors, innovators, sole representatives, UK ancestry entrants, those setting up in business or self employment and retired persons of independent means) the qualifying period for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) is now 5 years.
  • The initial grant of leave to remain will now be 2 years (except for work permit holders and retired persons of independent means), followed by a subsequent period of up to 3 years. The rules previously allowed for an initial period of up to 12 months leave to be granted, followed by a subsequent period of up to 3 years.
  • The UK ancestry provision has been changed to allow leave to be granted initially for 2 years followed by a 3 year extension, rather than allowing one single period up to the settlement qualifying period.
  • Retired persons of independent means will still be eligible for one single period of leave all the way up to the settlement qualifying period as before.
  • Work permit holders will still be eligible for an initial grant of leave for the duration of their work permit. Work permits can be issued for a maximum period of 5 years.
  • Highly skilled migrants will be able to amalgamate continuous time spent in the UK as a work permit holder, highly skilled migrant and/or an innovator when applying for indefinite leave to remain as a highly skilled migrant.

Implications

These changes will affect people already in the UK who may have been expecting to qualify for settlement after a 4 year period. The Home Office has transitional arrangements in place to ensure that those who apply before the changes take effect will have their applications handled under the old rules, even if the decision is made after 3 April. The date of application will be the date of postage. Transitional arrangements also apply for those who apply for settlement immediately after 3 April having only completed 4 years in the UK: these applicants will have the opportunity to vary their application from a settlement application to a one year further leave to remain application without losing their original application fee. In such cases, work permit holders will also require their employer to apply for a new work permit.

Action

It is important that any person currently eligible and wishing to apply for settlement on the basis of 4 year’s continuous leave to remain in the UK in a qualifying category submits her/his application prior to the 3rd April 2006. As a result of the changes, some people who may previously have been able to apply for settlement may now need to apply for a further year’s leave to remain before they will be eligible to submit an application for settlement. Others (for example those holding a 5 year work permit) will need to delay their settlement application until the expiry of their permit approaches.

We anticipate that a large number of applications will be submitted to the Home Office, in particular to the Public Enquiry Offices, prior to 3rd April 2006 and we recommend that you contact us urgently in respect of any applications you would like us to assist you with. Pressure on the Public Enquiry Offices could lead to complications in the processing of some applications and we recommend that any applications you would wish to be processed prior to 3 April 2006 are submitted as soon as possible.

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to www.law-now.com/law-now/mondaq

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 14/03/2006.

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