On 18 October 2022 the Home Office published its Autumn Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules. The statement includes various reforms of interest to businesses. Notably, however, the new Rules do not include the proposed expansion of the Innovator route to partially address the gap left by the closure of the Tier 1 (Investor) route in February 2022.
This article summarises some of the changes that are most likely to be of interest to employers. Unless otherwise stated, the changes in HC 719 come into effect from 9 November 2022.
No reform to Innovator route
In February 2022, following the closure of the Tier 1 (Investor) route, the Government announced an intention to launch a route for skilled and experienced professional business angel investors to invest in innovative businesses in the UK. This has not been included in the Autumn Statement of Changes. Following the appointment of Grant Shapps as Home Secretary on 19 October 2022, further confirmation is awaited on whether and when this reform will be brought forward.
An important amendment is made for calculating whether salary requirements are met under the route. For applications made on or after 9 November 2022, guaranteed payments other than basic salary will be accepted provided they are treated exactly the same as basic gross pay for tax, pension and national insurance purposes.
This more clearly allows payments such as London weighting and other high-cost area supplements to be included in the salary calculation.
A technical amendment is also made to make it clearer that entry clearance or permission to stay will be granted for 14 days after the end date of the certificate of sponsorship, and that a certificate of sponsorship may only be assigned for a maximum of five years.
The going rate for specialty registrar doctors at CT3/CT3-5 level has been dropped from £56,077 to £51,057, to correct a previous error in the Rules.
Global Business Mobility routes
There are new Rules added to cover trade agreements the UK has concluded with Australia and New Zealand. These enable citizens and permanent residents of Australia and New Zealand to qualify under the Service Supplier route to provide services in line with the trade agreements. In the case of individuals applying under the Australian trade agreement, immigration permission will be available for up to a maximum of 12 months. For the New Zealand trade agreement, it will be a maximum of six months.
There are also minor changes to correct previous drafting errors across the Global Business Mobility routes. Most notably, it is clarified that only A-rated sponsors may certify the financial requirement under these routes.
In an important change, standard visitors and visitors for permitted paid engagements will no longer be allowed to switch into the Creative Worker route from inside the UK.
The change takes effect for permission to stay applications made using a certificate of sponsorship issued on or after 9 November 2022. This will need to be taken into account by the sector in planning moves to the UK.
The Codes of Practice for performers in opera and theatre are separated out, updated and made more specific to their respective fields. Sponsors should review the changes for workers they intend to sponsor from 9 November 2022.
Seasonal Workers – poultry workers
This amendment is in effect from 16:00 on 18 October 2022.
It allows poultry production workers to obtain immigration permission under the Seasonal Worker route, to start no earlier than 18 October and to end no later than 31 December each year. Applications must be made by 15 November each year.
The following occupation codes are covered:
- SOC 5431 – Butcher
- SOC 5433 – Bird/game dresser; Killer and plucker; Plucker; Poulterer; Poultry processor; Poultry sticker; Trusser
- SOC 8111 – Food operative
- SOC 9111 – Poultry catcher/handler
- SOC 9119 – Poultry vaccinator
- SOC 9134 – Poultry meat packer
Applicants must also:
- Be paid at least £10.10 for each hour worked;
- If occupying a SOC 5431 or 5433 role, be paid at least £25,600 per year pro rata; and
- Work on a paid basis at least 30 hours per week.
Work routes – reductions in pay
An amendment is made to allow a sponsored worker's salary to be temporarily dropped where their hours have been reduced due to individual health reasons or a phased return to work. An occupational health assessment must be supporting the reduction in working hours and the person must still be paid at or above the hourly rate that applied when the person was granted their most recent immigration permission.
Employment in elected posts in local or devolved government
Immigration categories including work limitations are being amended to allow individuals to stand and fill an elected post in local or devolved government where they are otherwise eligible to do so.
Ukraine Extension Scheme
Eligibility for the scheme is being extended to include individuals who are granted UK immigration permission for any period between 18 March 2022 and 16 May 2023. Successful applicants are granted a period of 36 months' stay under the scheme.
This option may be relevant to some employees who are in the UK and who prefer not to extend their permission under their current route for cost or other reasons. They should however be aware that permission under the Ukraine Extension Scheme does not currently lead to settlement and cannot be counted towards the qualifying period in other settlement routes.
An application deadline is being introduced, to require applications to be made by 16 November 2023. This is to encourage eligible individuals to maintain regular status in the UK.
Children of Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas)
Eligible adult children of Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) will be allowed to make their applications (along with their partner, dependent children and adult dependent relatives) independently from the Hong Kong British National (Overseas), and without having to be a part of their parent's household.
Formal abolition of the police registration requirement
The Immigration Rules are amended to delete Part 10, which sets out the requirements for police registration, and Appendix 2, which lists nationalities subject to those requirements. Further amendments are also made to delete the requirement as an immigration condition for individual visa routes.
These changes represent the formal ending of the scheme, which has been suspended since August 2022. The practical implications of this are discussed in our earlier article.
English language requirement
The British Overseas Territories are included on the majority English speaking country list, which means nationals of these territories will be deemed to meet English language requirements for UK immigration application purposes.
Amendments are made to the visitor rules to:
- Allow sports officials to support sports tournaments and events in the UK without having to attend the same event as a sportsperson who is carrying out permitted sporting activities; and
- Allow midwifery students on overseas degree-equivalent courses to come to the UK to carry out unpaid electives with a UK education provider, with the stipulation that they must not treat patients.
Amendments are also made in the International Sportsperson route to enable visiting sports officials to switch into the route without having to leave the UK.
Visa nationals list
Citizens of Colombia, Guyana and Peru have been removed from the visa nationals list, so will no longer require a visa to come to the UK for visits and other short-term purposes of up to six months' duration.
Applications by overstayers
Paragraph 39E allows applications for permission to stay to be accepted in certain circumstances where the applicant is an overstayer.
The scope of this paragraph is being expanded to include individuals who have overstayed following the rejection of an application that they attempted to make before the expiry of their previous immigration permission. Currently only individuals with a refused application are covered.
A new paragraph 34KA is being inserted into the Immigration Rules, which covers void applications. This is currently only contained in Home Office policy guidance.
It defines a void application as one the Home Office cannot grant, and confirms that such an application will not be considered.
Examples of void applications are set out as follows:
- Applications made by persons exempt from immigration control, unless they are applying under the EU Settlement Scheme;
- Applications for temporary immigration permission made by persons who are settled in the UK;
- New applications made by individuals who hold statutory immigration permission during a time where they are within time to appeal a refusal decision, unless that application is under the EU Settlement Scheme or is a human rights or protection claim; and
- Applications where the applicant has died before a decision has been reached.
Our Immigration Law Academy on 9 and 10 November 2022 will cover these changes alongside taking a deep dive into immigration categories for work, sponsorship and right to work. Click here for further information and to sign up.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.