Yet more significant changes to the UK Immigration Rules have come into effect this month designed to make it harder for those seeking long term visas to enter the UK and to raise more revenue for the UK Government. The most significant change is the introduction of the Immigration Health Surcharge which means that most visa applicants will have to make an additional contribution towards the cost of NHS services.
Immigration Health Surcharge
As of 6 April 2015 all non-EEA Nationals will have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge if entering the UK for more than six months or applicants wishing to extend their current leave within the UK, are now required to pay this ‘health surcharge’.
The fee is payable if an application is being made to work, study or join your family in the UK from outside the UK for more than six months (but not for an application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK) and if you have applied and paid your application fee on or after 6 April 2015;
If an immigration application is being made for any length of time from within the UK (but not for an application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK) and you have applied and paid your application fee on or after 6 April 2015.
However the surcharge will not be payable if the application is for:
- a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa (or a dependant in this category)
- a child under 18 who has been taken into care by a local authority
- a national of Australia or New Zealand
- a dependant of a member of the UK’s armed forces
- a dependant of a member of another country’s forces who is exempt from immigration control
- a relevant civilian employee employed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) or the Australian Department of Defence in the UK (or you’re their dependant)
The cost of this surcharge is:
- £150 per year as a student
- £200 per year for all other visa and immigration applications
Dependents making Immigration applications will usually need to pay the same amount as the applicant.
Changes to the Tier 1 Category
Tier 1 (Investor) Changes
- Applicants filing an initial application are now required to open a UK regulated bank account before filing the application. The latter is not always easy but we may be able to assist with this.
- Previously the minimum age of an applicant wishing to make an application in this category was 16, but this has now increased to 18.
- Investors will no longer need to invest additional funds if they sell investments which have incurred them a loss, but they will be required to reinvest the sale value of the investment sold. However this equally means that investments sold at a gain must be reinvested in the UK.
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
There have been a number of changes within this sub-category but the most significant of these are as follows:
- The ‘genuine entrepreneur test’ will also now apply to applicants wishing to extend their stay in this category as well as to applicants wishing to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
- For applicants who have not held funds for a period of 90 days prior to the date of submission of the application are now required to provide evidence of source of funds.
- All applicants must produce a business plan with the application. This is something we have always encouraged our clients to produce with initial applications as this was a means to show that a particular applicant is a genuine entrepreneur.
The purpose of these changes is to protect this route from abuse and exploitation. The standard of this test is therefore very high and applicants should really seek assistance in preparing the application as thoroughly as possible. During the process it is highly likely that applicants would be invited for interview and it is crucial that they prepare in advance for this. There is also a possibility that Entry Clearance Officers may impose their own subjective view point to the answers given so.
Further, if a case is refused the only option is to apply for an Administrative Review and whilst this would be carried out by a different Entry Clearance Officer than the one first considering the application, it is not as independent as it would have been if carried out by an Immigration Judge.
Tier 1 (General)
This sub-category is now closed. All those wishing to extend their applications under this category should have done so by 6 April 2015. The route will also close for applicants wishing to apply for indefinite leave to remain on the basis of having lived in the UK as Tier 1 (General) migrants in April 2018.
Additionally, Tier 1 (General) migrants will not able to switch into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category unless they had already established a UK business prior to 6 April 2015. If they had not done so by the latter date they would have to apply under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route from outside the UK.
Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
Successful applicants in this category are at present being granted leave to enter/remain for a period of 5 years. As of 6 April 2015 applicants will have the option of choosing the period they wish to be given in one-year increments for up to the maximum 5 years/5 years, 4 months. More flexibility is being introduced so that those Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) migrants only intending to remain in the UK for short periods will not be subject to the new NHS surcharge which is only intended for those wishing to stay for longer periods.
Tier 2 Changes
There have been a few changes to the Tier 2 category the key changes to note being the following:
- Tier 2 migrant workers that have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship for three months or less, will not be subject to the 12 month cooling off period.
- In relation to Intra-company Transfers, the 12 month previous employment requirement may now include lawful employment by a group company in the UK as well as overseas.
- The annual minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 have increased by 1.2%.
Changes for tourists and short term visitors
As of 6 April 2015 the Government has introduced a simplified visit visa system, aimed to ensure that the UK is open for business, whilst tightening some of the routes which were open to abuse in the past.
- visitor (standard);
- visitor (to hold their marriage or civil partnership in the UK);
- visitor undertaking permitted paid engagements; and
- visitor transiting the UK.
This will also be accompanied by a revised and apparently shortened user-friendly set of Immigration Rules and guidance to make the system for people visiting the UK concise and clearer to applicants. The requirements for entering the UK will be the same, but rules and guidance are being simplified to help applicants in an attempt to avoid applicants from unwittingly falling foul of the UK’s Immigration Rules.
Elimination of Rights of Appeal
Applications now made in any category of visa (with limited exceptions) that fall for refusal will no longer benefit from a right of appeal. The process has been replaced by the Administrative Review system.
New Biometric Residence Permit requirements
Non-EEA nationals wishing to enter the UK for a period exceeding six months will now be required to apply for a Biometric Residence Permit with the visa application. Applicants will initially be issued a 30 day travel vignette and once they arrive in the UK anytime within that 30 day period, they will then need to collect the Biometric Residence Permit from a participating post office within ten working days of arrival. This would inevitably mean that employers will need to carry out right to work checks on more than one occasion, firstly by ensuring that they have sight of the travel vignette and taking a copy and thereafter having sight of the Biometric Residence Permit and taking a copy.
If you require further information, please contact a member of the Edwin Coe Immigration Team.
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