The Government announced immigration changes on 17 July 2023, which affect students and their dependants and more. Departing from usual practice, updates relating to Student route came into effect at 3:00pm on 17 July 2023. Other updates are due to take effect from 7 August 2023.

The changes that have been implemented from 17 July 2023 are as follows:

  • Students whose course start date is on or after 1 January 2024 will no longer be allowed to bring dependants unless the course is:
    • A PhD or other doctoral qualification; or
    • A research-based postgraduate degree.
  • Students will only be able to switch to work routes until after their studies are completed.

Other future changes to the Immigration Rules are as follows:

  • Updates to the EU Settlement Scheme including:
    • Meeting the deadline for the application will be a validity rather than eligibility requirement;
    • Closure of the ‘Surinder Singh’ and ‘Zambrano’ routes on 8 August 2023;
    • Automatic extension of pre-settled status by 2 years from September 2023;
  • Additions of certain construction and fishing industry occupations to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).

Changes to the Student route – dependants

Following the announcement on 23 May 2023, only students studying for a PhD or other doctoral qualification or students studying for a research-based post-graduate degree will be able to bring their family members to the UK.

In the Explanatory Memorandum to the Statement of Changes, the Home Office clarified that this change will not affect students whose course starts in autumn 2023. Instead, it will only apply to students on courses starting after 1 January 2024.

Dependants already in the UK will still be able to extend their leave.

Changes to the Student route – switching to work routes

Also in line with the May 2023 announcement, from 17 July 2023 onwards, Students will only be able to switch to one of the work routes if one of the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. The applicant has completed the course of study for which the Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) was assigned; or
  2. The applicant is studying full-time at degree level or above and the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) has a start date no earlier than the course completion date; or
  3. The applicant is studying full-time for a PhD award and the CoS has a start date no earlier than 24 months after the start date of the course.

Work routes include Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility routes, T2 Minister of Religion, Global Talent, High Potential Individual, Scale-Up, Innovator Founder and International Sportsperson.

Similarly, those on the Student route will no longer be able to apply for permission to stay as a dependant in the work route, or the UK Ancestry route, or any of the Temporary Worker routes unless the above criteria is met.

Changes to the EU Settlement Scheme

Meeting the deadline as a validity requirement

Currently, the obligation to demonstrate reasonable grounds for applying after the deadline is contained with the eligibility requirements. However, this obligation will soon be a validity requirement instead.

This means the question of whether there are reasonable grounds for a late application will be considered as a preliminary issue before other eligibility and suitability requirements are assessed. The Home Office have clarified that an application which has been confirmed as valid by the issuing of a Certificate of Application will not be reassessed for validity.

Closure of the ‘Surinder Singh’ and ‘Zambrano’ routes to new applicants

From 8 August 2023, applicants will no longer be able to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme as a family member of a qualifying British citizen on their return to the UK having exercised free movement rights in the EEA or Switzerland (‘Surinder Singh’ cases) or as the primary carer of a British citizen (‘Zambrano’ cases).

The Home Office will close these two routes ‘as a matter fairness’ on the basis that generous transitional provisions for such persons have been available for more than 4 years.

Automatic extension of pre-settled status

In an announcement made on 17 July 2023, the Home Office confirmed that from September 2023, people with pre-settled status will automatically have their status extended by 2 years before it expires if they have not obtained settled status.

This change is in response to the judgment in the Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements v the Secretary of State for the Home Department [2022] EWHC 3274 (Admin) (21 December 2022).

The process will be automated, and the status holder will be notified of the extension directly, ensuring that immigration status will not be lost if no application is made to switch from pre-settled to settled status.

In the same statement, the Home Office announced that it intends to take steps to automatically convert as many eligible pre-settled status holders to settled status as possible. Automated checks are anticipated to take place in 2024 so that automatic conversion can take place for eligible status holders.

Additions of certain occupations to the Shortage Occupation List

Following recommendation by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), all following occupations are being added to the SOL:

  • 5312 Bricklayers and masons
  • 5313 Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
  • 5315 Carpenters and joiners
  • 5319 Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified
  • 5321 Plasterers (including dryliners)
  • 5119 Agriculture and fishing trades not elsewhere classified
  • 9119 Fishing and other elementary agriculture occupations not elsewhere classified

Employers sponsoring workers whose occupations fall within the SOL are allowed to offer workers 20% less than the minimum salary threshold for sponsorship. Workers under the SOL and their family members joining them in the UK will also be subject to lower application fees.

Such arrangements are intended to make it easier for employers to hire migrant labour to fill vacancies in areas of shortage.

Other anticipated changes – Youth Mobility Scheme for Canadian youth

A new Canada-United Kingdom Youth Mobility Arrangement was signed on 14 July 2023, which will allow more Canadian and UK youth to benefit from reciprocal work opportunities for a longer period of time.

As was introduced for New Zealand nationals in the Spring updates to the Immigration Rules, and for Australian nationals (due to come into effect early January 2024) the following amendments will be made for Canadian citizens:

  • The eligible age range will expand from 18-30 to 18-35; and
  • The total length of stay will increase from 2 years to 3 years.

It is anticipated these changes will come into effect mid-2024.

If you require assistance or further information on UK Immigration matters, please do not hesitate to contact the Head of Immigration, Sundeep Rathod.

Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

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