There have been some significant immigration changes announced by the Government recently which employers and entrepreneurs should be aware of. We discuss below the key features of the Home Offices’ new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules announced on 9 March 2023.
A number of changes to the Immigration Rules were announced which are due to take place from 12 April 2023. Amongst these, the most notable are as follows:
- Introduction of the new Innovator Founder route which is to replace the existing Innovator and Start-up categories
- Introduction of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme for nationals of certain countries visiting or transiting the UK
- Updated salary threshold requirements for Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility (GBM) and Seasonal Worker routes
- Changes to employment continuity for Skilled Worker and GBM routes
- Changes to the definition of ‘durable partner’ under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
- Updates on the endorsement criteria and evidential requirements for Global Talent route
- Introduction of the new Appendix Adult Dependent Relative, which will replace current provisions in Appendix FM
- Changes to what constitutes continuous lawful residence for Long Residence
- Introduction of more flexible rules for New Zealand nationals looking to apply under the Youth Mobility Scheme.
What is the new Innovator Founder route?
The previous Innovator route allowed applicants to enter the UK for the purpose of establishing an innovative business. Changes to the Innovator route were previously announced by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 22 July 2021.
The new Innovator Founder route removes the current minimum fund requirement of £50k Innovator applicants must meet. Under the new route, applicants only need to have sufficient funds to realise their genuine proposals for an innovative business in addition to sufficient funds to maintain themselves in the UK.
Instead, it is up to endorsing bodies to confirm that they believe applicants to be ‘”fit and proper” to receive endorsement and that there are no concerns over the legitimacy of the applicant’s funds.
Innovator Founder’s will also be allowed to engage in employment outside of their business, provided any secondary employment is in a skilled role (i.e. RQF Level 3 or above).
Other aspects of the Innovator Founder route remain the same as the current Innovator route.
The new Innovator Founder route also signifies the closure of the Start-up route to new applications except where these are supported by endorsements issued before 13 April 2023.
Will the ETA scheme affect me?
The ETA scheme will apply to certain nationals who do not currently need a visa for short stays, as well as those using the Creative Worker route for a short stay. Specified nationals will require an ETA in advance of travel to the UK.
Applicants who are lawfully resident in Ireland and are travelling to the UK from the Common Travel Area will not need an ETA.
When will the ETA scheme open?
From 25 October 2023, the ETA application process will be open for Qatari nationals who intend to travel to the UK on or after 15 November 2023.
From 1 February 2024, the application process will be open for nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia who intend to travel to the UK on or after 22 February 2024.
How do I apply for an ETA?
A separate application for each traveller must be made online on gov.uk or via the UK ETA app. Applicants will have to provide an email address on which they can be contacted by the Home Office, a passport which establishes their nationality and identity and a digital photo. An application fee (which is yet to be confirmed) must also be paid.
Applications will be refused where applicants:
- Have been convicted of a criminal offence for which they have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more unless 12 months have passed from the date of conviction, or
- Have overstayed in the UK when they were aged 18 or over, breached their permission, were an illegal entrant or used deception in an immigration application, or
- Made false representations (whether or not relevant to the application, and whether or not to the applicant’s knowledge) or relevant facts were not disclosed in current or previous ETA application, or
- There is NHS debt or unpaid litigation costs awarded to the Home Office.
How long will an ETA be valid for?
An ETA will be valid for 2 years or until the expiry of the applicant’s passport used in the application, whichever is sooner.
Those with a valid ETA will be able to make multiple journeys to the UK as a Visitor or Creative Worker.
What are the new salary thresholds for the Skilled Worker, GBM and Seasonal Worker routes?
Salary thresholds and going rates for individual occupations will be updated based on the latest available UK salary data. The minimum salary thresholds will increase as follows for those Certificate of Sponsorships assigned on or after 12 April 2023:
|Current salary thresholds||New salary thresholds|
|Skilled Workers||£25,600 per year||£26,200 per year|
|Hourly rate for Skilled Workers||£10.10||£10.75|
|GBM Senior and Specialist Workers||£42,400 per year||£45,800 per year|
|New entrant salary rates||£20,480||£20,960 per year|
|SOC code minimum salaries||Dependant on SOC code||Will be updated dependant on SOC code|
|Seasonal Workers||£10.10 per hour
If worker is in poultry production sector, must work at least 30 hours a week
|£10.42 per hour
If worker is in horticulture or in poultry production, must work at least 32 hours a week
Changes to employment continuity for Skilled Worker and GBM routes
Jury service and attending court as a witness will be added to the list of reasons where absences from employment are permitted. This means that absences for such reasons will not disrupt continuity of employment.
Changes will also be made to confirm that sponsored workers on graduate training programme may change SOC codes as part of the programme.
The Global Business Mobility Expansion Worker route will also be updated for Australian national and permanent residents. The new changes will allow entrants to come to the UK to open a branch or subsidiary of their Australian employer without having to demonstrate that they have worked for their employer for 12 months prior to coming to the UK.
Changes to the definition of ‘durable partner’ under the EUSS
Changes will be made to underline the original policy intent under the EUSS that it is only where they had another lawful basis of stay in the UK before the end of the transition period that a durable partner who was not documented as such under the EEA Regulations can rely on that residence.
How will the endorsement criteria and evidential requirements for the Global Talent route change?
Many pathways within the Global Talent route rely on endorsing bodies to assess an applicant’s claim of exceptional talent or promise. The subject-matter expert endorsing bodies consider evidence by the applicant together with the applicant’s skills and experience to satisfy themselves that the applicant does indeed demonstrate exceptional talent or promise. They do not use purely objective requirements (e.g. qualification level) at the risk of excluding highly talented individuals.
Clarifications will be made to the Immigration Rules to reflect this principle and practice to ensure that it is consistent across all endorsing bodies.
The evidential requirements for applicants in different fields will also be updated. Changes are also being made to the letter of recommendation criteria for science, engineering, humanities, social and medicine fields, and digital technology peer review routes. As authors of these letters of recommendation cannot be definitive about what contributions an applicant will make in the UK in their chosen field, they will only be required to provide details of what impact the applicant will be expected to make.
Time spent as a Representative of an Overseas Business can also be included in a settlement application under the Global Talent route.
Introduction of the new Appendix Adult Dependent Relative
In an effort to simplify the Immigration rules, the Adult Dependent Relative provisions in Appendix FM have been replaced by Appendix Adult Dependent Relative.
New rules have also been introduced that require the sponsor to provide a signed maintenance undertaking confirming that the applicant will not have access to public funds, and that the sponsor will be responsible for the maintenance, accommodation and care of the applicant for as long as they are granted permission to stay. This undertaking will have to be signed by the sponsor at entry clearance, permission to stay and settlement stages.
The rules have also been updated for a wider approach to suitability at settlement on Article 8 human rights routes. Under the new changes, if the applicant fails to meet all suitability or eligibility requirements, the applicant will nonetheless meet Article 8 ECHR eligibility requirement if the decision maker is satisfied refusal of the application would result in unjustifiable harsh consequences for the applicant or their family.
However, where the application falls for refusal on certain suitability grounds set out within Appendix FM, the application will be refused even where Article 8 ECHR considerations apply.
What does ‘continuous lawful residence’ mean under the new changes to Long Residence rules?
The new changes clarify that continuous lawful residence will not include time spent:
- On immigration bail, or
- As a Visitor, Short-term Student, or Seasonal worker.
In other words, time spent on a route that allows for a maximum grant permission of 12 months and where switching is not generally allowed, cannot count towards settlement on the basis of long residence.
More flexible rules for New Zealand nationals under the Youth Mobility Scheme
The age range for New Zealand nationals is being expanded from 18-30 to 18-35 and the length of stay is being increased from 2 years to 3 years.
Other changes to the Immigration Rules
A number of other changes have also been introduced to the Immigration Rules. These include:
- Amendments to Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities – to allow visitors who are working on ships transporting goods and/or passengers between ports in the UK and an overseas destination to perform cabotage operations (collecting and delivering goods and passengers within the UK as part of an international journey). This enables individuals working on ships to undertake cabotage activities in UK territorial waters without having to apply for work permission.
- Updates made to the list of events that are Permit Free Festivals under Appendix Visitor: Permit Free Festival List allowing for performers to be exceptionally paid for their participation as visitors.
- Revision of the rules on deportation into a more simplified format.
- Updates to Appendix Government Authorised Exchange on approved sponsors and schemes and clarifications on the duration of the visa. The updates also removed schemes that are now redundant.
- Introduction of the new Appendix Family Reunion (Protection) which introduces a four-stage decision-making process. This replaces the existing provisions and is only a reformation for accessibility, readability and consistency.
- Updates to provide clarity as to when it is appropriate for an asylum interview to be omitted for asylum-seeking children. It will be clearer to asylum decision makers that decisions can be made for children without the requirement for an asylum interview where there is enough information to grant protection status.
If you require assistance or further information on UK Immigration matters, please do not hesitate to contact the Head of Immigration, Sundeep Rathod.
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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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