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2023 UK Immigration Rules Changes

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The Home Office has published a new March 2023 Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules.

In this blog, our immigration solicitors look at the key changes and reforms.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors 

For expert immigration law advice call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The key immigration rules changes

The key immigration changes in the March 2023 Statement are:

  • Developments in Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETA)
  • The introduction of the innovator founder visa (the innovator visa has been changed and renamed)
  • The closure of the start-up visa from 12 April 2023
  • Changes to work visas, such as the minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa
  • Changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme for New Zealand applicants
  • New rules for 10-year indefinite leave to remain applicants under the long residence route
  • A new Appendix for adult dependent visa claims

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)

Electronic travel authorisation gives advance permission to travel to the UK. The new ETA rules will require non-UK nationals to apply online for an ETA before they journey to the UK. Entry clearance may be refused without a valid ETA. For applicants who are refused an ETA, it may be necessary to apply for a visitor visa or another form of visa. Immigration solicitors can look at the reasons for refusal and advise on the best visa options.

The ETA scheme will affect large numbers of tourists and business visitors as non-British and non-Irish travellers will need an ETA if they are entering the UK (even if they are only transiting through the UK) including all those who don’t require a visitor visa to enter the UK. Those who require a visa don’t need an ETA as well as a visa.

An ETA will be valid for 2 years or until the expiry of the applicant’s passport used in their ETA application, whichever is the sooner date.  Once an ETA is obtained the holder of the ETA can make several trips over its 2-year period.

The ETA scheme will be phased in, requiring specified nationals visiting the UK to obtain an ETA prior to travel unless they hold a British or Irish passport or already have UK entry clearance or a visa to live, work or study in the UK. Immigration solicitors say that some travellers to the UK have time to get used to the ETA scheme as the application will only open to Qatari nationals on 25 October 2023 and only if the individual plans to travel to the UK on or after 15 November 2023.

On 1 February 2024, the ETA process will be extended to nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia who intend to travel to the UK on or after 22 February 2024.

The Innovator Founder route

The existing innovator visa is closing and being replaced by the innovator founder route with effect from 12 April 2023.

The key changes between the innovator visa and the innovator founder route are:

  • Under the innovator founder route the applicant will not need £50,000 of funds to invest in their innovative, viable, and scalable new business
  • Innovator founder route applicants will be able to work outside their innovative business provided that any additional employment is skilled in nature. The rule changes say the additional job must be to at least skill level RQF Level 3

The eligibility criteria for the new innovator founder visa are:

  • Endorsement is required from an approved endorsing body
  • With the Home Office application stage, an applicant needs to score at least 70 points on the points-based immigration system. This can be achieved by securing 30 points for a suitable business plan, 20 points for having a business idea that meets the criteria of being innovative, viable, and scalable, 10 points for meeting the English language requirement, and the final 10 points are awarded for meeting the maintenance requirement
  • Meet the English language requirement unless an exemption applies. For the innovator founder visa applicants must meet level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
  • Meet the financial requirement by having at least £1,270 in personal funds held for at least 28-days before the visa application
  • Meet the general eligibility criteria – for example, not have a poor immigration record, not having a history of criminality, etc

To secure first-stage endorsement from an endorsing body the applicant needs to be able to demonstrate that:

  • They are the business founder or a key member of the founder team
  • They have a business plan that shows their business idea is innovative, viable, and scalable and that they have either created or made a significant contribution to the business plan ideas (in other words a business plan downloaded off the internet or written by ChatGPT won't suffice)
  • They will have a role in implementing the business plan and in the day-to-day management of the business
  • They will have at least 2 meetings with the endorsing body during the visa
  • The business venture is achievable based on resources available to the business whilst also being ambitious as the venture needs to have the potential for job creation and to achieve international and national market growth

The innovator founder visa lasts 3 years and, if the applicant meets the indefinite leave to remain eligibility criteria, they can apply to settle in the UK.

Closure of the start-up visa

The changes to the innovator visa mean that the Home Office is closing the start-up visa route to new applicants unless the start-up visa applicant secures an endorsement from an endorsing body before 13 April 2023.

The rationale behind the change is that previously the key difference between the start-up visa and the innovator visa was the innovator visa requirement for a minimum £50,000 investment. With a minimum funding requirement no longer necessary for the innovator founder visa it makes sense to consolidate to one entrepreneurial visa. The change will mean the innovators and entrepreneurs will be able to apply to settle in the UK after 3 years rather than apply for a start-up visa lasting 2 years and then have to switch to the innovator visa before eventually meeting the indefinite leave to remain eligibility criteria.

New minimum salary thresholds for work visas

There are new minimum salary thresholds for work visas coming into force in April 2023:

  • Skilled worker visa – the minimum salary threshold will rise from £25,600 gross per year to £26,200. The minimum salary for shortage occupation list jobs and new entrants will increase from £20,480 gross per year to £20,960
  • Senior or specialist worker visa - the visa salary threshold will rise to £45,800 gross per year from the current £42,400. For graduate trainees, the wage threshold increases from £23,100 to £24,220 gross per year
  • Scale-up worker visa - the minimum salary threshold increases by £1,600 from £33,000 gross per year to £34,600
  • Seasonal worker visas – the hourly rate is increased to at least £10.42 per hour

For more information on the skilled worker visa minimum salary threshold changes take a look here.

New Zealand nationals and changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme

Changes are being made for New Zealand nationals applying for the UK Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) and the changes are all positive ones:

  • The eligible age range is being increased from those aged 18-30 to 18-35
  • The visa length is being increased from 2 to 3 years

The new rules come into force on 29 June 2023.

Indefinite leave to remain and changes to the 10-year-long residence ILR route

The new immigration rules redefine the periods spent in the UK that count towards an indefinite leave to remain application using the 10-year route.

Time spent in the UK must be lawful to form part of the 10 years and the immigration rules clarify that the following time will not count:

  • Time spent on immigration bail
  • Time spent on a visa with a maximum possible length of 12 months and where the visa holder cannot switch to a new type of visa
  • Time spent on a visitor visa
  • Time in the UK as a seasonal worker
  • Time spent on short-term student visas

New Appendix in the immigration rules for adult dependent visa applications

There is a new separate adult dependent visa Appendix to simplify and clarify the rules. There are few actual changes but immigration solicitors can now find the rules in one Appendix.

Do you need help with any of the immigration rules changes? Our expert immigration solicitors can help you with all your business and individual immigration queries.

 UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors 

For expert immigration law advice call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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