Immigration rules changes – what’s new banner


Immigration rules changes – what’s new

  • Posted on

On the 4 March 2021, the UK government published a new Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules. For those business owners still adapting to Brexit and the introduction of the new points-based Immigration system in January 2021, further changes may seem oddly timed. In this blog we look at the over one-hundred-page document of Immigration rules changes and highlight the key points.

UK Immigration solicitors

London based OTS Solicitors are specialists in Immigration law. For expert advice on individual immigration or business immigration law call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available by phone call or video call.

The headline changes to the Immigration rules

The 4 March 2021 Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules takes effect from 1 April 2021. The headline changes are to:

  • Introduce a new graduate route – starting on the 1 July 2021
  • The shortage occupation list
  • Salary thresholds and the skilled worker visa
  • The global talent visa
  • The Hong Kong visa
  • The EU Settlement Scheme.

The new graduate route

The Statement of Changes provides detail about the graduate route that will open to applicants on the 1 July 2021 and is intended to make the UK a more attractive study destination for international students. Instead of international students being left “high and dry” at the end of their course the graduate route will potentially make it easier for qualifying applicants to secure work in the UK once they have completed their studies.

Whilst graduates can of course apply for the new skilled worker visa ,in order for a student to qualify for the work visa they need a skilled job with an employer who holds a Home Office issued sponsor licence. The graduate route provides an alternative to the skilled worker visa and has significant advantages:

  • You don’t need a job offer before applying for the graduate route – you can be looking for work
  • The job doesn’t have to be sponsored by an employer who holds a Sponsor Licence
  • The job can be at any skill level so doesn’t have to meet the eligible job criteria for a skilled worker visa.

If you secure leave to remain on the graduate route the Immigration rules say that you can apply to switch to the skilled worker visa once you have secured a suitable job with a sponsoring employer.

The graduate route doesn’t offer long term residence in the UK but it is an entry route given the switch opportunities. The graduate route enables student visa holders to stay in the UK for:

  • Three years if you have a PhD or you are a doctoral graduate or
  • Two years for all other graduate route applicants.

To meet the eligibility criteria for the graduate route you must have permission to be in the UK as a student and score seventy points on the UK points-based Immigration system. This can be achieved by:

  • Completion of studies at an institution with a track record of compliance
  • Securing a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or some professional qualifications, for example, a teaching qualification
  • Residence in the UK for a minimum length of time (the length of time depends on the course but there are some exceptions for distance learning for the period January 2020 to September 2021).

Applications must be made in the UK, so you can't apply from overseas. You also can't have held permission on the Doctorate Extension Scheme or the old graduate route.

If you are an international student with dependant family your dependant family members will also be allowed to stay in the UK provided that they are already dependants on dependant visas. The exception to this rule is if a dependent child was born in the UK during the earlier period of leave to remain.

The shortage occupation list

In September 2020 the independent Migration Advisory Committee published its review of the shortage occupation list. The Home Office didn’t accept all its recommendations but some changes to the shortage occupation list are now being made, including:

  • The removal of chefs from the shortage occupation list (though a chef can still apply for a skilled worker visa provided they meet the eligibility criteria)
  • The addition of health services jobs such as public health managers and directors, residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors, pharmacists, health professionals not elsewhere classified, physiotherapists, nursing auxiliaries and assistants and senior care workers
  • The addition of laboratory technicians (including those not employed in the health and care sector)
  • The addition of modern foreign language teachers.

Salary thresholds and the skilled worker visa

The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules also changes salary thresholds to include a minimum hourly rate. This revision is intended to prevent employers requiring skilled worker visa holders from working extended hours because of the annual salary thresholds for the skilled worker visa. There is a transitional arrangement for those already working in the UK on the skilled worker visa in Employment that pays less than the minimum hourly rate (set at £10.10 per hour) .

The Immigration rule changes mean that for the majority of skilled worker visa applicants the minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa and sponsoring employment must amount to at least:

  • £25,600 per year and
  • £10.10 per hour and
  • The going rate for the job.

If an employer wants to reduce the salary of a skilled worker visa holder to a lower salary threshold after the worker has secured their visa then a new application has to be submitted to the Home Office.

The global talent visa

Under the current global talent visa Immigration rules all global talent visa applicants have to secure endorsement from an endorsing body. Endorsement is by a relevant industry body as the process is designed to ensure that relevant expert bodies recognise specialist talent, such as in the creative, arts, science and digital technology fields.

The Immigration rule changes will allow a select few to escape the endorsement process provided that they have reached what is described as the pinnacle of their career and this has been recognised by award of one of a specified number of prizes. Those select few can bypass endorsement and go straight to submission of their global talent visa application to the Home Office. However, the number of global talent visa applicants avoiding the endorsement process will be extremely limited given the nature of the awards listed in the global talent visa appendix. They include:

  • Nobel Prizes
  • Oscars, golden globes, Tony and Emmy awards.

Immigration solicitors say it will be interesting to see how many global talent visa applicants are eligible to use the expedited application process over the next three years. There isn’t expected to be a queue of applicants.

The Hong Kong visa

For those with British national (overseas) status there is a change to the Hong Kong visa rules to enable them to apply for a change of visa conditions and to access to public funds if they are destitute or at imminent risk of destitution.

Revisions to the EU Settlement Scheme

The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules also makes changes to the EU Settlement Scheme, namely:

  • Suitability of applicants and
  • Eligibility requirements.

In relation to suitability provisions the revisions to the EU Settlement Scheme mean that the Home Office will be able to refuse settled status applicants if their presence in the UK isn’t deemed conducive to the public good provided that the conduct that isn’t thought to be conducive to the public good was committed after the end of the Brexit transition period.

UK business immigration solicitors

London based OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration law and individual immigration law. The Immigration team is recommended in the two leading law directories, Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and Legal 500. For proactive expert legal advice on all your Immigration law needs contact OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.

    Get in touch

    Please fill in the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.