On 16 October 2014 the Government announced a number of important changes to the UK visa system. Some of these changes have already taken place. Further changes will follow.
Tier 2 visas
From 6 November 2014 immigration officers have had greater powers to refuse Tier 2 visa applications if they believe that it is not a genuine role. Also if immigration officers believe that the migrant worker does not have the necessary qualifications to do the job a Tier 2 visa can be refused.
Recent figures have suggested that the demand for Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship is increasing; monthly quotas for companies applying may soon be reached. Employers need to have a Tier 2 certificate of sponsorship and need to apply for certificates of sponsorship to employ workers from outside of the EU. Employers may have to wait longer for COSs which will lead to greater delay in the processing of Tier 2 visas.
Tier 1 (General) visas
For most new applicants the Tier 1 (General) visas program has already ended; the government continues to allow existing Tier 1 visa holders to renew their visas. But, from 6 April 2015 you will no longer be able to apply for Tier 1 General extensions. Existing Tier 1 General visa holders will have to consider alternative visa options if they wish to continue to live and work in the UK. The Tier 1 (General) category was created for highly skilled foreign workers to come to the UK to work for any employer. However from 6 April 2015 those on Tier 1 General Visas will, if they qualify, have to apply for UK indefinite leave to remain, or in many cases apply for employment with an employer with a Tier 2 sponsorship licence.
From 6 November 2014 the number of visit visa options available to foreign nationals was reduced. The previous fifteen different travel visa types was reduced to four broader visa types; simplifying the process.
UK-Ireland joint visa
As previously announced, the UK and Ireland have agreed a joint visa scheme which will allow visitors to travel to both countries under the one visa.
From December 2014 UK landlords in the West Midlands will be required to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants, or face a fine for failing to do so. The scheme if considered successful will be rolled out across the rest of the country.