- Amendments in Student Route
- Changes in EU Settlement Scheme
- Modifications in Skilled Worker Route
- Implications for Sponsor Licence Holders
- Effects on Recruiting Foreigners
- Impact on Visa Nationals
- Implications for Industries Facing Skills Shortages
- Additional Changes
The UK Government has recently announced significant changes to its immigration rules. These changes, primarily centered around visit visa, student visa, and EU Settlement Scheme, are expected to have considerable implications for employers, students, and migrants. This article provides a comprehensive review of these changes and delves into their potential effects on various stakeholders. Employers with a sponsor licence will now in most cases have to wait until the student on a student visa has completed their course before sponsorship can start.
The UK government has introduced pivotal changes in the student route that directly impact international students and their ability to bring in dependants or switch to work routes.
From 17th July 2023, students are permitted to switch to work routes only under certain conditions. These include:
- The student must have completed the course they are sponsored for,
- Degree level or higher students can switch if their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) shows a start date no earlier than their course completion date,
- PhD students can switch if their CoS displays a start date at least 24 months after the start of the PhD course.
These changes make it more challenging for students and their partners, who previously would have found it easier to switch into a work route in-country. If the students do not meet the above requirements to apply in-country, they will now need to weigh up the disruption and cost of applying for fresh entry clearance against the delay in their eligibility for settlement.
From 1 January 2024, only students pursuing a PhD, or a research-based higher degree or government-sponsored students are allowed to bring dependants. This restriction will not affect students whose courses start before this date. As a consequence, taught Masters students will no longer be eligible to be accompanied by dependants.
Although immigration rule changes typically have a grace period of at least 21 days before implementation, these amendments were made effective immediately to prevent a surge of applications. The government believes that the announcement made on 23 May 2023 provided sufficient advance warning.
The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) has also undergone significant changes that affect EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens living in the UK.
From 9 August 2023, the pre-settled status of an individual may be extended automatically, regardless of whether the person has made a valid application to the Home Office. This change is geared towards implementing the findings of a successful legal challenge by the Independent Monitoring Authority. The Home Office also intends to put a process in place to automatically convert pre-settled status holders to settled status if they are eligible for it.
Under the new rules, the assessment of whether an individual has reasonable grounds for making a late application to the EUSS will be a requirement for application validity rather than eligibility.
Several changes have been introduced in the skilled worker route, including additions to the shortage occupation list and longer immigration permission for GPs for speciality training.
Effective from 7 August 2023, several construction and fishing industry occupations have been added to the SOL. Workers applying under these occupational codes will benefit from lower visa fees and salary thresholds.
GPs in speciality training will now be granted immigration permission that expires four months after the end date of their Certificate of Sponsorship. This extension will allow them time to obtain further immigration permission as a GP with a licensed sponsor.
With these changes, holders of sponsor licences need to be more vigilant and consider the stage that potential student applicants are at with their study. They need to ensure that their business activities are not in breach of any rules or compliance obligations.
The recent immigration changes may impact the recruitment strategies of businesses. If an existing employee has an EUSS application assessed as invalid, they may need to apply for alternative immigration permission or leave the UK, potentially impacting the workforce.
The new rules may also affect visa nationals who hold pre-settled status as a family member of an EEA/Swiss national. They may need to apply for a new physical Biometric Residence Card to prove their immigration permission when travelling to the UK.
The additions to the SOL are a positive development for industries facing skills shortages, including construction and fishing. Foreign nationals applying under the newly added occupational codes will find the process more cost-effective and accessible.
The UK Government has also introduced changes to other immigration routes, such as the Ukraine Extension Scheme and the Private Life routes. Additionally, it has launched a new Diplomatic Missions Interns Scheme for the Government Authorised Exchange route.
Some changes to the UK immigration rules are an attempt by the government to reduce net immigration. Putting some occupations on the shortage occupation list in specific industries may very well do the opposite and increase immigration. It's crucial for employers, sponsors, visa nationals and migrants to understand these changes to ensure compliance and make informed decisions.
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