UK immigration announces 'business-friendly' visa changes

The UK's immigration minister, Mark Harper, has announced changes to the UK's immigration rules designed to make the UK more attractive as a destination for international businesses. He also announced measures designed to attract international students to the UK. The changes will come into force on 1st October 2013.

Mr Harper issued a written Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules to parliament on 6th September 2013. It lays out many small changes to the rules. Among these are changes designed to make the UK more attractive to international businesses. These changes affect UK work visas such as Tier 1 visas for 'high value migrants' and Tier 2 visas for 'skilled workers'. These are

  • Removing the English language requirement for intra-company transferees – (At present, workers who come to the UK with a Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visa must pass an English language test if they are intending to stay in the UK for over three years).
  • Making it easier for those in the UK with Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas to switch to the Tier 2 skilled worker visa. Up to 2,000 graduate entrepreneur visas are available annually to international graduates of UK universities with attractive business ideas.
  • New provision in Tier 1 to make it easier for 'artists of exceptional promise' to qualify for UK visas. Exceptional Talent visas are granted to people who are 'internationally recognised as world leaders or potential world-leading talent in the fields of science and the arts, and who wish to work in the UK'. At present, it is extremely difficult to qualify for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa and only about 70 people in total, scientists and artists, qualified in 2012. No details of the changes have been provided.
  • Removing the restrictions on share ownership that apply to high-earning staff. Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) staff are not currently permitted to own more than 10% of the shares in a company which sponsors their Tier 2visa application)

Other changes

Mr Harper also announced several other changes which he hopes will make economic routes 'more attractive and more flexible for businesses'. These are
  • Allowing some students in the UK with Tier 4 student visas to carry out work internships in the UK (They will be able to work with a Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) visas
  • Allowing business visitors to take part in a greater range of activities in the UK. These would include attending training courses
  • Both business visitors and tourists will be allowed to take part in some study 'where is incidental to the main purpose of their visit'.

Mr Harper told journalists that the changes would 'ensure that the UK continues to attract global talent to work for British businesses and study at our world-class universities'.

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