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The changes to the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence and Tier 2 visa scheme should benefit many employers and UK visa migrants. It is doubtful if these and other changes will adequately deal with the situation after Brexit (if it ever happens).
Several UK visa and immigration changes were implemented in October 2019. The most notable changes occurred across the Tier 2 (General) visa category, the UK startup and innovator visa schemes, the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa route and the EU Settlement Scheme.
The most significant change is the expansion of the Tier 2 shortage occupation list (SOL), to which a number of new job roles were added to tackle skills shortages in the UK. Following the changes it is now easier to bring in IT professionals, Engineers, chefs, architects and many others. Usually, there should not be an advertising requirement in these cases to show there is a skills shortage.
Prior to his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer, former Home Secretary Sajid Javid had confirmed that all of the MAC’s recommendations for the SOL would be implemented. The expanded SOL should now be taken into account when applying to employ migrant workers under the Tier 2 visa scheme. Employers with a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence also need to have a Certificate of Sponsorship to employ Tier 2 visa migrant workers.
Main changes to UK visa and immigration rules
Tier 2 (General) visa category
The Tier 2 (General) visa category features several changes. The Tier 2 Sponsor Licence and Tier 2 visa enables UK companies to sponsor skilled, non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals for job roles in Britain. The number of Tier 2 visas that can be issued to those migrants living outside the UK is limited to 20,700 annually, which are split into monthly allocations. Approximately 2,000 Tier 2 visas are made available per month. There is no limit on employing migrants on Tier 2 visas who can apply from within the UK.
Employers and visa applicants are advised of the following changes:
- The United Kingdom is covered by one shortage Occupation list, while Scotland benefits from having additional occupations in a Scotland specific list.
- People coming to the UK to work in occupations added to the SOL will receive priority in obtaining a Tier 2 visa, ahead of job roles not on the list. The new look SOL w implemented on 6 October, 2019.
- The removal of PhD level jobs from the annual Tier 2 (General) visa quota, means that you will no longer need a restricted certificate of sponsorship for these occupations. This frees up places for other skilled roles that contribute to the UK economy in the monthly allocation process. This only affects job applicants who need to apply from overseas.
- Absence from the UK counted towards Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) applicants will no longer apply to Tier 2 PhD level migrants involved in overseas research projects directly linked to their employment. Dependent partners accompanying the main Tier 2 visa holder will also be exempt from this rule.
- Tier 2 migrants absent from work due to illness, statutory parental leave, assisting in a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis or involved in strike action in a legal capacity, will not be penalised. This means Tier 2 migrants will not be refused ILR if an absence, like those mentioned above, results in their salary falling below the required threshold.
Startup and innovator visa
Introduced in March 2019, the startup and innovator visas were created for international entrepreneurs looking to establish a business in Britain, which is backed by an endorsing body. Recent quarterly figures released by the Home Office show that the innovator visa received just four applications. The changes to this scheme do not appear to be that significant.
The EU Settlement Scheme
It was announced that in order to remain in the UK after 2020, EEA and Swiss nationals, along with their family members, must apply to stay in the country under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). However, there continues to be a great deal of uncertainty over Brexit. Will there be a General Election? If and when will Brexit actually happen? Changes include the following:
- Non-EEA family members of EEA citizens who are awarded EUSS status will be allowed to apply, free of charge, for a EUSS travel permit in the event that their biometric card is lost or stolen overseas. This will enable them to travel to the UK in order to apply for a replacement biometric card.
Post-study work visa and review based on Australian immigration system
The statement of changes to UK immigration rules coincide with other recent developments, including the reinstatement of the two-year post study work visa in 2020, which was previously scrapped in 2012. It is also intended that there will be an “Australian style” immigration points system.
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