Amongst the changes are updates to the EU Settlement Scheme, the Ukraine Extension Scheme, Student route and the Skilled Worker route, following the recommendations presented by Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
We provide a breakdown of the most relevant changes below:
Student Route: changes from 17 July 2023
Previously, someone residing in the UK with a student visa was able to switch to any work category (including Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility, Temporary Work visas etc.) at any time, as a degree level qualification is not a requirement for a work visa. Switching from a student to a work visa inside the UK exempts the applicant from paying the Immigration Skills Charge, saving £1,000 a year.
Recent publications indicate that individuals and businesses may be using the student visa route to gain entry to the UK, before switching into work routes upon arrival. In May, the government announced their intention to tighten the rules for international students in an attempt to bring down net migration figures, and on 17 July they also announced a ‘crackdown on rip-off university degrees’.
These factors led to instantaneous rule changes for students, coming into effect from 3pm, 17 July. Now, students switching to work visas must wait until their studies have been completed, or alternatively provide confirmation to the Home Office of their course completion date. The course completion date must be before their work start date on their new Certificate of Sponsorship.
Where someone is studying towards a PhD in the UK, the rules previously allowed them to switch to a work visa after 12 months on their course. This has now been amended to having to complete 24 months of the course prior to making their application.
Finally, there is no longer any route for international students to bring their family to the UK with them on dependent visas, unless they are completing a research-based post-graduate course. Dependents already in the UK can extend their stay, and international students on taught post-graduate courses that begin before 1 January 2024 can still apply to bring their dependents with them.
The remaining changes announced in the Monday (17th July) Statement of Changes will come into effect on 7 August 2023.
Changes to the Skilled Worker Route
The Shortage Occupation List now includes the following roles:
- Bricklayers and masons
- Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
- Carpenters and joiners
- Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified
- Agriculture and fishing trades not elsewhere classified
- Fishing and other elementary agriculture occupations not elsewhere classified
By adding these roles to the Shortage Occupation List the Home Office has reduced the minimum salary threshold for these occupations by approximately 20%, to try to protect these industries from labour shortages.
The Home Office has also updated the position for GP trainee graduates looking to extend their stay in the UK following their completion of GP trainee programmes. There have been year-on-year issues arising from a restricted post-graduation period in which GP trainee graduates can submit an application to be sponsored by GP surgeries. These are caused in part by many GP surgeries not having a pre-existing Licence with which to support sponsorship of graduating GP trainees.
To solve this issue and give GP trainee graduates and GP surgeries sufficient time to switch trainees to Skilled Worker visa permissions, the Home Office will now extend visa permission by 4 months over and above the Certificate of Sponsorship length for a GP trainee position. The aim of this change is to provide sufficient time to make the switch to the new visa permission.
During this 4-month period the Home Office have confirmed GP trainees can engage in supplementary employment.
There is not yet clarity on freedom to travel in and out of the UK during this time, however, if – as would be expected – visa permission is granted including this additional 4-month period, then this is a positive offer to smooth over issues that have arisen for a number of years relating to GP trainee graduates. This should be a positive change that leads to greater retention of GP graduates in the UK and provide sufficient time for GP surgeries to arrange Sponsor Licences to support offers of positions for GPs graduating in the UK.
Changes to Global Business Mobility and Temporary Work Routes
A new requirement has been added to the rules requiring, from 7 August 2023, individuals applying (from inside or outside the UK) for a visa in any of the Global Business Mobility or Temporary Work visa categories to genuinely intend to undertake their sponsored job role and not work in breach of their conditions.
This change builds on the rules that are already in place for these visa categories and is not necessarily a change that will affect many people. The intention of the rule change may be to ensure that alternative visa categories are not being exploited in substitution for the potentially more expensive Skilled Worker visa route. For example, the change may prompt employers to assess the role of internships offered. There must be a genuine intention that interns on Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange visas do no more than the role of an intern, which means that their job role remains (throughout the internship) purely supernumerary to business needs.
Changes to the EU Settlement Scheme and EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit
EEA and Swiss nationals residing in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, were required to have applied under the EUSS scheme before 1 July 2021 to be granted a right to reside, travel freely to and work in the UK. The Home Office has however accepted many late applications with a relatively flexible approach and has kept the EUSS route open for more than four years.
Following the decision in Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements v the Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 3274 (Admin) (21 December 2022), the Home Office will, in relevant cases for those with pre-settled status, automatically extend this permission for a 2-year period if settled status has not been secured before the expiry of the existing pre-settled status. This is a substantial shift from the current position and will give flexibility to huge numbers of individuals who hold EUSS pre-settled status to remain in the UK as they wait to qualify for settled status under this visa route.
When considering valid applications, the Home Office will first assess reasonable grounds for the delayed application, issuing a Certificate of Application if grounds are reasonable, before reviewing the eligibility and suitability requirements.
The EUSS and EUSS Family Permit scheme will be closed from 8 August 2023 for new applications under two specific categories. These are cases under the so-called ‘Surinder Singh” and “Zambrano” cases. “Surinder Singh” cases concern family members of EEA nationals exercising treaty rights before returning to the UK, whilst “Zambrano” cases concern applicants who are primary carers of British Citizens. For those who have not previously applied under the EUSS route and wish to enter the UK after the 8 August 2023, applicants who may have previously relied on these categories will need to turn to options as a Family Member of a Qualifying British Citizen or a Primary Carer of a British Citizen under other areas of the Immigration Rules.
The changes to the EUSS and EUSS Family Permit have been introduced as part of a move away from the Withdrawal Agreement and into a domestic space, but also to support those who have applied for or received status under this route.
Other changes to take effect on 7 August 2023
Ukraine Extension Scheme
This scheme was introduced as part of the three Ukraine support schemes, including the Ukraine Family scheme and the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship scheme.
The Ukraine Extension Scheme, one of three visa routes that provide support for Ukrainians following the 2022 invasion, permits Ukraine nationals already residing in the UK with valid permission to stay in the UK between 18 March 2022 and 16 November 2023, or have held permission that expired from 1 January 2022, to continue living in the UK for a further 36 months.
An extension under this scheme can be made until 16 May 2024 and will continue to allow a person to work (including self-employment and voluntary work), to live, study (subject to ATAS conditions) and reside in the UK with access to public funds. This new deadline of 16 May 2024 is to encourage Ukraine nationals to maintain their lawful residence and provide applicants with assurance of their status here in the UK.
Adult Dependent Relatives
The rules now confirm that where someone applies for their parent or grandparent to join them in the UK as an Adult Dependent Relative (ADR), it may be possible in some circumstances for the partner of the ADR to also apply with them as an additional Adult Dependent Relative where one of the two of them require care. This change will come into effect on 7 August.
At Magrath Sheldrick LLP we provide Immigration and Employment assistance for clients in all sectors.
For further details on how these changes impact you please contact your Magrath Sheldrick LLP advisor.