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Amendments to Work Visa Routes. Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules


The UK officials published a new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. In this article, we’ll cover the amendments to work and student visa routes.

Changes to the Tier 2 route

Shortage Occupation List expansion

According to the latest (May 2019) recommendations of MAC (Migration Advisory Committee), the Shortage Occupation List has been extended to include professions of biological scientists and biochemists, veterinarians, architects and psychologists. Employers willing to recruit foreigners for digitech jobs in the shortage list will now be given more flexibility, i.e. they’ll be able to bypass the Resident Labour Market Test. When applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), job holders themselves are now exempt from the earnings threshold. These changes will come into effect on October 6, 2019.

On a side note, take away service owners can now sponsor chefs. Previously, only ‘eat-here’ restaurants enjoyed that privilege.

No annual cap or ‘punishable’ absence for PhDs

PhD level jobs are no longer subject to an annual limit on visas (previously, 20,700 applications) starting from October 6, 2019. Also, PhD workers’ absence for work-related research overseas will not be counted as absence in terms of ILR restrictions. The same is valid for PhD workers’ partners if they accompany them abroad for such purposes.

Absenсe from work for a valid reason

Foreign workers who are absent from work due to sickness, statutory parental leave, assisting in a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis or taking part in a legal strike action - can still apply for ILR even if such absence made their salary drop below the required threshold.

Start-up and innovator 

Students on the doctorate extension can now qualify under the Start-up route even if they’ve already had an established business in the UK. Also, the requirements for endorsing bodies under the Start-up and Innovator routes have been changed. Their request may now be rejected based on “criminality or other actions or behaviour which are non-conducive to the public good”.

Changes to the Tier 1 (Investor) route

UK government bonds are no longer deemed a qualifying investment for Tier 1 (Investors). That said, the latest Statement of Changes gives leeway to those who took the Tier 1 (Investor) route before March 29, 2019. They may get an extention or settlement in the UK if they move the qualifying investments out of the UK government bonds. Those willing to extend their Tier 1 (Investor) category have to transfer the investments before April 6, 2023. ILR seekers have time until April 6, 2025.

Amendments to Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

An endorsing body for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Tech Nation now requires three rather than two letters of support from trusted digital technology organisations. Also, Tech Nation is willing to recruit more “commercially savvy” applicants. It will thus consider the business effect of the applicant’s work and accomplishments, and focus on the product rather than pure technology.

Unlike Tech Nation, other endorsers such as the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering and British Academy increased the number of peer-reviewed fellowships. This will enable applicants to go on the fast track. Those who had held a fellowship one year before the application will now be able to apply as well.

Changes to Tier 4 (General) visas for students

Students holding Tier 4 (General) visas can now start working for Tier 2 employers within three months of completing their degree. Endorsed students can start their business right away while their Start-up application is still being reviewed.

Also, Tier 4 students getting Master’s and PhD degrees will now be able to engage in a different course of study with the current sponsor without having to leave the UK and make an application from abroad.

Changes to the English language test requirements

Appendix O was finally removed. More details of relevant English tests will be published at the page. Also, applicants no longer have to show their test certificates, but only the reference number. This applies to both English tests and the Life in the UK Tests, which can’t be run by the Home Office.

Besides, medical workers (doctors, dentists, nurses and midwifes) working under Tier 2 will no longer be required to undergo an additional English test if they had already been assessed by the relevant regulated professional body.

Changes for professional sports people

The concept of the professional sportsperson was re-defined for the fourth time this year. The Rules reverted to confirm that Tier 4 (General) students at degree level or above have a right to play or coach as amateurs or as part of work that constitutes an integral and assessed part of their course.

Regarding administrative reviews

All administrative reviews must be submitted online unless the original application was filed on a valid paper form.

Tweaks in Tier 5

Some changes to the Tier 5 routes include:

  • Removal of a government authorised exchange scheme (the Foreign & Commonwealth Office authorised scheme)

  • Extended list of organisations that can sponsor researchers under the “UK Research and Innovation – Science, Research and Academia” scheme

  • From January 1, 2020, nationals of South Korea applying under the Youth Mobility Scheme no longer have to apply for sponsorship from their own government agencies before applying for their UK visa.

Astons is a leading global immigration advisory firm with offices in London, Moscow, Dubai, Cyprus and China and offers residency & citizenship investment solutions in Europe & the Caribbean.


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