Home Office announces major changes to immigration rules

The Home Office has announced major changes to immigration rules which will affect business visitors and international students.

The new changes, according to the Home Office, will give greater flexibility to business visitors and to businesses that employ and sponsor international migrants.

The changes will also make the UK more attractive to international students by allowing them to take up corporate internships after completing their degree and making it easier for graduate entrepreneurs to take up skilled jobs.

The changes to the business visitor route will allow employees to undertake corporate training in the UK where it is delivered by an external company.

Global organisations will now be able to bring their own auditors to the UK on a business visitor visa, making it easier for them to complete international audits. Business visitors will also be able to do a short course of study while they are here.

The Home Office has also made changes to the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route to enable employees already on this visa to extend it without having to take a language test. The ICT route is already well regarded, with business customers telling the Home Office that it is “the most user-friendly in the world”.

Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: "The UK is open for business: we are building an immigration system that works in the national interest and supports growth.” He added that the lasted changes “will ensure that the UK continues to attract global talent to work for British businesses and study at our world-class universities.”

Individuals on Graduate Entrepreneur visas will be able to switch to a skilled worker visa more easily under the new rules, ensuring that the best global talent is able to stay in the UK to work. They will be able to switch visas for a job with a “new entrant” salary and the sponsor won’t have to complete a Resident Labour Market Test.

Changes have also been made to the general visit visa, enabling tourists to complete courses, including leisure and English courses. This means those coming to the UK primarily to visit family or for tourism won’t have to apply for a student visitor visa to take a short course, for instance in activities like sailing or horse riding.

The Exceptional Talent route has also been expanded to artists with exceptional promise, rather than just those who have already proved themselves to be world leaders in their field. Artists applying for this route will have to have been endorsed by the Arts Council.

The Immigration Rules have also been adjusted to allow some former locally engaged staff in Afghanistan to relocate to the UK as outlined in the Secretary of State for Defence’s statement of 4th June 2013. The new rules will allow eligible applicants, their spouse/partner and their minor dependant children to be granted a period of five years’ leave to enter if their character and conduct is satisfactory.

Two new temporary routes have been created specifically to enable Commonwealth Games Family Members (which includes athletes, coaches, officials and other support staff) to come to the UK as visitors to participate in the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The two routes are for adult and child Games Family Members.

The government has also removed the rule that blocked skilled working visa applicants who earn over £152,100 from owning more than 10% of the sponsor business’s shares.

The use of the “genuineness” test has been expanded into other visa routes including for students applying for student visas when already in the UK, Ministers for Religion and Temporary Workers. The “genuineness” test gives caseworkers greater scope to test the evidence presented by applicants, particularly in cases where abuse is suspected.

Minor changes have also been made to the Family Rules. The changes will benefit UK citizens applying to bring their non EEA spouses and children to the UK as they will be given greater flexibility in how they meet and evidence the financial threshold.

The changes will include allowing electronic bank statements to be submitted for all bank accounts, not just online bank accounts. Investment-based cash savings held in a bank/savings account will be able to be used to meet the financial requirement, as well as savings in a deposit account.  

At the same time, cash savings will be able to include the net proceeds from a property sale, within the six month period prior to application. Savings must be evidenced and the property owned by the applicant and/or their partner.  

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