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Key changes to UK visa and immigration rules announced for October

Key changes to UK visa and immigration rules announced for October

On 9 September 2019, the Government published a new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. For those of you who haven’t got the time, or desire, to read all 100 pages of the Statement, Wells Burcombe’s Immigration expert Melissa Vangeen sets out the main UK visa and immigration rules changes which take effect from 1 October 2019.

Tier 2 (General)

A new shortage occupation list will apply for certificates of sponsorship assigned on or after 6 October 2019.  A number of new jobs have been added. These include vets, quantity surveyors, psychologists, biological scientists, architects and web designers. This means that people coming to the UK to work in these industries are given priority in securing a Tier 2 work visas, over occupations not on the list. A few roles, including IT Product Managers, previously on the list for certain qualifying companies, will be removed from the shortage occupation list. This appears to reflect a simplification of the process that companies needing to sponsor digital technology workers need to follow currently.

For teaching roles, sponsors will be able to use the Teaching Vacancies service on GOV.UK for the purpose of advertising the role.  Sponsors no will no longer have to use Find a Job, although in general must still advertise on at least two websites.

PhD roles will be removed from the Tier 2 (General) annual cap (currently 20,700 per year) with effect from 1 October 2019. This means they will no longer require restricted certificates of sponsorship.  This will free up places in the monthly allocation process for other skilled roles that contribute to the economy.

Under the current rules, a high-end restaurant that also offers a delivery service (for example, through an app such as Deliveroo or Just Eat) is unable to sponsor skilled chefs.  The new rules will remove this restriction.


From October 2019, migrants in PhD level roles may undertake research overseas directly related to their Tier 2 employment. Such absences will not count when they are assessed for settlement. The same applies for dependent partners accompanying them.

From 1 October 2019, Tier 2 migrants will not be penalised when seeking settlement for absences from work due to sickness, statutory parental leave, assistance in a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis or legal strike action.  The rules already cater for maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave.  The changes mean that Tier 2 migrants will not be refused settlement if such absence causes their salary to fall below the required threshold.

Doctors, nurses, dentists and midwives who have passed a recognised English language test will not be required to pass another English language test when applying for settlement.

Applicants will no longer be required to provide a certificate to evidence that they have passed the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK test. A unique number will be issued to successful candidates and this number will be sufficient.

Tier 4

Tier 4 students studying at degree level or above will be permitted to apply to switch into Tier 2 within three months of the expected end date of their course, to facilitate them taking up skilled work in the UK after the completion of their studies.  They will be able to commence work with their Tier 2 sponsor if they have applied to switch within three months of the expected end date of their course.

Sponsored students undertaking masters’ and PhD level study will be able to commence a different course of study with their current sponsor during their leave, providing all other requirements for commencing such a course are met.  At the moment, such students would generally have to leave the UK and make an application from overseas as they would need meet the Rules relating to academic progression.

Tier 4 students who have submitted a start-up application under the Start-up scheme that was introduced from March 2019 will be permitted, where their start-up is supported by an endorsing body, to commence their business activities whilst their application is being considered.

EU Settlement Scheme

Close family members of UK nationals who had previously been living with the UK national overseas while they were exercising their free movement rights will be able to make an application under the EUSS until 29 March 2022 (where that relationship existed on exit day) or until 31 December 2020 (where that relationship established post-exit day) in both deal and no-deal scenarios.

Non-EEA family members granted EU Settlement Scheme status whose biometric residence card is lost or stolen overseas will be able to apply free of charge for an EU Settlement Scheme travel permit to enable them to travel to the UK where they can apply for a replacement biometric residence card.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

The following changes are being made for individuals applying for endorsement by The Royal Society, The Royal Academy of Engineering, and The British Academy from 1 October 2019:

  • The list of peer-reviewed fellowships is expanded to include fellowships awarded by the National Institute for Health Research.
  • Expansion of the criteria to include applicants who have held a peer-reviewed fellowship in the 12 months immediately prior to the date of application.
  • The application criteria is expanded to allow a wider range of eligible senior academic or research positions to qualify.

The following changes are being made for individuals applying for endorsement by Tech Nation from 1 October 2019:

  • There must be three, rather than just two, letters of support provided by established organisations in the digital technology sector to permit more in-depth consideration of an individual’s skills and the contribution they would make to the sector.
  • The phrase “product-led” has been added to the requirements to ensure the route is used by migrants with the appropriate skill set.

Any further changes to Immigration rules?

The Government plans to overhaul the UK’s immigration system from 2021 and it remains to be seen what further changes are going to be made to visa and immigration rules over the coming months.

The changes outlined above are an interesting start. Most of these changes are positive and likely to be welcomed by employers and recruiters. They will hopefully decrease recruitment timescales and mark the Government’s commitment to attract the “brightest and best global talent” to participate in the UK’s economic development in a post-Brexit environment.

For further information and advice on the changes or any aspects of Immigration law, please email Melissa Vangeen at Wells Burcombe.

(The above is offered for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.)

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