UNITED KINGDOM – Immigration rule changes published

The changes provide positive news for Tier 2 applicants who will no longer be disqualified from permanent residency due to long breaks in employment, as well as for employers recruiting Tier 4 students switching to the Tier 2 category.

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IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? The Home Office has published its latest statement of immigration rules for non-EU/EEA migrants.

What does the change mean? Several business immigration related changes affect points-based visa holders and their dependents, those applying for permanent residency, and students converting to Tier 2 visas.

  • Implementation time frame: Jan. 11.
  • Visas/permits affected: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4 categories.
  • Who is affected: Non-EU/EEA nationals.
  • Business impact: There is good and bad news. Students switching to Tier 2 visas will benefit, as will Tier 2 workers who have more than a two-month break in employment and are applying for permanent residence. Also, the introduction of electronic visas could prove positive in the mid- to long-term. However, dependents who are outside the U.K. for more than 180 days a year will face difficulties gaining permanent residence.

Background: The changes relevant to business immigration, which will affect applications made after Jan. 11, are as follows:

  • The dependents of points-based visa holders applying for permanent residency will be subject to the 180-day rule on absences. Under this rule, those applying for permanent residency cannot be absent from the U.K. for 180 days or more during a 12-month period within the qualifying period. Currently, the rule only applies to the main applicant.  
  • A 60-day rule on gaps in employment will be eliminated for permanent-residence eligibility. That rule says that a foreign worker who has a gap in employment of more than 60 days at any time over the five-year qualifying period may not apply for permanent residency. Under current rules, because the maximum Tier 2 stay is six years, Tier 2 workers with such gaps in employment are required to leave the U.K. after six years and are ineligible to apply for permanent residency.
  • Tier 4 students will be able to apply to switch to Tier 2 as soon as they finish their courses, rather than after receiving their final results.
  • Entry clearance will be issued electronically, both to the applicant and to border control systems, removing the need to present a paper entry clearance upon entry.

BAL Analysis: The changes provide positive news for Tier 2 applicants who will no longer be disqualified from permanent residency due to long breaks in employment, as well as for employers recruiting Tier 4 students switching to the Tier 2 category. However, dependents of Tier 2 and other points-based migrants will need to observe the 180-day absence rule to remain eligible for permanent residency. BAL welcomes any attempt to streamline the visa process and looks forward to positive effects for business travelers, in the mid-term, while anticipating teething issues in the short-term.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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