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 Major changes announced to UK immigration routes
Immigration law

Major changes announced to UK immigration routes

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Overview

Major changes to the UK immigration rules were announced this week by Kevin Foster MP, the Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Safe and Legal Migration, in his written statement to the House of Commons.

There’s a lot to unpack in this week’s Statement of Changes to the immigration rules, including the unveiling of several new business routes, changes to the family and private life routes and the European Settlement scheme, to name just a few.  Unlike the rushed closure of the Tier 1 (investor) route last month, there will be a phased introduction of this week’s changes between 6 April 2022 and 22 August 2022.

Below is a summary of the new business routes and a timeline for their implementation.

Global Business Mobility Route

This new sponsored route is aimed at overseas businesses seeking to establish a presence in the UK, or transfer staff to the UK for specific business purposes. The route will open at 9am on 11 April 2022. The opening of this route will signal the closure of certain existing routes. Individuals in the process of preparing initial applications on under the sole representative of an overseas business route will need to ensure their applications are submitted before this new route opens, or they will be expected to apply under the new Global Business Mobility UK Expansion Route.

The Global Business Mobility route is split into five distinct subcategories:

1. Senior or Specialist Worker

This category is designed to replace the current Intra-Company Transfer (‘ICT’) route. It will permit senior managers or specialist employees who are being assigned to a UK business linked to their employer overseas.

There will be a slight increase in the salary requirement for this route, increasing the current £41,500 needed under the ICT route, to £42,400 under the Senior or Specialist Worker subcategory. As with the current ICT visa, this route will not lead to settlement and will continue to have a cap on the length of time that can be spent in the UK under this route.

2. Graduate Trainee

The Graduate Trainee route is for workers on a graduate training course leading to a senior management or specialist position and who are required to do a work placement in the UK. This route replaces the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route.

3. UK Expansion Worker

This subcategory of the Global Business Mobility Route will replace the Sole Representative provisions in the Representative of an Overseas Business route. It is intended for senior managers or specialist employees who are being assigned to the UK to undertake work related to a business’s expansion to the UK. As with the current sole representative route, it is only open to businesses who have not yet begun trading in the UK.

There are a number of changes to this route when compared to the existing sole representative route. The first major change is that this is to become a sponsored route, meaning the company will need to apply for a sponsor licence as a UK Expansion Worker sponsor. What this will look like in practice has yet to be set out in guidance by the Home Office. That said, the statement of changes suggests that it will involve the overseas company applying for a provisional rating on the Home Office’s register of licenced sponsor to facilitate the visa application, presumably with the licence application being finalised once the new UK entity is established. Other changes include the introduction of a minimum salary requirement and a cap of the length of time that the applicant can remain in the UK. In addition, this route will not lead to settlement in the UK.

4. Service Supplier

The Service Supplier route is for contractual service suppliers employed by an overseas service provider and self-employed independent professionals based overseas, that need to undertake an assignment in the UK to provide services covered by one of the UK’s international trade commitments. This route replaces the contractual service supplier and independent professional provisions in the Temporary Work – International Agreement route. As with the UK Expansion Worker route, this route does not lead to settlement in the UK.

5. Secondment Worker

The Secondment Worker route is for workers being seconded to the UK as part of a high value contract or investment by their employer overseas. This is a new route in the Immigration Rules; it is intended for short assignments and does not lead to settlement.

High Potential Individual Route

This new route is reminiscent of the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme/Tier 1 (General) route which closed to new applicants in 2011. The purported aim of the route is to attract the ‘brightest and best to the UK to maintain our status as a leading international hub for emerging technologies”. Eligibility to the scheme is therefore determined by the applicant’s educational achievements, requiring them to hold either a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree qualification from a non-UK top 50 global overseas university. The route is due to open at 9am on 30 May 2022.

At present, the route is intended for graduates of non-UK institutions that are included in the list of the top 50 universities in at least two of the following ranking systems:

  1. Times Higher Education World University Rankings
  2. Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings
  3. The Academic Ranking of World Universities

The rankings will be updated on an annual basis. Those granted permission under this route will be granted a period of 2 (bachelor or master’s degree) or 3 (PhD) years permission to stay in the UK. Maintenance and English language requirements will apply to the route and the applicant will be able to be joined by the dependants (partner/minor children). High Potential Individual route does not lead to settlement in the UK and therefore applicants will need to look to switch into another immigration route should they wish to remain in the UK beyond their initial 2 or 3 year permission to stay.

Scale-up route

The Scale-up route is a new form of sponsorship visa which will run alongside the current Skilled Worker route. Those seeking to apply to the Scale-up route will, as with the Skilled Worker route, need a sponsored job offer from an authorised UK scale-up company. To register for this route, a company will need to demonstrate that they have an annualised growth of at least 20% for the previous 3-year period in terms of turnover or staffing. Companies will also need to have had a minimum of 10 employees at the start of this 3-year period. The Scale-up route will open on 22 August 2022.

The sponsored jobs on offer must be at degree level (RQF level 6) and attract a minimum salary of at least £33,000 or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher. This is a higher skill level than the current RQF level 3 which is required under the Skilled Worker route. The salary requirement is also higher than the skilled worker minimum of £25,600. Whilst offering more flexibility to the individual applicant, it remains to be seen what the attraction of this route will be to business; details on the requirements of the scale-up sponsor licence process have yet to be published. Furthermore, it is unlikely to solve skills gaps in the long term given the fact that the applicant only needs to remain with their sponsored employer for 6 months before having unfettered access to the labour market.

If you have any queries about these forthcoming changes and how they impact you or your business, please get in touch with a member of our team to discuss further.

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Call us for free on 0330 159 5555 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.