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Immigration law: Statement of changes

Last week was undoubtedly a tumultuous time for UK immigration. Notably, it was announced that that the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa will increase from £26,200 to £38,700. The financial threshold to sponsor a spouse to live in the UK has also increased to £38,700. Critics of the upcoming immigration restrictions have pointed to the fact that the new policies aim to curb immigration rather than to ensure that the UK attracts the brightest and best talent. 

This highly restrictive stance can be further seen in another incoming policy that care workers will now be prevented from bringing their dependents to the UK with them. Aside from these announcements, more wide-sweeping changes have been announced to the UK immigration policy across a variety of different areas. Three new appendices will be introduced to the Immigration Rules. We also saw changes to the Visitor Visa, the EU Settlement Scheme, and the Youth Mobility Visa among other categories. Here we have highlighted some of the key changes as announced by James Cleverly last week. 

Visitor Visa Changes 

Several changes were announced to the Visitor Visa category: 

  • Among the changes announced is the ability for remote workers to now work for their employer overseas while in the UK. The announcement has made it clear, however, that the primary purpose of your visit cannot be to work remotely for an overseas employer.  On this basis, it seems that the Visitor Visa cannot be used as a means for employees to solely relocate to the UK for the purpose of remote working and as such the UK Visitor Visa cannot be used as a “Digital Nomad” Visa. However, it seems to mirror the developments of flexible working environments across the globe in recent years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.   However, we could see an increase of abuse under this change, especially with the difficulty for the Home Office to check the ‘primary purpose’ requirement for those with e-passports in the UK.
  • The Permitted Paid Engagement (“PPE”) Visitor route is now being submerged into the Standard Visitor route and all visitors can now easily switch between PPE activities and the other permitted business activities to “enable easier travel across the UK border for nationalities eligible to use e-passport gates”. It should be noted, however, that all paid activities must be organised before arrival to the UK and must be completed within 30 days of arrival. The list of permitted paid engagements has also been expanded and conference speakers can now be remunerated for their contribution to an event. 

Permitted activities for legal professionals will be expanded. Scientists, researchers, and academics will also have further occasions to conduct research in the UK. 

  • Between 01 March and 31 October, flight crew members will be allowed to come to the UK temporarily “under the terms of a Civil Aviation Authority-approved wet lease arrangement”. However, they must remain employed and renumerated overseas. 
  • Furthermore, a restriction will be removed on intra-corporate activities. These activities must be incidental to a visitor’s overseas employment, however, the activities that they undertake must be “required for the delivery of a project or service by the UK branch of the Visitor’s employer overseas”. Additionally, the activities must not be construed as offshoring a project to an overseas employer. 
  • These changes are set to come into force on 31 January 2024.

EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) Changes 

  • The government will prevent EUSS applications submitted by applicants who arrived irregularly to the UK. This includes those who arrived by small boat and aims to enhance UK policies of tackling illegal immigration. 
  • If an applicant is applying as a joining family member under the EUSS scheme and arrived in the UK as a visitor, they must submit their application to EUSS within three months of arriving in the UK. 
  • These changes are set to come into force on 16 January 2024.

Appendix Bereaved Partner 

Appendix Bereaved Partner and Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse (discussed below) will replace Part 8, Appendix FM, and Appendix Armed Forces of the Immigration Rules. This will include provisions for the dependent children of bereaved partners. It can be noted that Part 9, Grounds for Refusal will also apply to bereaved partners. These changes are set to come into force on 31 January 2024. 

Appendix Victim of Domestic Violence 

In response to concerns that individuals may be abandoned abroad as a form of domestic abuse; victims of domestic abuse and their children will now be able to apply for entry clearance to the UK. Those who have been granted permission under Appendix FM, Part 11, or Appendix Family Reunion (Protection) of a person with permission as a refugee will be able to apply for settlement as a victim of domestic abuse. This appendix will further include a provision for the inclusion of dependent children of domestic violence victims. While this is a welcome addition to the Immigration Rules, this remains contradictory against the governments aims to reduce net migration in the UK. These changes are set to come into force on 31 January 2024. 

Appendix Statelessness 

Appendix statelessness will be introduced to replace Part 14 of the Immigration Rules. Partners and children will not be able to apply for entry clearance or permission to stay under Appendix Statelessness. A stateless person will need to apply for their dependants under the family provisions of Appendix FM and will need to meet the relevant requirements. Those who already have permission under Part 14 of the Immigration Rules will be able to extend their permission or settle in the UK under that route. These changes are set to come into force on 31 January 2024.

Youth Mobility Scheme Changes

Uruguay will be added to the list of countries participating in the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) they have been allocated 500 places on the scheme each year. Further changes have also been made to expand the existing UK YMS agreements with Japan and the Republic of Korea. The total number of allocated places for nationals of Japan will increase to 6,000 while the number of allocated places for nationals of Korea will increase to 5,000. Applicants from the Republic of Korea will also now be able to apply up to the age of 35 instead of the previous cut-off age of 30. Lastly, it can be noted that applicants from Japan and the Republic of Korea will no longer need an invitation to apply. These changes are set to come into force on 31 January 2024.

Some of these changes, such as the expansion of the Visitor Visa rules, seem to be at odds with the government’s recent stance to reduce immigration figures. It seems evident from this statement of changes that the government is shifting its focus to liberalising the rules for shorter, visitor based visas, while restricting those visas with routes to settlement in the UK.

These changes will come into effect on various dates between 7 December 2023 and 31 January 2024. If you want to find out more about the upcoming immigration changes and how you might be affected, our dedicated team of immigration specialists at Irwin Mitchell are here to help. For any enquiries please speak to the head of our Immigration Department Mandeep Khroud