It has been a busy summer period for UK immigration with the passing of the Illegal Migration Act, which will drastically change the UK’s asylum system, and the announcement of visa fee increases for a range of UK immigration applications. On 17 and 19 July 2023, the Government also released a Statement of Changes (SoC) making changes to a number of visa categories, some with immediate effect.
Below is a summary of recent announcements and changes in UK immigration:
Student visa route – effective immediately
Ability to switch UK immigration categories
One of the key changes announced in the SoC, with immediate effect, is that overseas students are no longer able to switch into a UK work visa category until they have completed the course of study for which they are sponsored in the UK.
An important note for UK employers is that students who are undertaking a degree-level course or above can apply to switch into a sponsored work category before completing their course, but their employment must start after completion of the course. PhD students, on the other hand, are permitted to switch into a sponsored work category but only after they have completed 24 months of study in the UK.
The work categories referenced include:
- Skilled Worker;
- Global Business Mobility (Senior or Specialist Worker, Graduate Trainee, UK Expansion Worker, Service Supplier and Secondment Worker);
- Tier 2 Minister of Religion;
- Representative of an Overseas Business;
- Global Talent;
- High Potential Individual;
- Innovator Founder;
- International Sportsperson;
- UK Ancestry; and
- Temporary Worker (Creative Worker, Charity Worker, Religious Worker, International Agreement and Government Authorised Exchange).
Dependants of Students
As previously announced by the Home Office, the Immigration Rules have changed to prevent the majority of overseas students being able to bring dependants to the UK unless the student will be undertaking a PhD, research-based higher degree or other doctoral qualification. These provisions apply where the relevant UK course starts on or after 1 January 2024. Dependants of students already in the UK should still be able to extend their permission at the relevant time.
Due to market need, and following recommendations by the Migration Advisory Committee, the Home Office has added to the Shortage Occupation List. Further information on the affected UK roles can be found here.
EU Settlement Scheme
A number of significant changes are being made to the EU Settlement Scheme from Autumn 2023, including the automatic extension of pre-settled status, and automatic conversion of pre-settled status, to settled status.
Extension of the Ukrainian Scheme
The Ukrainian Scheme was scheduled to close to new applicants on 16 November 2023. The Government has now extended the scheme to allow Ukrainian nationals who obtained UK immigration permission to enter or stay in the UK between 18 March 2022 and 16 November 2023, to extend their permission for a further period of 36 months. New applications under the scheme can be made up to and including 16 May 2024.
Additionally Ukrainian nationals who have not obtained permission under the Ukrainian Scheme before coming to the UK can now be considered for a grant of leave outside the Immigration Rules for a period of six months. If they wish to remain in the UK for more than this period, they will be required to make an application for permission to stay.
Adult dependent relatives
The Government has corrected an error under the old Statement of Changes, from 1 June 2023, and amended the Immigration Rules to reflect the position taken previously, whereby one parent or grandparent who has care needs will have to show a need for long term personal care that cannot be met in their country of residence. The applicant’s partner will now qualify for permission alongside the main applicant, whatever the state of their own health and without having to meet the personal care requirement themselves.
Youth Mobility Scheme
New Zealand nationals already in the UK under this category can now apply for a one-year extension so that they can receive a total of three years’ continuous leave.
With immediate effect, the Statement of Changes confirms that the Government’s asylum differentiation policy has now ended. This enabled the Home Office to group refugees into two separate categories (Group 1 and Group 2), with Group 2 refugees only being granted temporary refugee permission which did not lead to settlement. Whilst this is good news, it seems that such changes have been made ahead of the implementation of the Illegal Migration Act which seeks to significantly alter the UK’s asylum system.
The Home Office has also widened the circumstances in which an asylum claim is treated as withdrawn. The new version of the Immigration Rules adds two withdrawal grounds: failure to maintain contact with the Home Office or to provide up to date contact details, and failure to attend reporting events unless for reasons outside the applicant’s control. Such changes are likely to result in an increase in claims being treated as withdrawn, leaving vulnerable individuals without immigration protection in the UK.
Nationals from Dominica, Honduras, Namibia, TimorLeste, and Vanuatu are now required to apply for a UK visit visa before travelling to the UK.
Proposed increases to Home Office fees
In the lead up to the Statement of Changes and earlier in July 2023, the Government announced plans to increase various UK visa fees to fund a pay rise for public sector workers. Whilst no indication has been provided as to when the increase will take place, it is anticipated that this may be in Autumn 2023. A summary of the expected changes are:
Immigration health surcharge
This mandatory fee applied to migrants to provide access to NHS services will significantly increase by 40% per application. This means that the main fee will rise from £624 per year of permission to £1,035. The lower rate (for Students, under 18s and Youth Mobility Scheme migrants) will increase from £470 to £776.
Work and visit visas
Application fees will increase by 15%.
The announcement referred to fees for other visa categories to increase by at least 20%. These changes will apply to Study visas, entry clearance and leave to remain applications, as well as applications for settlement and British citizenship.
We will of course be closely monitoring this and will provide updates at the relevant time. In the meantime, it is worth considering whether it is possible to submit applications as soon as possible before the fee increases take effect.
This article was first published by our UK member firm Doyle Clayton on 4 August 2023. For further information on Doyle Clayton‘s immigration services, please click here. To learn more about UK immigration changes, please contact their Immigration team.