The recent changes to UK immigration law are not sweeping, but there are several minor but significant updates which it is important to be aware of.
Electronic Entry Clearance
Moving the UK’s entry clearance system into the 21st Century, the UK has started to roll out an electronic entry clearance system, meaning that, going forward, visitors will now only have to present their passport or other identity document in order to gain entry to the UK.
Visitors’ visas now accepted for transit
Visas issued by other countries to allow visits by those entering into a marriage or civil partnership will be accepted by the UK for the purposes of transit through the UK (not entry into the UK).
Clarification of restrictions on UK-issued visitors’ visas
Clarification that visitors are forbidden from studying at educational institutions maintained by local authorities.
Dependants of those on points based system (PBS) visas now also subject to travel restrictions
It has long been the case that those living in the UK on PBS visas were forbidden from being out of the country for more than a total of 180 days during any 12 month period. Up until recently, however, their dependants were exempt from this restriction.
PBS dependants also required to demonstrate validity of relationship
Since January 2018, those applying for a PBS dependant visa have needed to be able to provide proof that their relationship is both “subsisting” and “genuine”.
Redistribution of quotas for Youth Mobility Visas (Tier 5)
The number of visas available to Australian nationals has been reduced from 35,500 to 34,000 and there has been a corresponding increase in the number of visas available to New Zealand nationals (formerly 13,000 now 14,000) and Canadian nationals (formerly 5,500 now 6,000).
(General) Student (Tier 4) visas can now be issued for part-time study
Provided that the course of study meets the necessary academic requirements, Tier 4 visas can now be issued to those who wish to study part-time. It should be noted, however, that those using Tier 4 visas for part-time study cannot extend their stay or switch to another form of visa without leaving the UK nor can they work or be joined by dependants.
Seamless switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 visas
Tier 4 visa holders can now switch to General (Tier 2) visas upon completion of their courses, rather than having to wait for exam results.
Researchers and readers should find it easier to get Tier 2 visas
In short, academic institutions have much greater flexibility to sponsor researchers and readers without the need to undergo a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).
End to the “60-day-gap” rule for Tier 2 visa holders seeking Indefinite Leave to Remain
Since January, having a 60-day gap between employment position no longer prevents people from being given ILR.
Increased quota of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas
The annual quota of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas has been doubled to 2000, of which half will be allocated by ballot.
Exceptional Talent visa holders can now qualify for ILR after just three years.
Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas stay the same but the qualification process become more rigorous
Basically, while the requirements for Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas are unchanged, the application process has been tightened up in an attempt to clamp down on abuses, such as the recycling of funds between family members.
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.