A statement of changes to the Immigration Rules was laid before the House of Commons in December 2017. Many of the changes came into effect from the 11th of January 2018.
See below for a summary of the main changes:

1. Changes Relating to Electronic Entry Clearance
The Government has proposed to commence issuing entry clearance in electronic form. This will initially be trialed with specified groups with a view to general introduction of entry clearance in electronic form at a subsequent date. The amendment to the rules will allow entry clearance to be issued both in an electronic form and by endorsement in a valid passport or identity document. Applicants who hold an entry clearance issued in electronic form will not be required to present such an entry clearance to an Immigration Officer on arrival in the UK. The issue of such an entry clearance will be checked electronically.

2. Changes Relating to Visitors
Applicants with a valid visitor visa for a permitted activity (e.g. business, tourism etc) will no longer need to obtain a separate transit visa to transit the UK. Transit visas will still be available for transit only visits.
There is a change regarding the study that visitors are permitted to undertake in the UK. The rules will clarify that visitors are not permitted to study at an academy or a school maintained by a local authority.

3. Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa
For talented individuals in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology to work in the UK without the need to be sponsored for employment in a specific post. Applicants must be endorsed by a Designated Competent Body (DCB). There are currently 1,000 places available per year in this category. The number of places is being doubled to 2,000 per year.
There is also a change to allow applicants those endorsed under a DCB’s “exceptional talent” criteria to qualify for indefinite leave to remain in the UK after 3 years of continuous residence. However, applicants endorsed under a DCB’s “exceptional promise” criteria) will continue to qualify for settlement after 5 years of continuous residence.

4. Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa
For applicants coming to the UK to set up, take over, or be involved in the running of a UK business. Following criticism the “Attributes” requirements for this category in Appendix A are being rewritten to make them clearer and simpler to follow.
Amendments are being made to make clear that, where funds are currently held by another business, which is not the business the applicant is using to score points, that business is considered to be a ‘third party’ providing funding.
Applicants relying on investment from a venture capital firm will now be required to also provide a letter from the firm confirming the date the funds were transferred to the applicant or invested in their business and confirm that the firm was registered with the Financial Conduct Authority at the time. This requirement is added to counter ongoing abuse relating to venture capital funding.

5. Tier 2 (General) Visa
For migrant workers with an offer of a skilled job from a licensed employer which cannot be filled by a resident worker. Flexibility is being introduced to enable students to apply to switch to Tier 2 after their studies as soon as they have completed their courses. Currently non-PhD students cannot apply to switch within the UK until they have received their final results. Provision are being made to allow nurses to be sponsored under Tier 2 if they are undertaking an approved programme with a view to returning to practice. Pay rates for health sector workers are being brought into line with pay scales in England, Wales and Scotland, and consolidated in a new table.

6. Changes to Indefinite Leave to Remain/Settlement in Work Categories
The requirement to have no more than 180 days absent from the UK per year in order to qualify for settlement, which currently applies to main applicants, is being extended to partners of Points-Based System Migrants. This change will not have retrospective effect, therefore only absences from the UK during periods of leave granted under the rules in place from 11 January 2018 will count towards the 180 days.

For further guidance or advice contact our Business Immigration Solicitor; Shamaila Khan: Email shamaila@londonlawpractice.com or call 0203 019 7800

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