What’s the latest in the world of immigration?

As ever, it’s been a busy week in the world of immigration … Keep reading for a round up of the key recent developments.

Statement of Changes

The government published its Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules on 9 September 2019.

The main changes to the Tier 2 category include:

Expansion and simplification of the Shortage Occupation List (“SOL”)

Following the Migration Advisory Committee’s full review of the SOL, the government has accepted and implemented its recommendations. Roles on this list are recognised as having a shortage of skilled workers in the UK and so do not require the sponsor to complete the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) before sponsoring someone. In addition, roles on the SOL will take priority in the event that the monthly Tier 2 cap binds.

All roles that come under the following occupation codes are now included in the UK-wide SOL:

  • Medical practitioners;
  • Medical radiographers;
  • A number of different kinds of Engineers;
  • Biological scientists and biochemists;
  • IT business analysts, architects and systems designers;
  • Programmers and software developers;
  • Social workers;
  • Artists and arts officers, producers and directors;
  • Graphic designers; and
  • Quantity surveyors.

The following occupations have also been added to the UK-wide SOL:

  • Archaeologists;
  • Architects;
  • Biochemists;
  • Occupational therapists;
  • Psychologists;
  • Speech and language therapists;
  • Vets; and
  • Web designers.

This is a welcome change for Tier 2 sponsors in these sectors, who will face less hurdles and reduced application fees when looking to employ non-EEA nationals in the above occupations.

Tier 2 sponsors should be aware that a small number of occupations have also been removed from the SOL. Notably, under the new rules skilled chefs that meet the SOL’s qualifying criteria, will no longer be precluded from working for sponsors that provide a takeaway service. However, the restrictions on the job not being a fast food outlet or standard fare outlet remain.

These changes will come into force on 6 October 2019. Importantly, Tier 2 sponsors should be aware that applicants using a Certificate of Sponsorship that was assigned before 6 October 2019 will have their applications considered under the rules in force on 5 October 2019.

English language requirements

Doctors, dentists, nurses and midwifes applying under Tier 2 (General) will face relaxed English language requirements. Where they have passed an English language assessment which is accepted by their relevant regulated professional body as a requirement for registration, they will not be required to submit additional evidence of meeting the English language requirement.

These changes will take effect on 1 October 2019.

PhD-level roles

Two main concessions have been introduced for Tier 2 sponsored workers filling PhD-level roles. First, PhD-level roles will be removed from the Tier 2 monthly cap. This will help to streamline the process, as sponsors will no longer be required to apply for a Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship via the monthly panel.

This change will take effect on 6 October 2019.

Second, researchers carrying out PhD-level roles will benefit from certain exemptions to the absences requirement for indefinite leave to remain (settlement). Generally, Tier 2 (General) migrants who qualify for settlement in the UK after five years must meet an absences requirement in order to be eligible (amongst other eligibility criteria).  However, under the new rules any absences from the UK by those working in PhD level occupations as a result of conducting research activities overseas will not count towards the permitted absences limit. This will also apply to the migrant’s PBS Dependant Partner who has been absent for the purpose of accompanying their partner conducting the research abroad. In both cases, specified evidence from the Tier 2 sponsor must be submitted for the absences to be discounted.

This change will take effect on 1 October 2019.

“Graduate” work visa

The government’s intention to resurrect the post-study visa (with a few added checks) was also announced this week. In a move that is aimed at demonstrating that the UK is serious about “retaining the best and brightest global talent”, international students who have studied at an institution with a track record of compliance will be eligible to apply for the two year “Graduate” visa. This will enable them to stay in the UK to look for work after finishing their studies.

Whether this route will be open to international students already in the UK is yet to be confirmed. With the start of the academic year already under way, this is a timely announcement, so watch this space for the 2020-21 intakes!

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Chetal Patel, a Partner in the Immigration Department.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of September 12, 2019.