Latest changes announced to the Immigration Rules

The Home Office published a Statement of Changes on 4 March 2021, which introduces a new Graduate visa route and sets out changes to a number of existing routes, including the Skilled Worker, Innovator, Global Talent and EU Settled Status routes.


Graduate Route:

From 9am on 1 July 2021 a new Graduate visa route will be introduced, allowing international graduates to remain in the UK for an additional 2 years after completing their studies (or 3 years for those who have completed their doctorate) to look for employment at any skill and salary level, without the need for official sponsorship from an employer.

To qualify for a visa under this route, students must fulfil the following conditions:

(a) Successfully complete a course of study under a relevant Student visa immediately before making an application;

(b) the course must have led to the award of a degree at UK bachelor’s or postgraduate level, or a professional course requiring study at UK bachelor’s degree level or above, in a profession with reserved activities that is regulated by UK law or UK public authority;

(c) for applicants with course duration of 12 months or less, the whole of the course must have been studied in the UK. Those on courses lasting longer than 12 months will need to have been granted permission for at least 12 months on their Student visa and have spent that time studying in the UK (with an exception for absences due to Covid which would potentially not affect this requirement).

Dependent family members will also be permitted to apply under the Graduate route, provided those family members are in the UK and had last been granted permission as dependants of the main application on the Graduate route.

This is great news for those that will be eligible to apply for this visa as it will enable them to seek employment without the need for an official sponsor and gain experience in the workplace.

Skilled Worker Route:

The main changes to the Skilled Worker route include:

(a) Including individuals holding permission as a Graduate within the last two years to the criteria for new entrants;

(b) Expanding the Shortage Occupation List to include:

(i) health services and public health managers and directors;

(ii) residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors;

(iii) pharmacists;

(iv) health professionals not elsewhere classified;

(v) physiotherapists;

(vi) laboratory technicians (including those not in the health and care sectors);

(vii) Nursing auxiliaries; and

(viii) Senior care workers;

This will be welcome news and highlights the critical contribution of workers in the health and social care sector during the pandemic.

(c) The addition of a minimum hourly salary rate to the salary requirements to safeguard against employers requiring migrants to work longer hours in order to meet the salary threshold; and

(d) Limiting when a salary reduction will be applied to cases where the skilled worker is still eligible for the same tradeable points option which was assessed and awarded for their last grant of permission.

Many of these changes will come into effect on 6 April 2021, though there are some minor changes which into effect later to consolidate other amendments to the Rules

Global Talent:

From 5 May 2021 applicants who have won certain ‘prestigious’ prizes can apply under a new Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes route without having to secure an endorsement from an official endorsing body. The list of acceptable prizes will include the Nobel Prize, the Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes, amongst others. For those individuals that met this threshold, it will mean quicker lead time to securing status under the Global Talent route.

From 6 April 2021, the following minor changes will also come into force:

Applicants who have been offered a qualifying position at an eligible institution or institute will also be eligible for the fast track either as an individual or with responsibility across a wider team; and

Those who qualify as “exceptionally promising applicants” under the digital technology criteria will only need to provide evidence of two optional criteria, rather than “at least two”.

EU Settlement Scheme:

A number of technical changes will be coming into force from 6 April 2021, now that the transition period for Brexit has lapsed, including:  

(e) Allowing the Home Office to refuse applications where the applicant has demonstrated poor conduct (for example, by having a criminal conviction);

(f) Requiring applicant’s who are the dependant parent of an EU or Swiss citizen to actively submit evidence of their financial dependency, as opposed to this being assumed. This change will only apply to applicants who had not entered the UK prior to the end of the transition period and who apply after 30 June 2021; and

(g) Updates to certain definitions within Appendix EU.

Youth Mobility Scheme:

From 6 April 2021, for applicants applying from countries or territories without Deemed Sponsorship Status the requirement for a Certificate of Sponsorship will be replaces with a requirement to produce evidence of sponsorship within six months.

The Youth Mobility Scheme allocations for 2021 are as follows:

(h) Australia – 30,000 places;
(i) New Zealand – 13,000 places;
(j) Canada – 6,000 places;
(k) Japan – 1,500 places;
(l) Monaco – 1,000 places;
(m) Taiwan – 1,000 places;
(n) Hong Kong – 1,000 places;
(o) South Korea – 1,000 places; and
(p) San Marino – 1,000 places


From 6 April 2021, in order to qualify under this route, an applicant must be the ‘sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team of the business for which they have been endorsed.

Hong Kong BN(O):

From 6 April 2021 migrants in this category can request to have access to public funds, if they show that they are or are at imminent risk of becoming destitute.

Other changes:

Intra-Company workers who have been on Intra-Company routes since before 6 April 2011 will be exempt from the maximum time limits. This is a transitional provision which can be extended for up to 5 years.

Those applying through the family route can evidence that they meet the English language requirement by relying on a previously successful application for entry clearance or permission to stay.

Those applying under Appendix Parent of a Child Student can rely on funds held by their partner (whether or not the partner is in the UK) in order to meet the financial requirement.

An omission in Appendix Continuous Residence will be corrected so that, where a person who had permission to stay in the UK as a dependent was absent from the UK before 11 January 2018, that absence will not be counted towards the 180-day limit on absences for the purpose of settlement under certain routes.

The list of occupations under Appendix Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) will be expanded to include postgraduate research in an academic environment.

The Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Creative or Sporting Worker will be amended so that time spent outside of the UK will not count towards the requirement not to have more than 14 days between paid engagements.

The Rules covering Overseas Domestic Workers, Domestic Workers in a Private Household and Domestic Workers who are victims of modern slavery will be re-worked and simplified.

The current intimidation policy for Locally Employed Staff (LES) in Afghanistan will be replaced with a new Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

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 March 9, 2021.