Immigration law is a fast-moving field at the best of times but the pace of change has reached new heights in the past few weeks, with frequent updates and new guidance being published by the Home Office in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the flurry of all that activity, it is easy to forget that other, unrelated developments are also occurring. On 12 March a statement of changes to the immigration rules was published, making a number of changes to the rules that are unrelated to the pandemic. These come into force today, 6 April, and the main changes are explained below.

Changes to the EU settlement scheme

The bulk of the changes relate to the EU settlement scheme. The rules will make clear that those relying on the so-called ‘Surinder Singh’ route must be  resident abroad and exercising free movement rights before the end of the transition period (i.e. before 11pm GMT 31 December 2020). Those in non-legal guardianship orders will also be able to apply under the EUSS as extended family members, following the Supreme Court’s judgment in SM(Algeria), and those covered by transitional arrangements put in place following the McCarthy judgment, which relates to dual British/EU citizens, will also be eligible to apply under the EUSS.

Provisions in the rules stating that those with indefinite leave to remain (ILR) can lose this after an absence of two years will no longer apply to those with settled status. Those provisions were inconsistent with the citizens’ rights agreements, which provide that this should be valid for an absence of up to five years. 

Durable partners and dependent relatives will be able to rely on expired ‘relevant documents’ as long as certain conditions are met; and the rules will make clear that applicants will be refused if they have been or would have been excluded from refugee status or humanitarian protection. Provisions relating to a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario have also been removed.

In addition to the changes above there will be minor changes to Appendix AR and to the general grounds of refusal in relation to specific scenarios under the EUSS.

Tier 2

Under Tier 2, the tiered increases to the salary requirement for ILR applications with be removed, as had been recommended by the MAC in its most recent report. This will now remain at the current level of £35,800 per year. Archaeologists will also formally be added to the shortage occupation list. They had been accidentally omitted previously(!), after the MAC recommended they be added and the Home Office accepted the recommendation.

Other changes

The annual quota for Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) has been updated, with the numbers of permissions available for Canada, New Zealand and Australia having been reduced by 1,000 for each country.

Minor changes have also been made to the list of approved research institutions by UKRI under the Global Talent category. Though in the age of COVID-19 it may feel poignantly irrelevant, the list of permit free festivals, which allows individuals to be paid to participate in certain festivals without formal sponsorship, has also been updated.

If you would like more information or advice on any of the above, please contact our immigration team.