Each of these amendments has involved multiple changes to the individual rules, varying from technical changes clarifying requirements to major substantive policy shifts. 2017 was no different with 3 major sets of changes, and 2018 is likely to involve more changes.
In this article we will examine some of the changes we already know about, and some of the key dates to be aware of in 2018.
11 January 2018
The Home Office are starting the year by amending the Immigration Rules in early January, and there are four amendments that will be of particular interest to the digital technology industry:
- The Home Office will now allow international students, who hold Tier 4 visas to study in the UK, to switch on to Tier 2 visas as soon as they have completed their course rather than when they have received their final results. As these recruits will continue to be exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test, and the Immigration Skills Charge, this is welcome news for the industry as it will allow earlier recruitment of the next generation of workers.
- The rules relating to indefinite leave to remain, which previously prevented applications if someone has been between jobs for more than 60 days, have been amended. This will allow employees, who previously expected to leave the UK after 6 years, to apply for a permanent stay and will allow the digital technology sector to hold onto key employees.
- Additional places have been made available for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas. These are for world leaders, or potential world leaders, in a number of fields including digital technology. We have been instructed by a number of international experts in fields such as cyber security, data science and AI looking to move to the UK with this visa. As there are no restrictions on working for particular companies, no advertising requirements, minimum salary levels or immigration skills charge when applying for this visa, it offers an alternative route to recruiting skilled individuals.
- The final rule change, is not such good news. Until now the dependents of Tier 2 employees were not subject to an absence requirement when applying for indefinite leave to remain. However, for all future visas issued in this category, dependents will only qualify for indefinite leave if they spend less than 180 days outside the UK per year. While this may seem a high number, we have seen at least one case where the wife of an employee would not have qualified for indefinite leave to remain had this rule applied. As it is unlikely staff will remain in the UK without their loved ones, we would recommend that all sponsored staff are made aware of this requirement.
This is unlikely to be the last set of changes to the immigration rules in 2018, and we would expect at least two more sets of changes (in April and November) that will affect the digital technology industry. The details of any future changes is not known, but the Home Office have previously considered amendments to the advertising procedure for Tier 2 visas, and in our view this is an area that is likely to be amended.
Although the exact date has not been announced, we expect the Home Office to publish a White Paper on the immigration system after Brexit in early 2018.
With little more than a year until the UK leaves the EU, and the number of EU nationals already working in the sector, this White Paper will have major consequences for digital technology companies as a route to recruiting skills from outside the EU is vital.
When the White Paper is announced there will be an opportunity to provide comments, and we will provide details in a future bulletin.
Any changes to minimum salary levels for Tier 2 visas traditionally come into force on 6 April, so businesses will need to be aware of these.
The Home Office have indicated that by Autumn 2018 Brexit talks should have concluded and the final details of the immigration system after 2019 will be announced.
The above is an outline of when we can expect changes to immigration law in the coming year, but as always, the Home Office can announce changes at any stage and sometimes amendments can come into force at short notice. We will issue updates when changes are announced but encourage all businesses to regularly review the Home Office guidance.
If you would like information on how these changes could affect your business please do not hesitate to get in touch.