Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Summary of the Immigration Rules changes from 6 April 2015: Points-Based System, visitors, English and the NHS surcharge.

We were asked to summarise the changes to the Immigration Rules, which took place on 6 April 2015, so we re-posted a summary from 2 March and added some more, such as the new NHS surcharge.
These are what we think are the most important changes:

1)             The NHS surcharge (immigration health surcharge). Applies to all visa applicants who are applying for a visa from 6 April 2015 either for an entry visa to the UK (Tiers, Spouse/Partner/FiancĂ©e, ancestral etc) or for a leave to remain in the UK, including extending in the same visa category or switching to a new one. It doesn’t apply to those applying for a visitor visa, ILR or British Citizenship and won’t apply to Australian and New Zealand citizens. The charge is £200 per year (£150 for students) and is payable for the whole duration of the visa at the point of application (refundable if application is refused).

2)             Tier 2: new salary thresholds, the main Tier 2 (General) £20,500 threshold is up to £20,800.

3)             Tier 1 (Entrepreneur): a business plan will be compulsory for initial applications, it used to be advisable but not compulsory. The Applicant will have to explain and evidence the source of funds (normally, £200,000) if the Applicant/Sponsor has not held the money for the full 90 days before the date of application. More on the Entrepreneur changes can be found in a separate post:

4)             Tier 1 (Investor): a new requirement to open a UK-regulated investment account before making an initial application. Also, there will be no requirement to top-up the invested funds if an investment is sold at a loss.

5)             English language requirement - all applicable categories: a new list of the approved English tests will be used and it is a much shorter one! It means more tests will be taken off the list. Interestingly, a very common ESOL Skills for Life test will no longer be on the list but a new test, called IELTS Life Skills, will appear.

6)             Tier 1 (General): extensions are no longer be allowed. ILR applications can still be made until 5 April 2018. Those who can’t qualify for an ILR by then, can switch to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa but only if they had already started running a business before 6 April 2015. Having said that, nothing is stopping them from ‘switching’ to an Entrepreneur visa outside the UK. Switching won’t be the right word here as it is used for changing a status inside the UK (but not a Rules term anyway), however, neither does it mean a Tier 1 (General) migrant has to break his/her residency for more than it is required to wait for an Entrepreneur Entry Clearance in his/her country. And a final note on this point: Tier 1 General and Tier 1 Entrepreneur can’t be combined when counting 5 years for an ILR.

7)             Visitors: there will be only 4 remaining sub-categories. Visitor (standard) and includes the previous General, Family, Business and most others; Visitor for marriage or civil partnerships (now called Marriage Visitor); visitor for permitted paid engagements and transit visitor. Student Visitor visas will be rebranded as short term study routes alongside other non-PBS study provisions.

8)             No more appeals under the Points-Based System. It has been in place since 2 March 2015 but we wanted to mention it here anyway. Instead there is an Administrative Review, the main difference from an appeal being that it will be an application to the UKVI (not to the court) and will be considered by a different UKVI caseworker (not by an independent judge). The right of appeal will be limited (discrimination etc, which in practice means it will be rare, at least appeals which will be successful).

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