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Tier 1 (Investor) applications are still being accepted but changes to the Immigration Rules have been announced

12 December 2018

The Home Office has confirmed to the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association on 11 December 2018 that the Tier 1 (Investor) route currently remains open but that a further announcement on this will be made in due course. The correspondence also confirms that any suspension of the route will be effected through a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules. This follows reporting by various news outlets including the Times and The Guardian on Thursday last week that the route was to be suspended as of the end of that day.

Also on Thursday 6 December, the Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, laid a written statement in the House of Commons announcing that a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules would be published ‘shortly’, including reform of the Tier 1 (Investor) route. Although the route remains open, applications made under it are likely to receive a very high degree of scrutiny. Applicants should therefore be prepared for an increase in processing times, and for the possibility that they may be interviewed or otherwise asked to provide supplementary information.

According to the written statement, the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route will also be replaced with a new Innovator route, which will require an endorsement by an authorised business sponsor that has assessed the applicant’s proposed business ideas for innovation, viability and scalability. The requirement for endorsement would be in line with a recommendation made by the Migration Advisory Committee in 2015, as well as with the general trend for the Home Office to require some form of endorsement or sponsorship across a range of immigration categories. It remains to be seen how the endorsement process will work, however if it works well, it may go some way to alleviating the Home Office’s concerns regarding the genuineness of applications, as well as concerns from migrants about whether the Home Office’s officials have the relevant business and sector expertise to adequately assess their proposed business plans. The changes may also produce better alignment between the Immigration Rules and the likelihood that a proposed business will positively contribute to the UK economy through being a commercial success.

It is intended that the Statement of Changes will also include the rules for the new Start-up route, which was announced in June 2018. The Start-up route will replace and expand on the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route, and will require endorsement by either a business or a higher education institution.

All three of these changes are due to come into effect in the spring of 2019. The Home Office is intending to publish a Statement of Intent in the meantime, which should allow stakeholders some time to consider the proposals and to provide feedback to the Home Office on them prior to implementation.

It is not surprising therefore that the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, HC 1779, which was published on 11 December 2018 along with an explanatory memorandum, does not mention any of the above changes. It does however make the following changes, which are in effect for applications made from 10 January 2019 unless otherwise stated, and some of which were mentioned in Caroline Nokes’ written statement:

  • Allowing leading architects to apply under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, where they have an endorsement from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), with the Arts Council England acting as the broader Designated Competent Body
  • Allowing Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) migrants to be granted an extra four months of leave on their entry clearance, to allow them extra time to meet the qualifying period for settlement
  • Changes to the endorsement criteria for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent), at the endorsing bodies’ request
  • Minor technical changes to the Tier 2 and Tier 4 routes
  • From 1 August 2019, changes across the Immigration Rules to reflect higher education reforms, including a new definition of ‘higher education provider’ and higher education provider with a ‘track record of compliance’ that will enable their students to work, apply for further leave under Tier 4 in-country and to bring dependants
  • Amendments to the prohibited changes of employment for Tier 2 and Tier 5 migrants, to allow them to engage in lawful strike action and to take unpaid parental leave without risk of having their leave curtailed
  • Amendments to the definition of a ‘professional sportsperson’ applicable across the Immigration Rules, listing eight indicators of being a paid or unpaid professional sportsperson
  • Introducing a creative sector code of practice for models sponsored under the Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) category
  • For applications made from 1 January 2019, reducing the annual quota for Australia under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme from 34,000 to 31,000 and enabling the higher of either 1,000 places or 50 per cent of the previous year’s allocation to be released in the event there is a delay in setting the annual quotas for a particular year
  • Requiring religious workers to apply under Tier 2 Minister of Religion (instead of Tier 5 Religious Worker) where they will be preaching or leading a congregation – this change is to ensure that such individuals have the necessary English language skills to interact with the community they intend to serve in the UK
  • Introducing a 12-month cooling off period for Tier 5 Religious Worker and Charity Workers
  • Expanding the list of organisations that are able to sponsor a Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) Scheme researcher under the UKRI – Science, Research and Academia scheme and amending the description of the activities permitted under the Sponsored Researchers scheme
  • Introducing a new Appendix U to the Immigration Rules covering the seasonal agricultural worker pilot scheme, which was previously announced by the Home Secretary on 6 September and will come into effect from a date yet to be confirmed in 2019 – this follows selection of the scheme operators by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • Clarifying that a person is only eligible under the Electronic Visa Waiver scheme visa-free if they are a citizen or national of the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait or Oman rather than just being a passport holder of those countries
  • Introducing eligibility for a person who is a partner of a person with refugee status to be granted indefinite leave to remain if their relationship breaks down due to domestic abuse

If you would like further information on these changes, please do not hesitate to contact the immigration team at Lewis Silkin.

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