On 15 March 2022, the UK Government announced significant changes to the UK immigration rules (the Rules). These changes take effect on various dates between 6 April 2022 and 22 August 2022. The changes include introducing new immigration routes, as well as re branding and updating existing routes to attract top talent to the UK.
The U.K. government has announced new plans to modernize the country’s immigration system to “attract and retain the most highly-skilled, globally mobile talent.” The plans are detailed in a budget plan submitted to the House of Commons last week and focus on attracting global talent in academia, science, research and technology.
Update to existing UK immigration route
Among other proposals, the budget calls on the government to:
- Introduce an elite points-based visa. This visa would be introduced by March 2022 and would include a “scale-up” stream that would allow those with job offers from a recognized U.K. scale-up to qualify for a fast-track visa.
- Reform the Global Talent visa. This reform would include allowing winners of international prizes, scholarships and programs for early promise to automatically qualify for a visa.
- Review the Innovator visa. This would be done with the goal of making it easier for individuals with skills and experience to start a business and obtain a visa.
- Launch a new Global Business Mobility visa. This would be done by spring 2022 and would allow for overseas businesses to more easily establish a presence in the U.K. or transfer staff to the U.K.
- Provide practical support. These efforts would target small firms that are using the visa system for the first time.
- Modernize the immigration sponsorship program. The government plans to publish a delivery roadmap this summer, detailing plans to make the sponsorship program easier to use.
- Establish a global outreach strategy. This would be done by expanding the Global Entrepreneur Program, marketing visa offerings and exploring the possibility of building an overseas talent network.
Update to Student route
Students who make a valid application for permission to stay in the UK under the Graduate route may now start full-time permanent employment once they have successfully completed their course of study.
Students who make a valid application for permission to stay in the UK under the Skilled Worker route may now start full-time permanent employment up to three months before their course completion date.
These changes take effect on 6 April 2022.
New immigration routes :
High Potential Individual (HPI) :
This route is for non-UK graduates who have graduated from a top 50 global university published in the Global Universities List by the Home Office.
This route will enable graduates to come to the UK unsponsored for up to two years, or three years if they hold a UK PhD equivalent, provided they were awarded the degree within five years of submitting the PI visa application.
This route cannot be extended; it does not lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), also known as Permanent Residence or Settlement, so applicants will need to switch to another immigration category should they wish to continue living in the UK before the expiry of this visa.
Applications will be accepted from 30 May 2022.
Scale – up route
This route is for existing companies, who are experiencing high levels of growth, to recruit talent to the UK. It appears to be an attractive option for companies that fit the criteria, as well as for their staff.
To register for this route and apply for a sponsor licence, scale-up companies will need to demonstrate that they have had an annualized growth of at least 20% in terms of turnover or staff over the last three years. They must also have had at least 10 employees at the start of the three-year period.
Once the company has been granted a sponsor licence, they can sponsor migrants to fill roles that are at RFQ level 6 (degree level) with a salary of at least £33,000. In order to reduce the costs of sponsoring migrants under this route, there will be no immigration skills charge.
Scale-up workers will be granted initial leave for two years but they do not require sponsorship after six months. This means that, after six months, they are free to work for any company in any role. However, in order to extend their visa for a further three years, they will need to have been paid at least £33,000 per year during at least half of their time in the UK as a scale-up worker.
This route does lead to ILR after five years provided the scale-up worker has earned at least £33,000 per year for at least 24 months of the three years immediately before applying for ILR.
Applications will be accepted from 22 August 2022.
New Global Business Mobility routes
The new Global Business Mobility routes consist of sponsored routes for overseas businesses seeking to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK for specific business purposes. Some of these routes replace/rebrand existing routes.
These routes do not lead to ILR and will only allow an individual to stay in the UK for five years in any six-year period.
These changes take effect on 11 April 2022.
The Graduate Trainee route
This route replaces Intra-Company Graduate Trainee.
The Graduate Trainee route is for workers on a graduate training course which will lead to a senior management or specialist position and are required to do a work placement in the UK.
The Senior Specialist Worker route
This route replaces Intra-Company Transfer.
The Senior Specialist Worker route is for overseas employees who are being temporarily assigned to a linked entity in the UK.
The UK Expansion Worker route
This route replaces Sole Representative of an Overseas Business.
The UK Expansion Worker route is for senior overseas employees who will be setting up the first UK subsidiary of an overseas entity.
The current Sole Representative of an Overseas Business route will close to new applicants apart from Media Representatives.
The Secondment Worker
The Secondment Worker is a new route for overseas workers who are being temporarily seconded to the UK as part of a high-value contract or investment by their overseas employers.
The introduction of new routes for highly skilled workers to come to the UK will be seen as a positive step in recruiting and retaining top talent in the UK.
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