The Latest September 2021 UK Visa News and Guidance
UK Immigration law is a fascinating and complex area of law predominantly due to its fast-changing nature.
The Secretary of State amended Immigration rules on a regular basis. On one occasion, they’ve amended the Rules 14 times within one year.
In September 2021, they’ve changed the Rules again. There were many changes. Therefore, I’ll cover them in two parts. This is part one. You can read part two here.
If, when reading this article, you would like to dig deeper and check the primary sources for the information, which I mention here, please feel free to get the links here.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Concessions
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
In my previous articles, I explained that under the coronavirus concession for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), applicants could extend their visas if they had created the equivalent of two full-time jobs for settled workers at the time of application. The coronavirus concession allowed Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants to do so without having to demonstrate that those jobs had existed for a minimum period of 12 months.
However, amendments to the Immigration rules clarified that all applicants still need to meet this job creation requirement to qualify for settlement.
EU Settlement Scheme
In June 2021, the UKVI published its guidance on concession, which covered a range of circumstances where, due to COVID-19, the applicants would have exceeded the permitted absence from the UK and broken their period of continuous residence. From 6 October 2021, this concession will cease to operate.
Skilled Worker and Tier 2 Sportsperson Routes
As you know, Coronavirus (COVID-19) severally effected the UKVI services. To ensure that Skilled Workers and Tier 2 Sportspersons could start working as soon as possible, the Home Office made some adjustments. They’ve allowed those who applied between 24 January 2020 and 30 June 2021 to start working while still waiting for a decision on their visa applications.
The UK government updated the settlement rules. This is to ensure that these delays do not affect the applicants’ eligibility to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. In other words, irrespective of how long Skilled Workers and Tier 2 Sportspersons waited for the decisions on their visa applications, they can apply for settlement after working in the UK for 5 years. It is provided, of course, they meet all other requirements.
ID Requirements for EEA Citizens to Enter the UK
The Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021, the UK Government has implemented a single global immigration system that applies to nationals of all countries, except the UK and Ireland and the citizens’ rights cohort.
In their Explanatory Memorandum to the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, the Home Office said that inconsistency in the design and security features of identity cards gives rise to document security risks, and the need for manual processing increases border queues. Therefore, they decided that from 1 October 2021, they’ll stop accepting ID cards from EEA citizens, even if they have settled or pre-settled status. From 1 October 2021, all EEA citizens will need a passport to demonstrate their nationality and identity at the UK border. The UK government no longer accepts national identity cards.
Support to Afghan Locally Employed Staff (LES)
To reflect the changing security situation in Afghanistan, the UK Government is enabling current and former Afghan LES and their family members who are outside Afghanistan to relocate to the UK. They’ll be doing so under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy and the ex gratia scheme. The schemes were previously only available to those in Afghanistan.
The Home Office also enables Locally Employed Staff who are approved for relocation to be granted indefinite leave to enter the UK. It is a very generous replacement of the five-year limited leave (visa) they are currently granted. Those already in the UK will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain before their limited leave expires if they choose to do so.
An additional change will correct a legacy line in the Immigration Rules that states that minor dependents must be under 18 on 19 December 2012 with the requirement that they must be under 18 at the time of application.
Launch of the New International Sportsperson Route
The new International Sportsperson route will replace the T2 and T5 Temporary Worker routes for professional sporting workers. International Sportsperson migrants will have simplified, dedicated visa arrangements.
The new route will be a hybrid of the T2 and T5 routes. It will continue to offer an option for anyone wishing to come for 12 months to make a significant contribution to their sport at the highest level in the UK.
Also, this will separate the old T5 Creative and Sporting Worker routes. This will, hopefully, provide a more straightforward path for the applicants.
However, the new route will be more straightforward for professional sportspeople and their sponsors to access.
The new route mirrors the previous routes in some ways. It will still have a dual-level assurance of an endorsement and a Certificate of Sponsorship. The endorsement will have to be from a Sports Governing Body and a Certificate of Sponsorship from a club.
Also, the route is going to be a part of the UK New Points Based System. The applicants will need to score 70 points to qualify. They include 10 points for the English language requirement. It is provided, the applicants apply to stay for more than 12 months in the UK.
The Rebranding of All Tier 5 Routes
The UKVI decided to rebrand all Tier 5 Temporary Worker routes. From 10 October 2021, they’ll change all application forms and remove all references to the old T5 system.
They reckon this will make the Immigration Rules governing these routes easier to find. Consequently, this will help them deliver better service for customers.
These changes will deliver a dedicated route for temporary creative workers. The applicants will be subject to the same requirements and the same grant conditions.
Also, the separation of the old T5 Creative and Sporting Worker route will deliver a Temporary Work – Creative Worker visa that recognises the sector’s unique requirements.
All T5 applicants and the new International Sportsperson migrant will have a right to apply for Administrative Review if the Home Office refuses their applications.
Changes to the Global Talent Route
The Global Talent category is for talented and promising applicants. They’ll have to be in science, digital technology and arts and culture areas wishing to work in the UK. ‘Talent’ applicants are already leaders in their respective fields. ‘Promise’ applicants have shown the potential to become leaders in their area of expertise.
The UKVI made many changes to the endorsement criteria and evidential requirements. They did so after receiving feedback and recommendations from the endorsing bodies.
Arts and Culture
The art and culture Global Talent applicant now need to provide recommendation letters only from well-established ‘arts and culture’ organisations. This is to ensure that applicants do not try to rely on letters from organisations outside of the relevant fields. Also, this ensures authors of recommendation letters are qualified to make expert recommendations on the suitability of individuals.
The Home Office changes the Rules to make it easier for applicants who are members of groups, such as internationally recognised orchestras or dance troupes, to qualify. The applicants can now submit evidence that relates to the activities of a group but also specifically names the applicant and supports their claim of exceptional talent or promise.
The Home Office amended the evidential requirements for digital technology endorsements. From October 2021, if the applicant is a board member of a product-led digital technology company, the endorsing body will have to accept this role as evidence of exceptional talent in the field.
The Home Office also lowered the threshold for exceptional promise applicants. They did so by reducing the number of examples required for each exceptional promise criteria. They’ve reduced them from at least two to at least one.
Science, Engineering, Humanities and Medicine
The Home Office extended the eligibility period for the fellowship fast track pathway following the completion of an approved fellowship or award from 12 months to five years. This will enable more applicants to qualify under this category.
They also expanded the requirement to have academic representatives on interview panels. They believe this will cover research and innovation representatives, recognising that not all roles will be in an academic setting.
In spring 2021, the Home Office amended its rules affecting Global Talent applicants. From May 2021 the Rules allow the applicants who hold a qualifying prestigious prize to qualify without the need to obtain an endorsement from one of the Global Talent endorsing bodies.
The Home Office has now significantly extended the list of the qualifying Prestigious prizes. You can access it here.