In the wake of significant media coverage, the Home Office has made the stunning decision to radically change the Immigration Rules, with less than a day’s notice, restricting students from switching to work visas before completing their course and preventing post-graduate students from sponsoring dependents, unless they are on taught research programmes.
While reeling from the abruptness of these changes alone, we are also braced for significant visa fee increases, for which no precise date has been set.
A summary of the key changes to the immigration rules published on 17 July and 19 July are outlined below, as well as updates on other key announcements this month.
On 17 July 2023, the UK Government published a statement of changes to the immigration rules HC 1496. Key updates from this publication are as follows:
Restrictions on student switching
The Home Office has removed the ability for student visa holders to switch out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed.
This includes student visa holders switching into the Skilled Worker route and also those seeking to switch into the skilled worker dependant route.
Where switching into the skilled worker route, the applicant must have completed their studies, the course end date must not be before the start date on the CoS or they must have completed at least 24 months of a PhD course.
To switch into the skilled worker dependant route, the student must have either completed their course or have completed at least 24 months of a PhD course.
The rules came into effect at 3pm on 17 July and apply to all visa applications made on or after this date, with no “transitional arrangements”.
The government has removed the ability for student visa holders to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes.
The Home Office reported their intention to make this change on 23 May 2023 and the update was widely disseminated in UK media outlets.
To avoid a large influx of applications, the Home Office chose to make the change effective from 17 July 2023, with no additional grace period for applications.
Dependants already in the UK can extend their stay and students on taught postgraduate courses beginning before 1 January 2024 can also continue to bring dependents. Dependants of government-sponsored students and dependent children who are born in the UK can also apply for dependant visas.
Effectively, there will be no impact on those students making applications relating to courses starting in Autumn 2023.
Additions to the Shortage Occupation list
Further to recommendations by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), all jobs in the following occupations in construction are being added to the Shortage Occupation list:
In addition, the following roles are also being added to the Shortage Occupation list:
The primary benefit of eligibility for a Shortage Occupation list visa is a lower visa fee. Also, those sponsoring candidates under the Shortage Occupation list are permitted to pay a salary that falls below the going rate for sponsorship, provided the salary is no less than £20,960 per annum, £10.75 per hour and at least 80% of the going rate, as stated under Home Office’s guidelines (“Appendix Skilled Occupations”).
The rule change will come into effect on 7 August 2023.
EU Settlement Scheme
From September 2023, people with pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme will automatically have their status extended by 2 years (before it expires) if they have not yet obtained settled status.
This change has been implemented following a landmark High Court decision in December 2022 which ruled that the pre-settled status scheme in its current form is unlawful.
The government announcement can be viewed here:
Additions to visa national list
On 19 July 2023, the government published a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules HC 1715.
The new change adds 5 countries to the “visa national list”.
Travellers from these countries will need to apply for entry clearance to enter the UK and can no longer enter (for 6 months as visitors) on their passports alone.
The countries added to the visa national list on 19 July are as follows:
The changes took effect from 19 July 2023 (3 pm).
There is a transitional arrangement for travellers who hold confirmed bookings to the UK made on or before 15:00 BST 19 July 2023. Such individuals can travel as non-visa nationals, where their arrival in the UK is no later than 16 August 2023.
India Young Professionals Scheme
July 2023 heralds the second ballot this year under the Indian Young Professionals Scheme.
The ballot opened on 25 July 2023 at 1:30pm India Standard Time, and closes at 1:30pm India Standard Time on 27 July 2023.
Before entering the ballot, it is important to check if you are eligible for an India Young Professionals visa. Specifically, you must:
Those who have used the scheme before or the Youth Mobility Scheme visa will not be eligible for this visa.
To enter will need to input your details on the Home Office ballot webpage*. You will be asked to provide your name, date of birth, passport details, a scan or photo of your passport, your phone number, and your email address. There is no fee to enter the ballot.
Once the selection process is complete, you will be informed within 2 weeks if you have been invited to apply for an India Young Professionals visa. If so, you will have 30 days to submit your application and pay the fee of £259.
*Please note – the link you need to follow to enter the ballot will only be available when the ballot is open.
E-gates rule changes
Children aged 10 and 11 will be able to use passport e-gates at the UK border from Monday 24 July, after the government announced a change to the rules.
Previously, only eligible children aged 12 and above could use the e-gates, located at air and rail ports across 15 UK locations.
The government indicated that the change comes after successful trials at Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow airports.
The government announcement can be accessed here:
Illegal Migration Bill passed
The government’s highly controversial “Illegal Migration Bill” has been passed by Parliament. The bill received Royal Assent on 20 July 2023.
Under this new legislation, the law will change to prevent anyone entering the UK illegally from being able to stay in the UK. The purpose of the bill is to deter illegal migration, particularly through unsafe routes (such as dangerous Channel crossings in small boats).
The laws will apply to those who arrive to claim asylum through illegal routes. The Refugee Council anticipate that, in the first 3 years of this new law coming into effect, 10,000 people per year could be removed to Rwanda. However, they also believe that £9 billion could be spent detaining and accommodating migrants who have not yet been removed, a possible total of 225,347 – 257,101people.
On 13 July the government announced its intention to increase Immigration Health Surcharge by 66% and work visa fees (including work visa dependents) by 15%. The fees are supposed to help cover the cost of the UK immigration and border system. The cost of making a priority service application will be the same, whether applying from inside the UK or outside the UK. It should be noted that in the case of a visa refusal, the applicant’s Immigration Health Surcharge would be refunded to the applicant. If the application is refused, the visa fees would not be refundable.
The Immigration Health Surcharge, which is currently payable upfront by all visa applicants is £624 per annum for an adult and £470 per annum, for a child.
The Immigration Health Surcharge is a notional health insurance premium which gives the visa holder access to use the NHS. Health and Care visa applicants (and their dependents) are exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge and will continue to be exempt after the increases.
The Immigration Health Surcharge will increase to £1035 for an adult and £776 for a child, with the increase in revenue apparently being earmarked to help fund pay rises for NHS doctors.
There has been no date given for when the increase will become effective.
While July has undoubtedly been a busy month for news and updates, very few of the changes will be welcomed by migrants looking to relocate or extend their visas in the UK.
The Home Office’s aim to reduce net migration is seeing students on the frontline of negative changes and everyone will be affected by the upcoming fee increases.
While there is no date set for the fee hikes, it is best for all applicants to be prepared for a possible short-notice change.
Given how expensive applications already are, and how additionally expensive they are due to become, there is little scope for getting it wrong, so applicants are strongly encouraged to seek expert immigration advice before making a visa application.
A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with all types of visa applications. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your visa application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or at contact us today. We’re here to help!