The Home Office has laid before the UK Parliament a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. This document sets out the new Immigration Rules for the post-Brexit immigration system in anticipation of the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

We have written extensively about what to expect in our longer note and the changes are broadly in line with the previously released policy guidelines, but now we have a lot more detail.

Overall, the changes reflect the expected liberalisation of the UK immigration system and reverses many of the restrictions that had been incrementally introduced over the last decade.

For example, salary thresholds and skill levels for workers to qualify for sponsorship have been lowered; the resident labour market test has been abolished; the annual quotas have been abolished; and more switching between visa routes is now permitted than ever before. We wait to see whether the rules are slowly tightened again over the coming years.

The vast majority of the new rules will apply to any application submitted after 9am on 1 December 2020. There are some minor changes to other categories which come into force on 31 December 2020.

The new British Nationality Overseas Visa will be introduced on 31 January 2021.

Some key new details in the new Rules are as follows. 

  • No changes to the Tier 1 (Investor) category have been announced.
  • Current and future Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa holders will now be able to switch from within the UK into the new Skilled Worker visa (which replaces Tier 2 (General)) – this is an exciting development for Tier 2 ICT visa holders as it provides a path to settlement. However, time previously spent in Tier 2 ICT will not count towards the five year residence period required for settlement. Previously, Tier 2 ICT visa holders needed to leave the UK for 12 months and apply for fresh Entry Clearance unless they were a high earner.
  • Current Dependant visa holders will now be able to switch from within the UK into the new Skilled Worker visa. Previously, Dependant visa holders needed to leave the UK and apply for fresh Entry Clearance.
  • Tier 5 visa holders will finally be able to switch into the new Skilled Worker route from within the UK. Previously Tier 5 visa holders needed to leave the UK and apply for fresh Entry Clearance and this was especially painful for those Youth Mobility Scheme visa holders from Australia and New Zealand.
  • The cooling-off period (where migrants had to wait 12 months before applying for another Tier 2 visa) has been abolished for Tier 2 General/Skilled Worker.
  • The six year residence limit on Tier 2 General/Skilled Workers has been abolished, so permits can now be extended indefinitely.
  • The cooling-off period for ICT migrants has been revised and they can now only stay in the UK for a maximum of five years within a six year period or nine years within a 10 year period if they are a high earner (the high earner threshold in this context has been lowered to £73,900 from £120,000);
  • You can no longer take into account guaranteed annual allowances/benefits for the purposes of calculating the minimum salary for the Skilled Worker category (you can still do so for ICT provided they would also be paid to a local worker in similar circumstances). In effect, this means that only base salary will count towards the minimum salary requirements.
  • The minimum salary requirement for Tier 2 General/Skilled Workers applying for settlement has been abolished.

The new rules bring EEA nationals into line with non-EEA nationals for first time in decades, but the liberalisation should lessen the administrative burden on employers recruiting from overseas.