The UK Border Agency has recently released a public consultation, looking mainly at routes to settlement.

It is important to note that the possible changes outlined below are only at consultation stage. No changes will be finalised before the consultation closes on 9th September.

Changes to the Immigration Rules are usually introduced in April of each year, so we expect that any changes adopted from this consultation will come into force in April 2012.

The UKBA has stated that any changes will apply to people who first entered the affected categories from April 2011 onwards, thereby affecting a small number of people already in the UK as well as people entering the UK after the changes have been implemented. We await further clarification on this point.

Tier 1

The UKBA has proposed that limited leave (visas with expiry dates) under Tier 1 be restricted to 5 years in total. Migrants will continue to qualify for settlement (ILR) as they do currently. However, any migrants that do not qualify for settlement would not be able to extend their temporary leave. They would therefore need to leave the UK after 5 years.

Tier 2

The UKBA has proposed that Tier 2 become a temporary category, with Tier 2 migrant having no automatic route to settlement (ILR) in the UK. They suggest that the ‘best’ Tier 2 migrants could either be given a different visa from the start, leading to settlement, or be allowed to switch into a new category after 3 years in the UK. In both cases, the qualifying period for ILR would remain 5 years. The UKBA has suggested several possible methods of choosing which Tier 2 migrants should be able to qualify for settlement, including a lottery system or a points test. There may also be a limit on the number of people allowed to qualify for settlement.

Any migrants who were not chosen to enter or switch into the new category leading to settlement would have their total leave under Tier 2 capped at 5 years. Therefore, any Tier 2 migrants not selected to settle would have to leave the UK at the end of 5 years.

Furthermore, the UKBA suggests that these migrants would then have to spend a minimum period of 12 months outside the UK before applying for another Tier 2 visa.

As outlined above, the UK Border Agency has stated that those who entered Tier 2 before April 2011 should not be affected by any potential changes brought into force after the consultation.

English language for dependants

The UKBA proposes to introduce an English language requirement for dependants, where the main applicant’s visa leads to settlement. The suggested level would be A1 of the CEFR; a basic English language level.

Potentially, dependants of Tier 2 migrants entering with the new visa leading to settlement, or switching into the new route for settlement after 3 years in the UK, would have to demonstrate their English language ability at this stage.

Tier 4

There are no further proposed changes to Tier 4, as it does not lead to settlement.

Tier 5

The UKBA has suggested capping the total leave of migrants in the UK under the Tier 5 temporary workers category to 12 months. Currently, some Tier 5 leave can be extended for up to 6 years.

In addition, the UKBA proposes to remove the provision for dependants to join Tier 5 migrants in the UK. Currently, the spouse and children of some Tier 5 migrants are able to join them in the UK, and are usually free to work in the UK.

The Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme will be unaffected by these proposals.

Overseas domestic workers – in private households

The UKBA has suggested that most overseas domestic workers should be granted entry to the UK as visitors, thereby limiting their stay to 6 months. Only overseas domestic workers employed by Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants would be allowed to stay for a longer period, with their leave being capped at 12 months. Currently, overseas domestic workers can extend their stay in the UK, and can qualify for settlement after 5 years.

In addition, the UKBA proposes removing the provision for dependants to join overseas domestic workers. Currently, the spouse and children of overseas domestic workers in private households are able to join them in the UK, and are usually free to work in the UK.

UK Ancestry

There are no proposed changes to the UK Ancestry category.

10 years Long Residence route to Indefinite Leave to Remain

The 10 years Long Residence route has not been mentioned in the UKBA’s current consultation document. However, it has previously been made clear that the UKBA would like to abolish this route to settlement. Unfortunately, there is no confirmation at this stage of whether the 10 years Long Residence route to settlement will remain unchanged.

Your opinion

This consultation is open to the public, and anyone is able to respond to the UKBA’s proposals.

The full consultation document is available here.

The response form is available here.

UK Work Permits would advise anyone who wishes to apply for a visa in any of the affected categories to apply as soon as possible. Please contact us for up to date information and guidance.