IN629 UK Immigration - A Summary of Key Changes 2019

With Brexit due to take place on 31 January 2020, UK immigration rules for EU citizens are likely to face further change. At the same time, the UK recognises the need to continue to attract talent from overseas and a number of measures introduced during 2019 indicate the direction that the UK is likely to be taking regarding immigration in 2020.

January 

Since 28 January 2019, UK employers have been able to conduct online ‘right to work checks’, on eligible prospective employees, rather than manual ‘right to work checks’. 

Individuals with biometric residence cards, biometric residence permits, and/or those issued with status under the EUSS (please see below) can provide a share-code to allow employers to conduct ‘right to work checks’ digitally. Other prospective employees, such as British citizen passport holders, will need to have their original documents manually checked in the conventional manner. 

March 

Brexit did not take place on 29 March 2019. However, on that day, the ‘Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)’ visa category was closed to new applicants and replaced with the ‘Start-up’ and ‘Innovator’ visa categories. Applicants under these new visa categories must have their business concept “approved” by Endorsing Bodies made up of qualifying businesses and universities, and not, as previously, by the Home Office.  

The ‘Tier 1 (Investor)’ visa category also saw some changes, with new applicants no longer being able to invest in UK Gilts/government bonds. In addition, from 30 March 2019, the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) was fully open for applications. This enables EEA nationals and their non-EEA family members to apply to stay in the UK. 

May 

From 20 May, non-EEA nationals coming to the UK were no longer required to complete a UK landing card. In addition, certain non-EEA nationals coming to the UK were able to start using  ePassport gates, in the same manner as British, EEA and Swiss citizens. 

Non-EEA nationals from the following countries, with a suitable “chipped” passport, can use the ePassport gates: 

  • Australia;
  • Canada;
  • Japan;
  • New Zealand;
  • Singapore;
  • South Korea; and
  • the United States 

October 

The ‘Tier 1 (Investor)’ visa category, saw some further changes on 1 October 2019. Applicants who had been able to invest in UK Gilts will only be able to continue to rely on this for extension applications due to be submitted before 6 April 2023, and for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) applications due to be submitted before 6 April 2025. Applications submitted after these respective dates, will not be able to rely on Gilts and will need to transfer their funds into other acceptable investments. 

There were also some changes to the ‘Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)’ visa category, in terms of the documents required and widening the range of eligible senior academic and research positions able to qualify. 

In addition, there were a number of changes to the ‘Tier 2 (General)’ visa category. For example, PhD level occupations were removed from the annual limit of 20,700 migrants, permitted on the basis of a “Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship”. 

In most cases, it continues to be the case that it is possible to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK after living in the UK for 5 years under the same visa category. Generally, absences from the UK must be limited to 180 days or less, in any 12-month period over those 5 years. Employers and employees are advised to retain good records detailing the dates and reasons for absences. 

Future Immigration Changes 

With the Conservative party winning a majority in the General Election of 12 December 2019, Brexit is now almost certainly going to take place on 31 January 2020. 

  • If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, EEA nationals already living in the UK by then, will be largely unaffected. However, new arrivals, are likely to have to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (a 3-year visa) and then apply for an appropriate UK visa. 

With the UK's departure from the EU, a number of rights which currently apply, are likely to eventually cease to have effect in the UK, including the Ankara Agreement which applies to Turkish nationals

  • If the UK leaves the EU with a signed deal, a transition period is expected to be in place until 31 December 2020. 

December 2019, saw the publication of the highly anticipated Immigration White Paper which sets out what the new immigration system would look like from late 2020/early 2021 onwards, taking into account a new immigration system which would apply uniformly to EEA and non-EEA individuals alike. 

There is frequent mention of an Australian-style Points Based System, in political circles, although it is currently unclear as to how/if this might be implemented.  

One development that is known, is that non-EEA graduates from British universities are set to benefit from a ‘Graduate’ visa route, which will operate similarly to the historic ‘Post-Study Work’ visa category, although this is not expected to be open for applications until the summer of 2021. 

Further Information 

Dixcart can assist with all matters relating to business and personal immigration, including assisting with; right to work checks/procedures, maintenance of a ‘Tier 2 sponsor licence’, and visa applications for individuals across the UK immigration system. 

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to speak to Vincent Chung, at the Dixcart office in the UK: advice.uk@dixcartlegal.com

 

 

 

Categories: United Kingdom