Insights

Nighat Sahi

Published 6 July 2022
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Immigration Law Round-up

As UK employers grapple with labour shortages in the wake of Brexit, and many Ukrainians flee the devastation of their homeland, there have been a number of recent changes to immigration laws. So in this post, we take a quick look at some of the most significant of these. 

New visa scheme

A new visa scheme has been announced for high potential individuals.  The new scheme allows students from the world’s top universities to work in the UK. They can work here for 2 years, or 3 years if they hold a PhD. However, they will need to change to other long-term employment visas at the end of this period and will then need to meet the eligibility requirements of whichever visa route they use.

The visa scheme is open to anyone who has graduated in the last 5 years and a prior job offer is not required. However the university from which they graduated must be listed on at least two of three specified global university ranking lists in the year in which they graduated.

At present, there is no limit on the number of graduates who can apply under this scheme. However, graduates from top UK universities are unable to apply under this scheme, even if their university is featured on the global ranking lists and will need to apply under other UK immigration routes.

Qualifying criteria

In addition to the qualifying university requirement, there are other eligibility criteria which must be met. These include criminal checks, an English language requirement and proof that they have access to funds of at least £1,270, which have been continuously held for at least a 28-day period.

New Global Business Mobility visa route

In March 2022, the government announced the Global Business Mobility (GBM) scheme which as of 11 April 2022, replaced the ICT visa system. Rules on partners and children have generally remained the same under the new scheme.

Existing licence holders

All of the new GBM routes are sponsored routes so employers who wish to take advantage of the new scheme must have a relevant sponsor licence. The main routes still have extensive eligibility criteria such as skills thresholds, salary requirements, etc.

Businesses who previously held an ICT or ICT graduate trainee licence will have been automatically transferred to the equivalent route under the new system. However, guidance for licence holders has been updated and those with a sponsor licence must ensure they are up to speed with compliance duties.

The aim behind the GBM

The new routes are aimed at encouraging and supporting overseas businesses to establish a presence in, or transfer existing staff to the UK for specific business purposes.

The five new routes

There are five routes within the GBM scheme, four of which replace existing visa routes and one of which is new. None of these routes can lead to settlement in the UK and workers can only stay in the UK on GBM visas for a maximum of five years within any six-year period (except for Senior or Specialist Workers earning at least £73,900, who have a nine-year maximum stay within any ten-year period instead). The five routes are:

Secondment Worker: This is the one new route and relates to overseas workers being seconded to the UK to undertake temporary work assignments as part of a high value contract or investment by their overseas employer.

There are various qualifying requirements including that the worker’s employer must have a contract with the UK-based sponsor worth at least £50 million and the worker must have worked for their employer outside the UK for at least 12 months.  

Senior or Specialist Worker: This replaces the Intra-Company Transfer route and is for senior managers or specialist employees who are assigned to a UK business linked to their overseas employer for a temporary period. Many of the ICT criteria for sponsorship remain.

The worker must also have been working for their employer outside the UK for at least 12 months or earn at least £73,900.

Graduate Trainee: This replaces the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route and is for workers on graduate training courses leading to senior management or specialist positions, who are required to do a work placement in the UK as part of their training.

Those eligible cannot apply to extend this visa but can apply for a further graduate trainee visa from outside the UK.

UK Expansion Worker: This replaces the Representative of an Overseas Business route and is for senior managers or specialist employees who have a temporary work assignment in the UK in respect of an overseas business’s expansion in the UK. Unlike under the Sole Representative route, there are no present English language requirements to be met via this route and no current limits to the shareholding and percent of any shares owned.

Service Supplier: Replacing the Contractual Service Supplier and Independent Professional provisions under the Temporary Work – International Agreement route, this is for contractual service suppliers employed by an overseas service provider or self-employed contractors based overseas who are undertaking an assignment in the UK to provide services covered by one of the UK’s international trade agreements.

Sponsor licence

Before applying under the scheme, the overseas business will need a Sponsor Licence for the company they plan to set up in the UK. The UK company will then need to apply for a certificate of sponsorship and sponsor the applicant to meet the initial eligibility under the applicable route. It is a points-based system.

There will be general requirements to meet in addition to the above, such as the applicant being able to maintain themselves without access to public funds and being in possession of a Tuberculosis certificate (if from a country that is on the list of those requiring a Tuberculosis certificate).

Visa schemes for Ukrainian nationals

Three specific visa schemes have been put in place to support Ukrainians seeking to relocate and work in the UK. Ukrainian nationals holding permission under any of the schemes are permitted to live, work and study in the UK and access public funds. Employers are not required to provide sponsorship to employees who hold permission under these schemes but must still carry out right-to-work checks.

Fee Waivers

The Home Office can grant fee waivers for certain immigration applications. A fee waiver is when you are not required to pay the full amount of a fee or the amount you have to pay is reduced. They apply to applicants who are in the UK and making an application based on human rights and to applications for under-18s to register as a British citizen.

New Home Office guidance was published on 08 April 2022 and confirms the situations in which you can apply for a fee waiver. In order to succeed, an applicant will need “to credibly demonstrate” they cannot afford to pay the immigration application fee. Further Home Office guidance published about this in April provides more information.

If you already have leave to remain you must apply for a fee waiver no more than 28 days before your current leave to remain expires. If you do not currently have leave to remain you must apply for a fee waiver before you apply for leave to remain.

Get in touch

All the above situations can be complex, and we would urge you to get in touch if you think any of them may apply to you or your business or would like more information.

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