Written by Monica Atwal and

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In 2017, we saw the government push ahead with its policy to reduce net migration to “sustainable levels.”

Businesses saw the introduction of the Immigration Skills Levy, the closure of the Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer (ICT) Short Term route and an increase to the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers. The government failed to publish its White Paper in Autumn but we did have a glimpse into its plans for EU nationals by way of an 82 page leaked paper which set out how it intends to refocus policy to put British workers first.

On 7 December 2017, the government announced changes to the immigration rules. The changes came into effect from 28 December with the majority of changes taking effect from 11 January 2018.

Tier 2 General

Most changes are expected to be positive:

Resident labour market test: new exemptions from the RLMT are being added for posts held by researcher applicants who are recipients of supernumerary research awards and fellowships and for established research team members sponsored by either a HEI or a Research Council.

Overseas students: Tier 4 Students applying to switch to Tier 2 will no longer have to have passed their degree before applying for their visa. Having completed the degree will be sufficient.

Tier 2 General work start date: Visa holders will only be able to move their start date back to a maximum of 28 days after the start date on their CoS after their visa has been granted. Any more than that will result in the curtailment of their visa.

Pay rates for health sector workers: These are being brought into line with pay scales in England and each of the devolved administrations and consolidated in a new table.

Nurses: Provision is being made to allow nurses to be sponsored under Tier 2 if they are undertaking an approved programme with a view to return to practice.

Tier 2 ILR: ILR applicants will no longer be required to have been continuously employed through the qualifying period to be eligible for settlement. Previously, the rules provided that breaks of employment could only be disregarded where they amounted to less than 60 days. For those who had a break of more than 60 days, this meant that they could not apply for ILR after 5 years. Given that Tier 2 leave is capped at 6 years, for some applicants this meant leaving the UK if they were ineligible.

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent

The number of places available under this category has been increased from 1,000 per year to 2,000 per year. These places will be allocated “according to need” and will not be allocated between Designated Competent Bodies.

Further, exceptional talent visa holders will be able to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) following 3 years of residency in the UK.

Brexit & EEA Nationals

EEA nationals will be expected to register with the Home Office by the end of the year with the “default position” of the Home Office to accept applications. There will be a new “settled status.” All documents currently issued to EEA nationals and their family members (registration certificates and permanent residence documents) will be invalidated.

We also expect to shortly see a long awaited Immigration Bill which will subject EEA nationals to UK immigration law and formally repeal the Immigration (Economic Area) Regulations 2016.

In July 2017, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned to advise on the economic and social impacts of the UK’s exit from the EU and also on how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with a modern industrial strategy. MAC’s report is due in September.

5th January 2018