The latest changes to Immigration Rules will have significant impact across the board.
The changes will bring into force provisions to protect domestic workers against abuse and human trafficking, while they tighten the requirements concerning self-employed and students. On the other hand, obligations concerning high value investors will be eased. The additional requirements and changes to existing rules have been laid out in Statement of Changes HC877, which will come into effect on 6 April 2016.
Concerning the rules applicable to overseas domestic workers, the Statement of Changes implements two changes, announced 7 March in the Minister for Immigration's Written Ministerial Statement. Importantly, these changes will strengthen the protection of the fundamental rights of those domestic workers who are in a vulnerable situation or who are victims of human rights abuse. Firstly, the changes will allow those admitted as an overseas domestic worker to take employment other than that for which they were admitted originally. Secondly, under the amended Rules those domestic workers who are victims of slavery or human trafficking may be granted leave to remain for a period of up to two years.
Tighter restrictions are being introduced across a wide spectrum of applications. The threshold for NHS debt is also being lowered from £1000 to £500, barring re-entry. New grounds have been added to the circumstances in which Appendix FM applications can be refused due to previous alleged poor conduct. Under the amended rules, a failure to pay a litigation debt to the Home Office may result in the application for UK Visa being refused. The Statement of Changes explains that this is effectively because some applicants who have failed to pay the litigation costs awarded to the Home Office after their appeal has failed, sometimes go on to make further applications. Owing litigation debt to the Home Office does not, at present, constitute a ground to dismiss the application. Thus a new discretionary power allowing the Home Office to refuse applications for UK visa on the grounds of litigation debt is being introduced into Part 9 of the Immigration Rules. It is worth noting that this would also include those issued with unlawful costs orders by the Upper Tribunal.
In addition to the already considerable list of evidence, the self-employed will be required to provide even more information in support of their application. The content of the endorsement letter required from the applicant's endorsing body will be expanded to request a telephone number from the authorising official at the endorsing body and the name and contact details of a person in an administrative role at the institution.
Further restrictions will be introduced to rules governing students. Applicants must be progressing academically and may not extend their leave in the UK in order to study a course at a lower level than the previous course for which they were granted leave. A further change is being made to tighten the circumstances in which a Tier 4 (General) student, who has previously studied in the UK, can switch courses without obtaining a new visa. A clarification has been added to the effect that all time granted for study in the UK will be included when calculating the maximum length of time.
Amendments continue to be made to reflect the closing down of the 'points based calculator' tool on the gov.uk website, which applicants may currently use if they would like to use an overseas qualification to demonstrate a requirement of the rules. From 6 April 2016, however, applicants will instead now need to obtain an official statement from UK NARIC: www.naric.org.uk/visasandnationality. Amendments are being made to the effect that UK NARIC shall determine the level of international qualifications and confirm that Master's degrees and PhDs taught in English may be used to satisfy the English language requirement for Representatives of Overseas Businesses.
The changes also lift certain requirements. Mostly it is the high value applicants with access to investment funds that benefit.
For instance, those high value applicants, who have access to investment funds from a trusted source and who are applying with funding from one or more UK Seed Funding Competitions or one or more UK Government Departments, or Devolved Government Departments in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will be required to supply a letter, confirming that the money was transferred to them less than 90 days before the date of the application, instead of a third party declaration and legal confirmation if they have not held the funds for this duration, which they had to obtain before.
Also, a provision is being made to allow applicants who have received investment from a UK Seed Funding Competition or UK Government Department to produce financial accounts that show that the investment was made in the name of the source of funds, providing they supply a supplementary letter from the source, confirming that this investment was on their behalf. This means there is no longer a need for the specified financial accounts evidence to confirm that the investment was made on the applicant's behalf. The statement of changes notes that "in order to reflect normal business practice", an amendmentis being made to allow applicants to provide financial accounts which show that the qualifying investment in their businesses was made in the name of an investing entity, providing they supply a supplementary letter from UK Trade and Investment which confirms the investment was made on behalf of the applicant.
To address a risk of abuse, the changes expand the evidential requirements for applicants applying using funding from venture capital firms.