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New UK Immigration Rules Announced

The Home Secretary David Blunkett has announced stricter rules to stop temporary migrants in the UK switching into permanent employment to try to stop potential abuse of the system. These new rules are part of the UK government's reform of immigration in an attempt to tackle abuses of managed migration programmes.

The main changes include restricting the circumstances under which non-EU/EEA nationals in the UK on temporary visas can switch into a category leading to settlement, like the work permit scheme, HSMP and the Innovator categories.

The exact changes are listed below according to category and will come into effect on 1 October 2004. Current practices will continue to apply until that date.

The Work Permit Scheme

Under current Immigration Rules, non-EU/EEA nationals can apply to switch into work permit employment without leaving the UK provided they satisfy the work permit criteria and have existing permission to stay in the UK as:

  • A student who has successfully graduated; or
  • A postgraduate doctor or dentist or trainee general practitioner; or
  • A student nurse; or
  • A working holidaymaker who has been in the UK at least twelve months; or
  • A Sectors-Based Scheme (SBS) work permit holder.
    People in the UK under the SBS programme will be prevented from switchinginto work permit employment.

Switching into a work permit from the other categories above will still beallowed.

Furthermore, less discretion will be granted to caseworkers to allow switching outside the Immigration Rules. Basically those overseas nationals currently in the UK under any other category will not be granted leave to remain.

Caseworkers will be able to continue to use some discretion and switch applicants outside the rules only in exceptional circumstances.

However, these exceptional circumstances are being tightly defined as circumstances relating to the individual which would make it unduly harsh for the individual to return to their country of residence.Reasons of urgent employment will not be enough to switch outside of the rules, nor would the lack of a visa issuing post in the applicant's home country to make gaining entry clearance difficult be considered an exceptional circumstance.

One example of exceptional circumstances might include a case where the individual is unable to travel due to health reasons.

The Highly SKilled Migrant Programme and Innovator visas

Currently, all non-EU/EEA nationals who are legally present in the UK, with the exception of visitors, can switch into both the Highly Skilled Migrant and Innovator categories.

From 1 October 2004 the immigration rules will be changed and only overseas nationals in the following categories will be permitted to switch into HSMP or Innovator status:

  • Work permit holders; or
  • graduated students; or
  • working holidaymakers; or
  • postgraduate doctors or dentists or trainee general practitioners.

Switching outside of the Immigration rules will again only be allowed on the same restricted basis as outlined above for work permits.