UK Immigration announces changes to Points-Based System

The UK's Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has announced 'a package of changes to Points-Based System work routes' which he says 'improve flexibility for applicants and help to boost economic growth'.

Mr Brokenshire submitted a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons on 13th March 2014.

The changes are

  • Creating a new Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa category for IT workers. To qualify for an Exceptional Talent visa, applicants must first gain the endorsement of a 'Designated Competent Body' (DCB). There are currently only four DCBs; the Royal Society, Arts Council England, the British Academy and the Royal Academy of Engineering. Mr Brokenshire has announced that the London IT body Tech City will now be granted DCB status and will be able to endorse talented IT workers. There is no word yet as to how many visas will be available but it is unlikely to be more than 500 per year.
  • Reforming the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa category by 'removing the ring-fencing of places for MBA graduates'. Last year, Home Secretary Theresa May announced that she would double the number of Graduate Entrepreneur visas available to 2,000 a year but said that the extra 1,000 would be 'ring-fenced' for MBA graduates only. All graduates will now be eligible for all Graduate Entrepreneur visas.
  • Applicants for Tier 2 skilled worker visas will now be able to apply for a visa lasting five years. This will apply both to Tier 2 (General) visas and Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas. Currently, the maximum initial duration of a Tier 2 visa is three years.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa

UK Prime Minister David Cameron first announced the changes to the Exceptional Talent visa stream in a speech in London in February. Mr Brokenshire's announcement added few details to Mr Cameron's announcement.

Sanwar Ali of workpermit.com is a long-standing critic of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. He says to really help the IT sector it needs to be much easier to obtain this visa.

He said '[UK Prime Minister] David Cameron has said he wants to help UK tech firms to employ international workers and this is good news, but it seems unlikely that the changes announced by Mr Brokenshire last week will make much difference.

Annual cap of 1,000

'It is extremely difficult to qualify for an Exceptional Talent visa. There is a nominal annual cap of 1,000 on the number of exceptional talent visas available but it is so difficult to qualify that nowhere near that number of visas has ever been issued. In fact, in 2011, only seven people were granted this visa and there have been fewer than 100 issued each year since then.

'There are over 500,000 people working in IT in London and industry insiders say there are significant skills shortages. Issuing a small number of Exceptional Talent IT visas a year will make little difference'.

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