UK immigration announces end to Tier 1 General visa extensions

The Home Office, the UK government department that deals with immigration matters, has announced that it will stop accepting applications for Tier 1 (General) visa extensions from 6th April 2015.

The Tier 1 (General) visa stream opened in 2008 as a replacement for the Highly Skilled Migrant Program (HSMP). It was part of the new five-tier points based immigration system introduced by the last Labour government.

The Tier 1 (General) visa allowed 'highly skilled migrants' from around the world to come to the UK to live and work for any employer including working for themselves. The initial visa lasted for two years.

Indefinite Leave to Remain

Visa holders are able to renew their visa twice each time extending their visa for three years. In practice most Tier 1 (General) visa holders who wish to remain in the UK on a long term basis only extend their visa once and then apply for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence) at the end of five years in the UK.

In 2010, a new Coalition government came to power in the UK promising to reduce annual net immigration to below 100,000 a year from the then level of about 250,000 per year. The new Home Secretary Theresa May soon announced that the Tier 1 General visa stream was to be closed.

Mrs May said that the visa had been intended to allow highly skilled workers to come to the UK. But, she told the House of Commons in November 2010 'At least 30% of Tier One migrants work in low-skilled occupations such as stacking shelves, driving taxis or working as security guards and some don't have a job at all. So we will close the Tier One general route'.

10,000 applications annually

Around 10,000 people annually entered the UK with Tier 1 (General) visas until the stream was closed to new applicants. There were, therefore, tens of thousands of Tier 1 General visa holders living in the UK at that time. Existing Tier 1 General Visa holders could continue to apply for Tier 1 General extensions from within the UK.

However, in April this year, the Home Office announced that, as of 6th April 2015, no further Tier 1 (General) extensions will be granted. In addition, as of 6th April 2018, no Tier 1 General visa holders will be able to apply for ILR.

As you will no longer be able to apply for a three year Tier 1 General Extension from 6 April 2015 in practice from 6th April 2018 there will be no one on a Tier 1 General visa anyway.

Applications before 6th April 2015

Tier 1 (General) visa holders whose current visa expires before 6th April 2015 should apply for an extension in the usual way and if possible before this date.

If your current Tier 1 (General) visa expires after April 6th 2015, then you can still apply for an extension but must do so before 6th April 2015. If your original visa was issued before 6th April 2010, then your extension would be for two years. If it was issued after 6th April 2010, then it would be for three years.

Sanwar Ali of workpermit.com said 'This change is not unexpected but it may well prove very distressing for some Tier 1 visa holders. In the vast majority of cases Tier 1 General Visa holders would, if they wished to remain in the UK already have obtained indefinite leave to remain or will have obtained a tier 1 general visa extension before 6 April 2015.

Five year mark

'However, there will be some of you who will find that your next extension will not bring you up to the five year mark. There are several options for you and we at workpermit.com can help.

'Your best option will probably be to transfer to the Tier 2 (General) skilled worker stream. We can help you with this process too and can even help you to find sponsors for your Tier 2 General visa application'.

If you would like to apply for a visa WorkPermit.com can help. WorkPermit.com is a specialist visa consultancy with 25 years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.