UK Tier 1 visa and Tier 2 visa - Major changes from 6 April

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As expected UK immigration will be making significant changes to the requirements for the UK Tier 1 visa and Tier 2 visa. The changes will take place on 6 and 7 April 2010. If you meet the requirements for the Tier 1 or Tier 2 visa you should seriously consider applying now before the changes in less than a month's time.

If you earn a high salary and have a Bachelors degree then you may qualify for the Tier 1 visa from 6 April 2010. Previously, you could not come under Tier 1 at all with a Bachelors degree. If you have a Master degree and not such a high salary it may be more difficult to come under Tier 1 from 6 April 2010.

The UK Government is reviewing the overseas earnings multipliers. This is important for those applying from abroad. This is used to calculate the equivalent salary in the UK for the purpose of calculating points. It is likely that changes will be introduced in future which will make it more difficult for people applying from a Country such as India to gain enough points to come under the Tier 1 visa. However, there will be no changes to the salary multipliers on 6 April.

Outline of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Visa Changes

The changes to the immigration rules follow recommendations for changes to Tier 1 and Tier 2 by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) of 4 December 2009. The UK Government has decided to implement these changes and has now provided further details. The changes include the following:

  • New points tables for Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas.

  • There will be a new simpler route for "Very Highly skilled workers" without Masters degrees under the Tier 1 visa scheme. Currently you cannot apply with just a Bachelors degree. The salary bands will also be higher which will make it more difficult in many cases to come under Tier 1.

  • Greater flexibility for short-term transfers by multinational companies. However, it will be more difficult for those on transfers to remain on a long term basis. Tier 2 Intra Company transfer visas will no longer lead to permanent residence.

Tier 1 General Visa Changes:

  • You will from 6 April 2010 gain 30 points for having a Bachelors degree under the new Tier 1 criteria. Currently there are no points for having a Bachelors degree which means that until the new Tier 1 system starts you will need a Masters degree or equivalent to apply under the Tier 1 visa.

  • The minimum previous earnings under which you will gain points will increase to £25,000. You will also only gain 5 points for earnings of between £25,000 to £29,999; Under the current system you will gain between twenty and thirty points. This will make it more difficult for people with lower salaries to qualify under the new Tier 1 visa criteria.

  • Under the current system for initial applications you gain between 15 and 20 points for previous earnings for a salary of £20,000 to £25,999. Under the new system you will only gain points if you earn £25,000 or more.

  • You will from 6 April initially be granted two years instead of the current three years under the Tier 1 General Visa. You will be granted an extension of three years if you have been in highly skilled employment;

  • You will be able to claim points under the age category as long as you are under the age of 40 years. Under the current system you will only gain points if you are under 32 years of age.
  • If you have a PhD the number of points you are awarded is reduced from 50 to 45 points.

  • You will under the new criteria gain 75 points if you earn £150,000 or more. In practice almost anyone earning this level of salary will qualify for the Tier 1 visa.

  • If you are currently in the UK under Tier 1, HSMP, as a writer, composer or artist, or as a self employed lawyer you will be able to come under the transitional arrangements. This will mean that in most cases you will be largely unaffected by the changes in the Tier 1 visa requirements.

Tier 2 visa or Work Permit Scheme Changes:

  • If you are on a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa this will no longer leads to permanent residence.

  • You will find it more difficult in many cases to gain points under prospective earnings. For example the minimum salary to gain points has gone up from £17,000 to £20,000. You do however gain more points if your earnings are above £32,000.

  • If you are in a non shortage occupations in the Tier 2 General category you will gain 5 more points than in Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer (ICT).

  • If you are in a non-shortage occupation you will need prospective earnings of at least £20,000 to come under Tier 2.

  • If you are applying for a Tier 2 extension you will automatically be granted 50 points without having to meet the previous earnings test. This is to make sure that if you are already on a Tier 2 visa or on a work permit that you come under criteria similar to the criteria in place when you made your original application.

  • Some multinational companies pay allowances to workers as well. For the time being there will be no changes to the rules on allowances for migrant workers.

  • If you wish to change jobs within the same SOC code whilst in employment with the same employer you will not normally be required to make a new application.

  • If you apply for a change of employment this will be considered against the same criteria as your initial application. If relevant a resident labour market test will also be required.

  • The Tier 2 Intra-Company transfer (ICT) will have 3 categories: Established Staff, Graduate Trainee and Skilled Transfer;

  • If you come under the Tier 2 ICT category as a Graduate Trainee and Skilled Transfer this will only be for a limited period only and you will not be able to switch into a different immigration category.

Tier 1 Post Study Work

If you are a graduate of an UK medical school you will under the new rules be able to switch to Tier 1 PSW category within 12 months of completing the Foundation Programme. You will not have to wait for graduation to complete speciality or GP training.

Other changes to the Immigration Rules include

There will also be changes to marriage visa requirements for those in the armed forces, and changes in the way asylum cases are dealt with and changes to the English language requirements for non-native English speakers who wish to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

  • The English language requirements if you are applying for indefinite leave to remain will change. If you are applying with qualifications in English for Speakers of Other Languages you will need to have studied at accredited colleges. Immigrants will need to show progress in their English language studies before applying for permanent residence.

  • There will be a new category of the 'Highly Trusted Sponsor' under the Tier 4 student visa system on 6 April 2010. This will be extended to businesses later in the year.

  • Asylum applicants will find it more difficult to claim humanitarian protection if they have engaged in "undesirable behaviour".

  • There will be new interview procedures for unaccompanied asylum seeking children;

  • The marriage visa age will be reduced to 18 for serving members of the armed forces and their partners.

  • Monaco will be added to the list of Countries under the Youth Mobility Scheme.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas had the following to say:

'We've always said that we would run our immigration system for the benefit of the UK and that is what we are doing.

'The changes that we are making today will build on an already robust system which is now the envy of the world. A strength of the points-based system is the flexibility to predict and respond to events.

'By utilising the flexibility of the points-based system we are now ensuring that only those that we need to come to the UK to work can do so.

'I will continue to ensure that immigration does not act as a disincentive for employers to employ and improve the skills of the British workforce.'