Yesterday the UK Government published some further details on the new immigration system which is due to come into force from the end of this year. The Government’s document did not actually provide too much information over and above what had already been published. Our earlier article covering the key forthcoming changes can be found here.
What is new?
Health and Care visa
The plan to introduce a new Health and Care visa for individuals in ‘eligible’ skilled occupations with job offers from the NHS, organisations providing services to the NHS or the social care sector is to be welcomed. Eligible occupations are defined more broadly than doctors and nurses and include dental practitioners, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and biological scientists and biochemists amongst others.
This new immigration route will, according to the Government, incentivise these individuals to come to the UK by providing:
- Fast-track entry to the UK
- Reduced visa application fees and exemption from the Immigration Health surcharge payment
- Dedicated support during the application process
We are told that further detail will follow on this new immigration route. Although it is a step in the right direction, how much use this will be to the social care sector is of doubt when social care workers are not included on the eligible occupation list.
Relaxation on the switching rules
The current immigration rules are fairly stringent on when it is possible to ‘switch’ from one type of visa category into a different visa category from within the UK. For example, where an individual is working for a UK employer under a Tier 5 (Youth mobility scheme) visa and the employer then wishes to sponsor them under Tier 2 (General), that individual cannot apply for the Tier 2 leave from within the UK but must return to their home country and apply for new entry clearance from there. Often this involves several weeks of being out of the UK until the new visa has been issued. This has been a frustration for individuals and employers alike.
The good news is that the Government plans to relax these switching provisions to enable more applicants to apply from within the UK.
We already knew about the proposals to open a Graduate route to allow international students graduating with a UK degree to remain in the UK for a couple of years after graduation. This route will enable them to live and work in the UK (at any skill level). It has now been confirmed that those graduating with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree will be able to remain for 2 years in the UK on a Graduate visa. Those graduating with a PhD will be able to remain for 3 years.
This route will only be available for those graduating in summer 2021 which will no doubt be very frustrating for this year’s cohort of international graduates.
As we have known for a while now, the big change is that from 1 January 2021 European citizens arriving in the UK for the first time will need immigration permission to live and work here. The key driver for all the forthcoming immigration changes is the aim to treat EU and non-EU nationals equally in the immigration system - there will no longer be any preferential treatment in the immigration system for European passport holders.