What's changing in relation to UK immigration?

What's changing in relation to UK immigration?

UK to sign up to Hague 2019 - a cross-border boost for schemes?

Significant immigration changes are coming into effect between April and August 2022, including the introduction of several new routes. We’ve set out below details of the main changes.

High Potential route

This is a new route for individuals to come to the UK to work without the need for a job offer. Applications may be submitted from 30 May 2022. The Government’s stated aim is to “introduce an elite points-based route to attract the brightest and best to the UK to maintain our status as a leading international hub for emerging technologies”. In reality, the route is relatively limited. To be eligible, the individual must have been awarded an overseas degree from a university on the Global Universities List during the five years before their immigration application, which is equivalent to or which exceeds a UK bachelor’s or postgraduate degree.

The Global Universities List is the list of universities published by the Home Office on the gov.uk website, which is compiled on an annual basis and consists of all non-UK institutions that are ranked in the top 50 of at least two of the following ranking systems:

  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings and
  • Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings and
  • The Academic Ranking of World Universities

In addition, applicants must meet English language requirements at level B1 in speaking, listening, reading and writing. There will also be maintenance requirements for anyone applying for entry clearance, or permission to stay where they have lived in the UK for less than 12 months, as they will need to show that they have funds of £1,270 and that they have held these funds for 28 days.

Successful applicants will be granted two years’ permission, unless their qualifying degree is a PhD, in which case they will be granted three years’ permission.They will be able to work full time at any skill level.

Importantly, this route does not lead to indefinite to leave to remain (also known as settlement). Prior to the expiry of their leave, those in the UK under the High Potential route would need to switch into another route, such as Skilled Worker. 

Helpfully partners and children under 18 may apply to accompany the main applicant to the UK.

Scale Up route

This is another new route and it goes live on 22 August 2022. This route is intended to allow those with a job offer at the required skills level from a recognised UK scale-up business to qualify for a fast-track visa. To be eligible, applicants must have a job offer for a graduate level role (RQF level 6) and the individual must be paid at least £33,000 per year or the minimum salary for that particular role.

Applicants in this route must have a job offer from an authorised UK scale-up company which has registered as a sponsor for this route. To register, a company will need to demonstrate that they have had an annualised growth of at least 20% for the previous three year period in terms of turnover or staffing. Companies will also need to have had a minimum of 10 employees at the start of this three year period. We understand that the Government will consider further ways in which scale-up companies may be able to register for this route in due course.

This route is unusual in that, while the initial application requires the individual to be sponsored by their employer, they do not have to be sponsored to extend their leave. Successful applicants will be permitted to work full time at any skill level but they will have to work in a job skilled to graduate level, for their sponsoring employer, for the first six months. After that, their immigration status will no longer be tied to that employer.

Permission will be granted for two years. To extend their permission to stay applicants must demonstrate PAYE earnings of at least £33,000 per year for at least 50% of their time in the route. Extensions will be granted for three years.

Applicants must also meet English language requirements and they must meet the usual maintenance requirements by demonstrating funds of £1,270 held for at least 28 days.

After five years in the UK under this route applicants may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain. Applicants will need to have PAYE earnings of at least £33,000 in 24 months of the three year period immediately prior to their application for settlement, as well as demonstrate that they meet the standard settlement requirements.

 Applicants may be accompanied by their partners and children under 18.

Global Business Mobility

This consists of the following five routes and includes changes to existing business routes and introduces new routes. These change take effect on 11 April 2022.  

  • Senior or Specialist Worker: this route is for “senior managers or specialist employees who are being assigned to a UK business linked to their employer overseas” and replaces the current Intra-Company (ICT) route. This route is however very similar to the current ICT route. Applicants will need a job offer from a UK company which is a registered sponsor and in most cases the applicant must have worked outside of the UK for a group company for at least 12 months.The minimum salary threshold will increase to £42,400 per year. Applicants will not need to meet any English language requirements. 

  • Graduate Trainee: this is for “workers on a graduate training course leading to a senior management or specialist position and who are required to do a work placement in the UK”.  This replaces the current Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route but again is similar to the existing route. Graduate trainees will need to be sponsored by the UK company and the job must meet the minimum skills and salary thresholds. Individuals will need to have worked overseas for a group company for at least three months. 

  • UK Expansion Worker: this route is aimed at “senior managers or specialist employees who are being assigned to the UK to undertake work related to a business’s expansion in the UK”. This will replace the Sole Representative route and there are very significant differences so this is an important change for overseas business intending to establish a presence in the UK.    

This route can only be used when the business has not yet begun trading in the UK. However, despite that, the UK business must be authorised by the Home Office to sponsor a UK Expansion Worker.

Applicants must have worked outside the UK for a group company for at least 12 months, unless they are a high earner earning £73,900 per year or more or they are a Japanese national seeking to establish a UK branch or subsidiary of the overseas company under the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.The role must meet the minimum skill level and the applicant will need to be paid a salary of at least £42,400 per year or the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher. Applicants will not need to satisfy an English language requirement.

  • Service Supplier: this route is for “contractual service suppliers” and “self-employed independent professionals” who are based overseas and who need to undertake an assignment in the UK to provide services covered by one of the UK’s international trade commitments. This route replaces the contractual service supplier and independent professional provisions in the Temporary Work - International Agreement route. Applicants will need to be working as or for an overseas service provider that will provide services to their UK sponsor and must have worked as or for the overseas service provider outside the UK for a cumulative period of 12 months. Their UK sponsor must have a contract with an overseas service provider, where that contract has been registered with the Home Office, and on which the applicant, as a Service Supplier, will work.

Applicants will also need to have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job they are planning to do, issued by an employer that is authorised by the Home Office to sponsor a Service Supplier. The role will need to meet the minimum skill level but there will be no minimum salary threshold (other than individuals must be paid at least the National Minimum/National Living Wage). Applicants will also not need to satisfy an English language requirement but must meet the maintenance requirements.There will also be a nationality requirement and in some cases they will need a university degree or equivalent level technical qualification or specified experience.

  • Secondment Worker: this is a new route for workers being seconded to the UK “as part of a high value contract or investment by their overseas employer”. Applicants must be working for an overseas business that has a contract with their UK sponsor that has been registered with the Home Office by the UK sponsor and must have worked outside the UK for that overseas business for a cumulative period of at least 12 months.

The UK job will need to meet the minimum skill level but there will be no minimum salary threshold (other than individuals must be paid at least the National Minimum/National Living Wage).There will be no English language requirements. The maximum time allowed in the category is five years in any six year period.

Importantly, none of the above routes will lead to indefinite leave to remain. This will particularly impact those coming over to set up a branch of an overseas business in the UK as a UK Expansion worker. Previously sole representatives were able to apply for indefinite leave to remain. 

Changes to the Seasonal Worker route

The Seasonal Worker route is being expanded to include roles in ornamental horticulture. This includes, but is not limited to, those growing daffodils, Christmas trees, and also forest nursery workers. All references to poultry production work, haulage driving work involving transportation of food goods, or specified pork butchery work have been deleted as the deadlines for applications on this route to work in these roles have now expired.

Importantly, seasonal workers will have to be paid at least £10.10 per hour, which is higher than the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage. This will be equal to the minimum hourly rate that those applying on the Skilled Worker route are required to meet.

Changes to work conditions for students

The Rules on work conditions for students are being amended to allow students switching to the Graduate route to begin working full time in a position that fills a permanent vacancy, provided they have successfully completed their course and made a valid application to the Graduate route. This will allow those students who make a valid application on the Graduate route to take up an offer of employment for a role they intend to continue during their Graduate permission at the point they have passed their course without needing to wait for their application to be decided.

Further, students applying under the Skilled Worker route may be able to start employment in a full-time role up to three months prior to the course completion date.


The changes to the Immigration Rules run to more than 200 pages so we are in the process of reviewing these in more detail. We are also still waiting for the detailed guidance but, at first glance, the new routes, including those under the umbrella of Global Mobility, do not appear to go far enough to address many of the issues businesses have been encountering since Brexit. 

Almost all of the main routes (including all of the Global Mobility routes) rely on sponsorship, which is administratively burdensome and expensive for businesses. Even the Expansion Worker route now requires newly established businesses to register for a sponsor licence before they are able to hire their first non-settled worker and it is difficult to see how this will work in practice. One of the advantages of the sole representative route has always been that it enables overseas businesses to transfer a senior employee to the UK at an early stage to establish the UK business without the need to first obtain a sponsor licence.

The long awaited High Potential route is somewhat disappointing, as it is limited to those who have graduated from a top university in the five years before their immigration application and it does not lead to settlement.


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