My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules.
In April last year the Government made substantial changes to the tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and tier 1 (Investor) categories. The Home Office has been reviewing how effective these changes have been. As a result, a number of minor changes are being made to these two categories, including:
Providing for entrepreneurs with funding from Departments of devolved Administrations;
Lowering the English language requirement for entrepreneurs in response to concerns that the high requirement was a possible deterrent to potentially successful businesses;
Restricting the ability of students to switch into the entrepreneur route, due to concerns about abuse;
Restricting investors from working as professional sportspeople, to prevent them circumventing the sports governing body endorsement needed in the dedicated routes for sportspeople;
Additional controls to ensure entrepreneurs and investors genuinely have access to the funds they claim they do;
Providing for investors’ leave to be curtailed if they fail to maintain the required level of investment; and
Clarifications to confirm that points will not be awarded for investments against which applicants have taken out loans, or investments that are held in offshore custody.
I am making minor changes to tier 2, the route for skilled workers with a job offer. These include supporting business by allowing very senior intra-company transferees to extend their stay in the UK for up to nine years (other transferees are restricted to a maximum of five years); making provision for barristers to apply in tier 2; and making the operation of “cooling off periods” more flexible for migrants who leave the UK before their leave expires.
I am setting the annual allocations of places for participating countries and territories in the tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme), and widening the definition of a training programme under the tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange category to include training by HM armed forces and UK emergency services.
I am making changes to the international agreement sub-category of tier 5, to make more specific provision for contractual service suppliers (who do not otherwise have a UK presence) seeking admission under the relevant commitments in certain international trade agreements to which the UK is a party.
Applicants for settlement on the basis of work or economic activity in the UK must complete a continuous period of lawful residence in the UK—usually five years with exceptions for some tier 1 investors and entrepreneurs and some highly skilled migrant programme migrants. Although it has been our practice to permit some absences from the UK during this period, the length of the short absences has not been specified.
I am making changes to the Immigration Rules for indefinite leave to remain for work permit and other pre-points based system employment, for businesspersons, innovators, investors, self-employed persons, writers, artists and composers, those here on the basis of UK ancestry and for tier 1 general, tier 2 general, sportsperson and Minister of religion migrants and retired persons of independent means. These changes clarify that absences of up to 180 days in a 12-month period are permitted, provided the absence is for a reason that is consistent with the migrant’s purpose of stay in the UK or for serious or compelling reasons.
I am also making minor changes to the tier 4 immigration rules on students, including allowing students to start work on a business idea or as a doctor or dentist in training as soon as they have submitted an appropriate application; removing an avenue used by applicants to circumvent our rules that ensure an applicant has sufficient funds to cover their course and maintenance; and extending the period of the interim limit where educational institutions that have not achieved both a satisfactory educational oversight inspection from a specified body and highly trusted sponsor status are subject to an interim limit on the number of international students that can be recruited.
I am making a number of changes to the immigration rules on family and private life. These mainly reflect experience of the operation of the new rules since they were implemented on
In addition to these changes, I am also creating a more robust, clear and transparent criminality framework against which immigration applications will be assessed. At present, there are few specific thresholds in the immigration rules. Much is left to discretion, except at the settlement stage where an unspent conviction results in mandatory refusal. There is some advantage to this flexibility in that it allows discretion to deal with hard cases, but it also means that there is a lack of consistency in dealing with offences. These changes will make it clearer about the level of offending that will lead to refusal.
The consequential changes will also:
change the periods before a deportation order will normally be revoked; introduce a limited leave “route” for foreign and Commonwealth ex-armed forces personnel who fail to qualify for indefinite leave or citizenship because of a relatively minor conviction; introduce a re-entry ban of five years for any offender who leaves the UK as a requirement of a conditional caution; and introduce a discretionary power to curtail leave where a person commits an offence within the first six months of entering the UK.
Finally, I am also making a number of minor technical changes, corrections and updates to lists contained in the Immigration Rules. Details of these are set out in the explanatory memorandum being laid today to accompany the changes.