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A new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules has been published which includes a number of significant changes to business immigration law. This article examines three changes which may be of interest to employers in Northern Ireland.
Following recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee, the shortage occupation list will be expanded from 7 August 2023 to include several construction and fishing industry jobs including: bricklayers and masons, roofers, roof tilers and slaters, carpenters and joiners, plasterers, and construction and building trades not elsewhere classified, agriculture and fishing trades.
Inclusion on the shortage occupation list is not as important as it used to be now that the monthly cap on visas has been lifted. It also does not remove the English language requirement, which can be an issue for some migrants. However, the minimum salary reduction from £26,200 to as low as £20,960 and slightly reduced fees for applications will be useful for many. Therefore, these changes will be welcome news to the construction and fishing sectors.
As was announced earlier this year, international students are no longer be able to bring their dependant family members with them to the UK other than in limited circumstances. This does not affect the leave of those already in the UK but it will affect future applications. Dependants are able to work in the UK at any skill level and so this removes the ability for employers to hire these individuals going forward. Potentially this change will discourage some international students from studying in the UK.
Furthermore, students are now only able to switch to a work visa if they have completed their course or, in the case of a PhD, if they have completed at least 24 months of it. Previously, it was possible for migrants to switch to a work visa without completing their course. This was a way to bypass the 20 hours per week limit on working hours during term time. It also allowed migrants to obtain indefinite leave to remain sooner as the five-year period starts when they receive the work visa. Employers will now have to wait until the end of the course to apply for the work visa and comply with the terms of the student visa until then.
The Ukraine Extension Scheme allows Ukrainian nationals in the UK with visas to continue their stay for up to three years. This is useful for individuals on visa categories that are temporary (e.g. Seasonal Worker Visa) where usually they would have to return to their home country at the end of it. This scheme was due to close for new applicants on 16 November 2023. However, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the deadline to apply will be extended to 16 May 2024 for any applicants that had leave by 16 November 2023. This will be a relief for many Ukrainian migrants and their employers.
The Immigration Rules can change rapidly and, as with the rules on students switching visa categories, immigration options can close overnight with little warning. Employers and migrants should ensure that they are aware of these changes and obtaining legal assistance from a solicitor experienced in business immigration law will make this task much easier.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Business Immigration Law Team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.