New rules break the link between working in UK and staying “forever”
On 29 February 2012, the UK Border Agency announced major reforms to Tier 2 employment-related settlement and other UK immigration tiers.
Immigration Minister Damian Green announced proposed changes that will mean that skilled migrant workers coming to the UK under Tier 2 of the points-based system will no longer be able to settle in the UK simply based on the amount of time they have spent in the UK. In addition, a new minimum pay threshold will mean that only the brightest and best workers, who strengthen the UK economy, will be able to apply to stay in the UK permanently.
According to the Border Agency press release, the new rules will break the link between coming to the UK to work and staying forever. Exceptionally talented people, investors and entrepreneurs will continue to have the option to stay. Skilled temporary workers wanting to apply for settlement will have to earn at least £35,000 or the going rate for their job, whichever is higher. Migrants doing jobs which are in shortage, and scientists and researchers in PhD-level roles, will be exempt from the £35,000 threshold. Temporary permission to enter and remain in the UK will be capped at 6 years, to reinforce the temporary nature of Tier 2.
According to Minister Green:
“Settlement in the UK is a privilege. We are sweeping aside the idea that everyone who comes here to work can settle, and instead reserving this important right only for the brightest and best. Our reforms of the immigration system will ensure we are more selective not only about those who are allowed to come here but also those who are allowed to stay permanently.”
The UK government intends to:
- Continue to provide a direct route to settlement for investors, entrepreneurs and exceptionally talented migrants under Tier 1.
- Continue to provide a route to settlement for the best Tier 2 migrants, if they meet a minimum salary threshold of £35,000.
- Allow those who enter as PhD-level scientists and researchers to qualify for settlement without having to meet the £35,000 minimum salary threshold.
- Make all workers in shortage occupation jobs (currently including specialist nurses, teachers and social workers) exempt from the minimum settlement salary threshold of £35,000.
- Allow Tier 2 migrants to extend their temporary permission to stay in the UK up to maximum of 6 years, and introduce a 12-month ‘cooling off’ period.
- Retain a route for overseas domestic workers in private households, but only when accompanying a visitor and limited to 6 months’ stay with no right to change employer.
- Retain the current route of entry for private servants in diplomatic households under Tier 5 (Temporary worker – International agreement), with a maximum stay of 5 years and no ability to change employer or to settle.
The government also plans to make changes to the visitor rules to allow a defined group of professionals to undertake specific fee-paid activities for short stays of up to 1 month without formal sponsorship requirements.
The government is reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. It has already taken action to reduce numbers by restricting the number of migrants from outside the European Union who can come here to work, and introducing changes to the student visa system.
Further details of the proposals and Damian Green’s written ministerial statement can be found on the Home Office website.