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Archive for April, 2011

April 21st, 2011

Changes to Tier 4 Student Visas

The Student visa or Tier 4 scheme has many changes that will be introduced over the next 12 months.

All aspects of the Tier 4 points-based system will be changing such as; English Language requirements, greater restrictions for sponsors, work entitlements and leading on from that the eventual withdrawal Tier 1 (post-study work).

The initial changes from 21 April 2011 are as follows;

  • All new sponsors will have to meet the new educational accreditation criteria in order to be issued a Tier 4 licence.
  • There will be an interim limit for existing sponsors that restrict how many students they can sponsor. This does not apply to sponsors that hold highly trusted sponsor status and meet the new accreditation criteria.
  • Existing sponsors will be required to apply to the relevant inspection body if they do not already meet the new accreditation criteria.
  • There will be tighter English language requirements for Tier 4 (General) students.

Changes from July 2011;

  • All Sponsors from this date have will to vouch for academic progression for students changing course, where the new course is not a step up the NQF/ QCF / SCQF scale.
  • Individual Students will have to declare at the visa application stage that they hold and will continue to hold the required maintenance funds to support themselves and pay for their course.
  • Students that are classed as Low-risk nationalities attending courses at Highly Trusted Sponsors will not always have to present the specified documents at the visa application stage in respect of their maintenance funds or educational qualifications, although we reserve the right to ask to see the evidence.
  • Only students at higher education institutions and publicly funded further education colleges will have permission to work, retaining their current entitlements.
  • New students studying at a higher education institution on a course on NQF 7 / QCF 7 / SQCF 11 or above lasting 12 months or more to will be allowed to sponsor their dependants. The sponsor’s dependants will be able to work.

Changes from April 2012;

  • All sponsors must have reached Highly Trusted Sponsor Status.
  • The interim limit will be extended for those existing sponsors who have acquired Highly Trusted Sponsors status but not met the new educational accreditation requirements.
  • Any Courses offering work placements for students will have to have a study:work ratio of 66:33 except at higher education institutions.
  • There will be a maximum time of five years in Tier 4 studying at degree level and above, with exceptions for some courses and PhD students.
  • Tier 1 (post-study work) visa will be closed. Migrants on Tier 4 (General) will be allowed to switch to Tier 2 (General) if they meet the required criteria.

Provisions will be made for Student Entrepreneurs.

April 7th, 2011

New Settlement Requirements

The UK Border Agency has announced significant changes to the Settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) criteria. These will take effect from 06 April 2011.

The requirements will include;

Criminal records check

The applicant must have no unspent criminal convictions at the time of application.

Minimum income requirement

All Tier 1 (General), Tier 2 (General) and Work Permit holders will need to meet a minimum income requirement;

This means that Tier 1 (General) migrants must meet the same salary criteria as when their last application was made.  Tier 2 (General), Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) and Work Permit holders, must be paid the correct income in line with the specified code of practice.

English language requirement

Migrants on Tier 1, Tier 2 and the newly proposed categories can only pass the English language requirement by taking the Life in the UK Test. The English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course will no longer apply.

Tier 1 (Investor) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) routes will be eligible for a quicker route to settlement (see Tier 1 news).

Please follow our news for updates.

April 6th, 2011

New English Language Test Providers

The UK Border Agency has released a new list of approved English Language providers.

Any English tests which have been booked or taken for Tiers 1 and 2 will be accepted as long as they are sent to the UK Border Agency before 17 May 2011. After this date all English tests must be from the new list.

For migrants applying as a spouse or partner they can use an English Language test with an existing provider for an application received on or before the 17 July 2011. From 18 July 2011 the applicant must submit evidence from a provider on the new list published on the 6 April.

April 6th, 2011

Revised Life in the UK Requirement for Settlement

From the 06 April 2011 all Skilled and Highly Skilled Migrants wanting to settle in the UK must pass a Life in the UK Test only, to demonstrate that they have met the knowledge of language and life (KOL) requirement.

This applies to the following categories;

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional talent)
  • Tier 1 (General)
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 1 (Investor)
  • Tier 2 (Intra company transfer)
  • Tier 2 (General)
  • Tier 2 (Minister of religion)
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
  • Work Permit holder
  • Highly Skilled Migrant (excluding those covered by the HSMP ILR Judicial Review policy document)
  • Representative of an Overseas Newspaper, News Agency or Broadcasting Organisation
  • Representative of an Overseas Business
  • Overseas Government Employee
  • Minister of Religion, Religious Missionary, or Member of a Religious Order
  • Airport-Based Operational Ground Staff of Overseas-Owned Airlines
  • Person intending to establish themselves in Business
  • Innovator
  • Person intending to establish themselves in Business under the Provisions of EC Association Agreements
  • Investor
  • Writer, Composer or Artist

All migrants in these categories will no longer meet the KOL requirement by passing the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) qualification.

There are transitional arrangements for migrants that have enrolled on an ESOL course or gained an ESOL qualification before 23 November 2010. If this applies to you, the ESOL qualification is valid for any applications for settlement, regardless of the date of your application.

Any applicant that enrolled on an ESOL course on or after 23 November 2010 will need to pass the Life in the UK Test if they apply for settlement on or after 6 April 2011.

April 6th, 2011

Annual Limit – Important Changes to Tier 2

From the 06 April 2011 the Immigration Cap for Non-European Union nationals is in force. This will apply for all migrants applying to work in the UK.

Annual Limit for Tier 2 (General)

All Tier 2 (General) applications will be subject to the annual immigration cap. There is now a limit of 20,700 places from April 2011 to March 2012 for this immigration route. There will be 4,200 Certificates Of Sponsorship for April 2011. The following limit will be set at 1,500 per month. All unused places will role over to the following month.

Sponsors will acquire Certificates Of Sponsorship from a monthly request panel. These will be known as restricted Certificates Of Sponsorship. Applications will be reviewed on whether;

  • they are shortage occupations
  • the position requires higher academic qualifications
  • if the salary meets the requirements

Tier 2 (General) applications will be restricted to graduate-level vacancies. The Migration Advisory Committee will advise us on what are to be considered graduate-level jobs, and we will amend the shortage occupation list accordingly. Existing Tier 2 (General) migrants in jobs below graduate level will be able to extend their permission to stay if they meet current requirements.

The following applications are not affected by the annual limit and will be known as unrestricted Certificates Of Sponsorship;

  • in-country applications from those already in the UK;
  • dependants of Tier 2 migrants;
  • Tier 2 (General) applicants who are filling a vacancy with a salary of more than £150,000;
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson) applicants;
  • Tier 2 (Minister of religion) applicants; and
  • Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) applicants.

The Intra Company Transfer route (Intra Company Transfer) will have the following changes;

  • the job will have to be on the graduate occupation list
  • migrants who are paid £40,000 or more will be eligible to stay 3 years, with a possible further 2 year extension.
  • migrants paid between £24,000 and £40,000 will be allowed to come to the UK for no longer than 12 months, at which point they must leave the UK and will not be able to re-apply for 12 months.

Any certificates of sponsorship granted for potential employees will be valid for a period of 3 months.

New English Language requirement

From 06 April 2011 the English Language requirement for Tier 2 (General) applicants have been increased from basic to intermediate level. The applicant must achieve a level of English equivalent to level B1 of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework for Language learning.

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) English language requirements will stay unchanged.

Source: UK Border Agency

April 4th, 2011

New UK Border Agency Fees

All applications from 06 April 2011 for foreign nationals applying to visit, study, work or settle in the UK, and for employers and education providers applying for a sponsor licence will be effected.

Please make sure you consider this when making new applications.

April 1st, 2011

Update on Closure of Certificate Of Approval

The Certificate of Approval Scheme (COA) is due to close on the 9 May 2011, subject to Parliamentary approval.

Any migrant that wants to get married in the UK will be required to attain a COA up until the scheme is abolished.

The government is likely to take a much tougher approach towards migrants getting married and registering civil partnerships, to combat sham marriages.

In the 2010 alone there were a reported 934 suspected sham marriages, with just 561 in the previous year.

You will still need to give notice of your marriage or registration of civil partnership to the official registry office when the scheme is closed.