UK relaxes rules on skilled workers, investors

Posted at 11/27/12 2:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The United Kingdom Border Agency announced changes in immigration rules that will ensure that it remains the top destination for exceptional overseas talent.

"UK is open for business to the brightest and best migrants and today's changes will ensure we remain an attractive destination for global talent," said Immigration Minister Mark Harper in a statement.

Highly-skilled workers entering the UK as intra-company transfer, who are currently able to stay in the UK for five years, will be allowed to remain in the UK for nine years if they earn £150,000 or more.

In a press statement released by the British Embassy in Manila, it stated that the 9-year maximum meets business needs while maintaining the temporary nature of this route by preventing applicants qualifying for settlement purely because of long residency.

"The government remains committed to supporting a private sector led economic recovery. At the same time, we continue to cut out abuse of the immigration system and remain focused on bringing net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands," Harper said.

Skilled workers applying for settlement in the UK but who need to travel as part of their job may now do so without affecting the status of their application to stay permanently in the UK.

In the past, workers who are absent from the UK for more than 180 days over five years would not qualify for settlement. Now, they will be allowed provided the absence is for a legitimate reason.

Aside from that, the 12-month "cooling off" period introduced earlier this year for skilled workers was also amended.

From mid-December, the 12 months will be counted from the day a worker leaves the UK regardless of when their visa is due to expire, providing they can show when they left the UK and that they have not returned to work there since. Previously, skilled workers could not return to take up another job offer for 12 months from the end date of their visa.

Entrepreneurs would also benefit from the new changes in immigration rules as they will no longer have to display a higher level of English than those migrants entering the UK via other routes.

Other immigration changes include:

• Curtailing the leave of an investor migrant if they fail to maintain the required level of investment for the duration of their stay.
• Clarifying the investor route rules to emphasize that investments must be under the applicant’s control and will genuinely benefit the UK.
• Ending switching from the student route to the entrepreneur route unless the migrant has £50,000 funding from a specified source or is applying in the new Graduate Entrepreneur category.
• Clarifying student route rules to state that where a student is using a promise of a student loan to satisfy the maintenance requirements when applying for a visa, the loan letter should be from government or a government-sponsored student loan company, or from a provider of an approved academic or educational loan scheme.

Further changes include:

• Introducing a limited leave route for ex-members of the Armed Forces. This will avoid individuals who have been subject to a minor conviction being asked to leave the UK because they do not qualify for settlement or citizenship.
• Establishing a new framework for considering the impact of criminality in immigration and nationality cases.
• Refining and clarifying the new rules for family migration.
• Introducing a number of other provisions, clarifications and changes to the rules.