The Home Office has today (11 March) announced a package of changes to the Immigration Rules, most of which will take effect on 6 April 2016.
We review the changes below.
NHS debt and litigation costs
Currently, individuals can be refused entry clearance or leave to remain if they owe the NHS £1000 or more. This NHS debt threshold will reduced from £1000 to £500 from 6 April.
A new rule is being added to allow an application to be refused where a litigation debt is owed to the Home Office. A litigation debt would be incurred where, for example, an individual has had costs awarded against them in an unsuccessful appeal or judicial review against the Home Office and has failed to settle the debt. The power will be included in the General Grounds of Refusal and, whilst its application is discretionary, it is difficult to foresee an instance when the Home Office would waive any litigation debt.
Spouses and Partners
The Immigration Rules will be amended to clarify that where an applicant relies on income from self-employment, or as a director of a specified company (i.e. one where the director has a shareholding in the company, directly or otherwise and there are fewer than 5 other shareholders) all the income relied on by the couple must relate to the same financial year.
The Electronic Visa Waiver which is available to visitors from a limited list of countries will be extended to Kuwaiti nationals.
The Permit Free Festival list for 2016/17 which allows visitors to perform at listed festivals and receive payment will be updated to include new festivals.
The maintenance requirements for students applying for leave to remain as a student union sabbatical officer, or a postgraduate doctor or dentist on a foundation programme will be reduced. The pool of eligible individuals is thus only small, but is a welcome amendment to the immigration rules.
Of greater impact will be a change to allow Tier 4 (General) students studying at independent schools to extend their stay from within the UK, rather than having to leave and apply for a further visa from overseas as is presently the case.
Overseas domestic workers
Overseas domestic workers are presently permitted to enter the UK for up to 6 months. A new rule is to be introduced to increase the period of leave which can be granted to an overseas domestic worker who is the victim of slavery or human trafficking. In such an instance, the worker will be permitted to stay for up to 2 years.
Overseas domestic workers will also be permitted to take alternative employment as a domestic worker during the 6 month period for which they are admitted.
The immigration rules will be changed to clarify that, where an application is refused on the basis of deception, it will only be permissible to introduce additional evidence to counter the alleged deception in the review against that decision. If a subsequent application is refused on the basis of deception in an earlier application, it will not be possible to adduce fresh evidence to counter the Home Office’s allegation.
A raft of further technical changes will be made to the immigration rules. A new appendix SN will be inserted specifying how notices that an application is void or invalid, whether for entry clearance, leave to remain or administrative review, will be served. Appendix SN will also specify how a notice notifying an applicant of the outcome of an administrative review is to be served.
The Institute of Financial Accountants will be added to the recognised UK accounting bodies. This is relevant for applicants applying in Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Tier 1 General categories, for family members where the income is derived from self-employed and for companies wishing to apply for a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence.
These rule changes do not include any reforms resulting from the Migration Advisory Committee’s recent reviews of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or Tier 2 (Sponsored Skilled Worker) categories. The Government has not yet announced its response to those reports.
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