The Immigration Rules are changed all the time. No part of the rules has been varied as much as the points-based system (PBS). The purpose of the PBS was to harmonise the old rules which brought about its creation. Yet, for applicants, things are always becoming more complicated. The reason is not that the PBS itself is hard to grasp. The rationale is surprisingly simple. People get points if they can show certain things – money is of paramount importance and the case in point. At the other – perhaps much sharper – end of the stick, constant revision within the “system” makes it susceptible to entropy. Therefore, unless one monitors it constantly, making sense of what’s happening is not easy.
Unsurprisingly the unwieldy system is even harder to manage than to follow. The government’s solution is to modify the PBS into a “contributions-based system” or a “CBS”. Hopefully, “CBS” will improve upon the PBS’s trampling of the constitution.
In anticipation of the changes to the rules scheduled for introduction on 6 April 2012, the Statement of Intent: Changes Affecting Study, Post-Study Work and Maintenance Requirements for Students and Workers arrived earlier this month.
The envisaged changes include areas such as the maximum time students can spend in the UK under Tier 4 (General), working on student visas, work placements, staying on to work in the UK after completing education and changes in maintenance requirements. Given that Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visas will be axed on 5 April 2012, in order to attract the “best and the brightest” to the UK, a new Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme has been devised to replace the older category.
The changes will not lower net immigration to the UK. The “tough” new rules only serve as eyewash to camouflage the reality that immigration to the UK is increasing.
Tier 4 (General)
The good news for education providers, at least those that have been inspected by a designated independent body to acquire a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status, is that the interim limit on them from issuing Confirmations of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) will be removed.
In contrast, moreover, limits on time spent under Tier 4 (General), along with the closure of the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa, will “ensure that student visas are not exploited as a means to remain in the UK indefinitely and without genuine academic intentions.”
- Master’s degrees at Higher Education Institutions (HEI) – following successful completion of an undergraduate degree where the course duration was 4 or 5 years, the limit will be set at 6 years in total instead of 5.
- PhDs at an HEI. (However, where – on completion of the PhD – the time spent in Tier 4 (General) exceeds 8 years, no further leave will be granted under the route.)
- Architecture, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and science, law (those studying on the GDL, LPC, BPTC, CPE) and music studied at a conservatoire.
The 5-year limit, and exceptions, will be operated in addition to time permitted in Tier 4 (General) at below degree level (3 years) and any time spent in the Tier 4 (Child) route. The limit will consider study time, and will not count the additional periods of leave granted outside of course durations.
In connection to courses within which work comprises a placement it is envisaged that as of 6 April 2012 students requiring visas enroled at schools below HEI status will have to study for two-thirds of the time, whereas those at or above HEI level will be able to divide study and work time equally.
Tier 2 (General)
Although the current work rules for students will not be changed, the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa will be closed on 5 April 2012. Instead, these flows will be diverted into the Tier 2 (General) category and Certificates of Sponsorship for this purpose will be “unrestricted” (not in the annual limit and not subject to the resident labour market test). Employers will have to offer a £20,000 salary or the minimum appropriate rate in the relevant Code of Practice. Switching will be available to applicants who obtain a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or a PGCE or PGDE, from a UK recognised or listed body. PhD students will be able to switch by completing a minimum of 12 months’ study.
Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
A new Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme will be introduced for people who are identified by UK universities “as having developed world class innovative ideas or entrepreneurial skills” but can’t fulfil the requirements under the main Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route.
The route will be open to in-country applicants who must have sponsorship from their graduating HEI. In providing sponsorship, HEIs will be free to choose the strongest candidates. Places – which will be distributed equally between participating HEIs – will be limited to 1,000 applicants for the first year.
Successful applicants will given initial 12-month visas. Provided that the sponsoring HEI is satisfied with the progress made, the visas will be extendable for a further 12 months. Beneficiaries of the scheme will be able to spend between developing their businesses with the flexibility of undertaking other work for up to 20 hours a week to support their stay. At the end of their stay Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneurs) must switch to Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or leave the UK. Provided that the Tier 1 maintenance requirements are met, dependants will be allowed.
From April 2012, applicants for Tier 1 (Entrepreneurs) and (Graduate Entrepreneurs), and legacy Tier 1 (General) cases will be required to show:
- £3,100 for entry clearance applications
- £900 for leave to remain applications
Tier 2 and Tier 5 migrants will be required to show funds of £900. As at present, if they have an A-rated Sponsor, the Sponsor may certify maintenance for them.
Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 5 dependants will be required to show:
- £1,800 for dependants of migrants who have been in the UK for less than 12 months
- £600 for all other dependants