Recent developments in UK immigration rules

  • Market Insight 19 April 2023 19 April 2023
  • UK & Europe

  • Employment, Pensions & Immigration

The recent Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules contains a number of important changes to employment requirements, including for the Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility and Youth Mobility routes. It also includes the launch later this year of a new requirement, the Electronic Travel Authorisation Category, which will significantly change the UK immigration landscape.

This update considers key issues arising out of the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, and the impact of these changes on:

  • The main Global Mobility Routes sponsored employment categories
  • The Youth Mobility Programme
  • Changes to Right to Work requirements for those with outstanding UK Immigration applications whose visas have since expired (Section 3C Leave)
  • Applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain under the Long Residence Provisions 
  • Forthcoming changes for those entering the UK as visitors under the newly launched Electronic Travel Authorisation Category

Except where specified otherwise, all the changes set out below will be effective for applications submitted on or after 12 April 2023.

Global Mobility Routes (GMR): Main Sponsored Employment Categories

Skilled Workers: Annual salaries for eligible jobs will now be based on a 37.5 hour working week (previously 39 hours) and the ‘going rates’ for Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes have been updated. Minimum salary thresholds will be the higher of £26,200 (previously £25,600), £10.75 per hour or the ‘going rate’ for the role under the relevant SOC code. 

GMR – Senior/Specialist Visa Category: Minimum salary thresholds for Specialist Visas, for those continuously employed overseas by the business for 12 months or more, are at least £45,800 (previously £42,800) or the ‘going rate’ for their job under the SOC Code, whichever is higher. The high earners’ threshold for those with less than 12 months’ continuous employment overseas, remains unchanged at £73,900.

Youth Mobility Scheme (YM)

YM provides employers with a cost-effective option for employing eligible nationals on a short-term basis in the UK, and is particularly well-suited to non-permanent roles. YM is not subject to the minimum Skills and Salary thresholds associated with the main GMR-sponsored employment categories. Effective 29 June 2023, New Zealand nationals will benefit from an increased age limit of 35 (from 30 years old) and an extended visa duration of 3 years (up from 2 years). Currently, due to reciprocal arrangements, these changes apply to New Zealand nationals only.

Right to Work (RTW) requirements for those with Section 3C leave

The RTW requirements for eligible employees with an outstanding “in-time” UK immigration application - that is an application made prior to their current visa expiry date - have been simplified. For “in-time” applications submitted on or after 26 January 2023, employers will be able to complete RTW checks via the employee’s e-Visa digital profile. This obviates the need for employers to obtain Positive Verification Notices via the Employer Checking Service. The scheme does not currently apply to those submitting applications on non-digital routes or for those with visas issued under the EU Settlement Scheme. 

Applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain under the Long Residence Rules

Applicants will no longer be able to rely on time spent as a visitor, short-term student or seasonal worker to count towards the continuous 10 year period required under the Long Residence provisions. Essentially, time spent on a UK visa category allowing for a maximum grant of permission of 12 months and where switching immigration category from within the UK is generally not allowed, this time spent in the UK will not count towards the relevant 10 year qualifying period.

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) requirements for those seeking entry as visitors

Once fully rolled out, ETA will significantly change the current immigration landscape, particularly for non-visa nationals, adding a layer of bureaucracy and as yet unspecified cost.

ETA is not a visa – it is a digital travel authorisation, similar to the systems used in other countries such as the USA and Canada. ETA will be electronically linked to the individual’s passport and generally issued for a maximum 2 year period. It will need to be in place prior to any intended travel to the UK, without which individuals will not be able to board their international transport.

The scheme will initially be rolled out for:

  • Qatari nationals intending to travel to the UK on or after 15 November 2023 
  • Nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intending to travel to the UK on or after 22 February 2024

Although as yet unspecified, ETA will be rolled out for all nationalities including EU (not Irish) nationals, during 2024. Individuals entering the UK under the ETA will still be subject to the same restrictions which currently apply to all visitors under the UK Immigration Rules.

If you have any questions or would like advice on any of the issues raised here, please get in touch with your usual Clyde & Co contact.


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