New Statement of Changes
to Immigration Rules published

On 22 October, the Home Office published a new Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, which lays out key amendments to the rules regulating people’s entry and stay in the UK.

The 514 page statement clarifies some of the details involved with the UK’s new points-based immigration system, and represents a further step in the Home Office’s commitment to simplifying the Immigration Rules for migrants and employers. Most of the changes announced will take effect at 9am on 1 December 2020.

Smith Stone Walters will provide further information on individual areas of this detailed statement in due course. In the meantime, we would like to highlight the following main points which employers and visa applicants should be aware of.


The statement contains major changes to the rules for individuals in the UK on short-term visit visas. Under the new rules, there will be greater flexibility on the activities visitors are permitted to carry out during their time in the UK. The main changes to the visitor rules are as follows:

  • Visitors will be permitted to study at an accredited institution in the UK for up to six months under the standard visit route. Previously, visitors were only allowed to study for up to 30 days.
  • Drivers on international routes will be allowed to collect as well as deliver goods and passengers in and out of the UK
  • Volunteering activities will no longer need to be incidental to the main reason for the visit, although any period of volunteer work must be limited to 30 days


The statement contains some revisions on the rules for international students, with the main changes as follows:

  • Maintenance levels will be adjusted in line with the current home student maintenance loans. The new maintenance levels will be £1,334 per month for students in London and £1,023 per month for students outside of London.
  • Students and their dependants who are permitted to work under their visa permissions will now be allowed to work as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in training, to enable them to work in the NHS
  • A new short-term study route is being introduced for students wishing to study English language courses at accredited institutions in the UK for between 6 and 11 months, replacing the current route.
  • Any foreign citizens wishing to study in the UK for six months or less may now do so on a visit visa, under the revised visitor rules
  • Parents of a child student will now be granted leave that expires at the same time as the child student’s leave, or on the child’s 12th birthday, whichever is sooner. This removes the previous requirement for parents to reapply every 12 months

Skilled Workers

In the Statement of Changes, the Home Office confirms previous announcements that the Tier 2 route will be replaced by the new Skilled Worker route, a points-based route for individuals coming to the UK with a confirmed job offer that meets the skill and salary requirements.

The main changes that the new Skilled Worker route will bring are as follows:

  • The minimum skill threshold for skilled worker roles will be lowered from RQF level 6 (degree level) to RQF level 3 (A-level)
  • The general salary threshold will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 per year. Employers must pay their skilled workers a salary that equals or exceeds the general salary threshold or the ‘going rate’ for their profession, whichever is highest
  • The current cap on Tier 2 skilled workers will be removed, meaning there will be no limit on the number of migrants who can come to the UK under the Skilled Worker route
  • Sponsors will no longer need to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)
  • The criteria to identify new entrants to the labour market will be amended. New entrants will now include those sponsored in postdoctoral research positions and those working towards professional qualifications, registration or chartered status.
  • The 12-month ‘cooling-off period’ and six-year maximum length of stay in the route will be removed.
  • The £35,800 salary threshold for settlement applications will be removed and replaced in line with the general salary threshold of £25,600 per year, or the ‘going rate’.

Intra-Company Transfers

The Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route will be amended to provide more flexibility for short-term assignments. Key points highlighted in the Statement of Changes include:

  • Removal of the cooling-off period which previously prevented a person re-entering the UK on an ICT visa for 12 months after departing. Under the new rules, applicants are permitted to hold ICT leave for up to five years in any six year rolling period, or up to nine years in any 10-year period for high earners with a salary at or above £73,900
  • More flexible provisions will be made for individuals switching into the ICT route from another route. Applicants will still need to have been employed by the overseas business for at least 12 months, unless they are a high earner.

Global Talent

The Global Talent route for highly skilled individuals will see some changes in relation to qualifying criteria and definitions of roles. The statement confirms this route will be a two stage process to include endorsement from an approved body and an application for entry clearance.

The following changes will be made to the Global Talent route:

  • The criteria for consideration for senior appointments will be revised to cater for emerging leaders as well as those at a more advanced stage of their career
  • The definition of the types of academic and research roles that qualify for the route will be expanded

Youth Mobility Scheme

The Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) is a temporary immigration route which exists to provide young people aged between 18 and 30 from participating countries with an opportunity to experience life in the UK for up to two years. The following changes will apply to this route:

  • San Marino is being added to the Youth Mobility scheme country list as a country without Deemed Sponsorship Status with an allocation of 1,000 places.
  • The Republic of Korea is being added to the list of countries where invitation to apply arrangements apply.

British National (Overseas)

Following the government’s commitment to establish a bespoke immigration route for Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas), new rules are being introduced to bring the BNO visa route into effect from 31 January 2021. The new BNO route will consist of two categories:

  • The BNO Status Holder route is for BNO citizens ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the UK, and their dependants
  • The BNO Household Member route is for adult children born on or after 1 July 1997, of a BNO citizen. The BNO Household Member and any dependant partners or children applying under this route must be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong or the UK and form part of the same household as the BNO citizen.

Be Aware, Be Prepared

If you need advice or support in preparing for the changes under the UK’s new points-based immigration system, Smith Stone Walters is on hand to help.

Our expert immigration consultants will guide you and your business through everything you need to know to ensure you remain compliant under the new rules. To speak to an advisor, please contact us today.

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