Spring Statement of Changes
in Immigration Rules

A new Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules has been published last week by the Home Office. The 185-page document is the first Statement of Changes to be published in 2023, and sets out some significant reforms.

The changes being made primarily deliver Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETA), introduction of the Innovator Founder route, and updates to employment requirements in work routes. Most of the changes will take effect from 12 April 2023. The full statement can be accessed here.

Smith Stone Walters will revisit some of these changes in more depth in future articles. To begin with, below is a summary of the statement’s key changes.

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)

The Statement confirms the introduction of the UK’s new permission to travel scheme, which will require citizens of specific countries to complete an online application form and pay a fee in advance of travel to obtain approval to enter the UK.

The Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme will apply to third country national (i.e., not British or Irish) passengers visiting the UK or transiting the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays, as well as those using the Creative Worker route for a short stay.

The ETA application process will open on 25 October 2023 only for Qatari nationals who intend to travel to the UK on or after 15 November 2023. The ETA application process will open on 1 February 2024 only for nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirate or Saudi Arabia who intend to travel to the UK on or after 22 February 2024.

Introduction of the Innovator Founder route

These changes implement amendments to the Innovator route which have previously been announced in the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s document “UK Innovation Strategy: leading the future by creating it” (published on 22 July 2021).

The existing Innovator route is for overseas nationals seeking entry to the UK for the purpose of establishing an innovative business. The changes will replace the Innovator route with a new Innovator Founder route.

Under the new route, applicants will no longer need to show that they have at least £50k minimum funds to establish their business as is currently required under the Innovator route. The removal of this requirement is designed to make a more flexible provision for those with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and sufficient funds to deliver it.

The changes also relax existing restrictions on Innovator migrants engaging in employment outside the running of their business, provided such secondary employment is in skilled roles (i.e., at least skilled to RQF Level 3).

The changes also close the Start-up route to new initial applications except where they are supported by endorsements issued before 13 April 2023. With the removal of the £50k minimum funds requirement for Innovator Founders, it is no longer necessary to retain a separate route for start-up entrepreneurs that do not have access to this level of funds.

Increased salary thresholds in work routes

Salary thresholds and going rates for individual occupations are being updated, based on the latest available UK salary data. Clarification is also being added to how salaries are considered where an applicant is working a pattern where the regular hours are not the same each week. These changes relate to the Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility, Scale-up and Seasonal Worker routes.

Under the Skilled Worker route, the general salary threshold will increase from £25,600 to £26,200. The minimum salary will also increase from £20,480 to £20,960.

Under the Senior or Specialist Worker (Global Business Mobility) route, the salary threshold will increase from £42,400 to £45,800. For Graduate Trainees, the salary threshold will increase from £23,100 to £24,220.

Under the Scale-up Worker route, the salary threshold will increase from £33,000 to £34,600.

Changes to the Youth Mobility Scheme

Changes are being made to the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS), the UK’s reciprocal cultural exchanges programme for young people from participating countries.

The UK’s existing reciprocal, bilateral arrangement with New Zealand has been enhanced – the age range is being expanded from 18-30 to 18-35 and the length of stay is being increased from 2 to 3 years. The Rules changes bring these enhancements into effect.

The Youth Mobility Scheme has a quota for each participating country that limits the number of places available. This is updated annually. The Rules changes also update this year’s allocation with the year and number of places available.

Updates to the Seasonal Worker route

The Seasonal Worker route is a temporary immigration route for designed to allow overseas nationals to come to the UK to work for up to six months in specific sectors.

Changes are being made to the Seasonal Worker route to amend the minimum rate of hourly pay, to reflect increases to the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage from April 2023. Seasonal Workers will need to be paid at least £10.42 for each hour worked.

The Home Office is also introducing a minimum guaranteed hours requirement for Seasonal Workers working in Horticulture, bringing them in line with the requirements for seasonal poultry workers. For both groups this requirement will be set at 32 hours per week.

Updates to the Global Talent route

The Global Talent category is for talented and promising individuals in the fields of science, digital technology and arts and culture wishing to work in the UK. ‘Talent’ applicants are already leaders in their respective field, while ‘promise’ applicants have shown the potential to become leaders in their field.

Various changes are being made to the endorsement criteria and evidential requirements to reflect feedback and recommendations from the endorsing bodies for the route, and to clarify the consideration process for applications.

Updates are also being made to the Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes list. Applicants who hold a qualifying prize are able to qualify without the need to obtain an endorsement from one of the Global Talent endorsing bodies.

Changes to the Long Residence rules

Under UK immigration rules, you may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) if you have been in the UK legally for 10 continuous years (known as ‘long residence’).

Changes are being made to this settlement pathway to make the definition of what constitutes lawful residence in the long residence rules easier to understand and better represent the purpose of the long residence route.

The rules are changing to not allow any period on immigration bail to count towards the qualifying period for long residence in any circumstances. This creates a simple expectation that people cannot count time with precarious status towards settlement on the basis of long residence.

The changes will also not allow time as a visitor, short-term student and on the seasonal worker routes to count towards long residence. This makes it clear that time spent on a route which both allows for a maximum grant of permission of 12 months, and where switching is generally not allowed (so there is the strongest possible expectation that the person will leave the UK at the end of a short stay), cannot count towards settlement on the basis of long residence.

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