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UK Settlement: changes and challenges ahead
The last few weeks have unveiled a complete rethinking of the immigration system and visa categories in the UK. On 6 April 2011, the Tier 1 General Scheme was abolished whilst the Tier 1 Post Study Work Scheme, after much speculation
The UK Border Agency has also introduced new criteria for Tier 1 Entrepreneurs and an accelerate route for settlement for those entrepreneurs and investors who are willing and able to make a substantial financial contribution to the UK economy.
Under the new 2011-2012 annual limit, employers will now be able to bring only 20,700 people from outside the EU to work in skilled professions under Tier 2 (General) of the points-based system. A further 1,000 visas will be made available to people of 'exceptional talent'. Radical changes have also affected the student route and is likely that family's visas will be next on the agenda.
However, this article will only focus on the changes to the settlement criteria and in particular:
• a new criminality requirement for all applicants;
• a new income requirement, and reform of the English language requirement, for those on work routes.
The UK Border Agency has decided to apply a stricter criminality threshold for settlement which means that applicants will need to be free of unspent conviction when applying for settlement as this might lead to their application being refused.
Applicants will need to disclose, among other things, all criminal convictions that have not yet been spent and civil proceedings made against them in the UK or any other country including any criminal convictions for which they have not yet been tried in court. Criminal convictions can include any convictions in a court such as TV licence offences and motoring offences such as drink and driving and road traffic offences but not fixed penalty notices (such as speeding or parking tickets) unless they were given in court.
From 6 April 2011, migrants in these categories can no longer meet the KOL requirement by passing an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) qualification, unless they are applying for settlement under the UKBA's transitional arrangements.
In addition, all Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT) migrants applying for settlement will need to provide a letter from the Sponsor that issued the Certificate of Sponsorship that led to the applicant's last grant of leave certifying that (1) they still require the applicant for the employment in question and (2) they are paid at or above the appropriate rate for the job, on the date of application for settlement, as stated in the codes of practice for Tier 2 Sponsors.
Most significantly, Tier 1 General holders will need to comply with paragraph 245CD of the Rules whereby they will need to score 75 points if their last visa was granted before 19 July 2010 or 80 points for applications made post 19 July 2010 in terms of age, academic qualification, earnings and UK experience.
Please note that new forms and new fees are now in operation for settlement application. If you are concerned that you might not meet the provisions listed above or provide the mandatory evidence in support of your application, please feel free to contract us to seek professional legal advice.