In a slew of new documents published today the Government has heralded the end of quasi-automatic settlement for skilled foreign workers under Tier 2 of the Points Based System, the evisceration of the Overseas Domestic Worker scheme, some tinkering with the Tier 5 temporary worker routes and the creation of yet another visitor category, a ‘permitted paid engagement’, which bypasses the Points Based System altogether.
The Ministerial Statement can be found here, the data analysis on which the changes are purported based here, the Statement of Intent here and the summary of findings from the earlier consultation here.
From 6 April 2016 a Tier 2 worker seeking settlement will need to satisfy one of the following conditions:
- Earn at least £35,000 or the going rate in the relevant UKBA Code of Practice, whichever is higher
- Be employed in a shortage occupation (or at least an occupation that was on the shortage list when first sponsored)
- Hold a designated PhD-level job (a PhD never was a route to riches!) or
- Be a Minister of Religion (also not a route to riches, at least of the worldly kind).
The £35,000 threshold will be held in place until 2018 in order to provide some predictability and the 2018 threshold will be announced in 2013.
Eligibility for settlement will continue to kick in after five years but the structure and length of a Tier 2 visa is being changed. In future a successful application will lead to a grant of three years leave, followed by a further three leave on extension, increasing the total length from five to six years. Those entering after 6 April 2011 will be permitted to extend their leave to up to six years. Re-entry under Tier 2 will be possible after an absence from the UK of a year if the person does not qualify for settlement.
The new settlement rules for Tier 2 workers will apply to those who entered the Points Based System after 6 April 2011 and will kick in for those seeking settlement from 6 April 2016. Clearly there will be no immediate effect on numbers seeking settlement but presumably there will be few employers paying less than £35,000 who want to recruit a foreign worker only to have to say goodbye to him or her after five years. The numbers entering the Tier 2 route seem likely to decline even further from April this year.
The Statement of Intent also warns future applicants that there may be changes ahead to the language requirements for settlement, specifically the testing regime.
Overseas Domestic Workers will from 6 April 2012 only be permitted to accompany visitors or diplomats. Those accompanying a visitor will have maximum stay of six months, will be permitted to work during that time, will not be allowed to change employer and there will be additional pre entry checks in future. Those accompanying diplomats will have a maximum stay of five years (or the length of the diplomatic posting, whichever is shorter), will not be allowed to change employer, will not qualify for settlement but will be able to sponsor dependents.
The changes to Tier 5 are too boring to detail here.
The new visitor route is more interesting and will hopefully address some of the criticisms levelled against the current regime by arts organisations. It will be a short term visit route of only one month’s duration and will apply to the following activities:
- visiting to give a lecture, examining students, participating in or chairing selection panels
- overseas designated air-pilot examiners assessing UK pilots to ensure they meet the national air regulatory requirements of those countries
- providing advocacy in a particular area of law as a qualified lawyer in a court or tribunal hearing, arbitration or other form of alternative dispute resolution in the UK
- professional artists, entertainers or sports-persons carrying out an activity relating to their main profession e.g. artists exhibiting and selling their works; authors doing book signings; entertainers giving one off or a short series of performances and sports-persons providing guest commentary in their field of sport.
A full Statement of Changes will follow in mid March along with detailed guidance. ILPA members may want to attend the meeting tonight to discuss the changes.