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New statement of changes to the Immigration Rules: HC 617

New statement of changes to the Immigration Rules: HC 617

On 10 September 2021 the Home Office published a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules (HC 617). It is 183 pages long and makes adjustments in quite a number of areas. Some of the main changes are:

  • Banning entry to the UK with an ID card rather than a passport (with exceptions for some existing residents)
  • Tweaks to existing relocation schemes for Afghans, including granting indefinite leave to remain from the outset
  • A new International Sportsperson route, consolidating what were the Tier 2 and Tier 5 sporting visas
  • Tweaks to Global Talent, making it slightly easier to get an endorsement, and doubling the number of awards that mean no endorsement is required
  • Changes to EU Settlement Scheme family permits, including “to allow a joining family member to apply to the EUSS whilst in the UK as a visitor”
  • Iceland and India being added to the Youth Mobility Scheme
  • A new “Appendix Settlement Protection” for refugees to get ILR
  • Incorporation of some coronavirus concessions into the Rules

As the explanatory memo (pdf) outlines, there are many other minor, technical or corrective changes. If any prove to be particularly important, we’ll highlight them. If you spot something earth-shattering, let us know.

The changes discussed below come into force on 6 October unless otherwise indicated.

ID cards are out

Last year the government announced that “From 1 October 2021, EU, EEA and Swiss national identity cards will no longer be accepted as a valid travel document and a passport will be required for entry to the UK”. The Immigration Rules are now being changed to that effect.

Paragraph 11(i) of the Rules says that someone seeking entry to the UK must produce “a valid national passport or other document satisfactorily establishing his identity and nationality”. From 1 October, this provision will be subject to a new paragraph 11A, which says that an ID card is not an acceptable alternative to a passport unless the holder is an existing resident with EU settled status or similar.

Afghan citizens

Paragraphs 276BA1 to 276BS4 in Part 7 of the Rules cover permission for Afghan citizens to come to the UK under two special schemes. These are the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy and the ex-gratia scheme. The paragraphs in question are being replaced by new text, rather than just amended.

One significant change is to paragraph 276BA1. This currently says that Afghans who qualify for these schemes will be granted permission to enter the UK for five years. In future, “they will be granted entry clearance, which will have effect on arrival in the UK as indefinite leave to enter”. In other words, their permission to be in the UK will not have an expiration date.

In paragraph 276BB1, the requirement for people availing of these schemes to be “in Afghanistan” is being removed. The same goes for dependants, in paragraph 276BF1. The effect is that people will be able to apply for these schemes from outside Afghanistan, which makes sense in view of recent events. 

The grounds for refusing permission under these provisions are being slimmed down to just the general grounds for refusal in Part 9 of the Rules. At the moment, there are additional grounds for turning people away, including if “there are serious reasons for considering that the applicant constitutes a danger to the community or to the security of the United Kingdom”. It is hard to know what to make of this change: the Home Office is not about to let people into the UK if it considers them a security risk. It may be just a tidying-up exercise, and that any cases caught by this wording could also be addressed under the general grounds for refusal.

There is nothing on the new Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, but the Home Office has separately published more information on that today.

New International Sportsperson route

At the moment there are two possible visas for professional sportspeople. One is T2 Sportsperson and the other is T5 Creative or Sporting Worker. The names reflect the old categorisation of work visas into Tier 2 or Tier 5, which has been abolished but lingers on, ghost-like, in the otherwise meaningless prefixes T2 and T5.

All this is being swept away. There will now be one visa called International Sportsperson, although it will continue to cater for athletes coming to the UK for 12 months or less. The T5 label is being removed from the remaining temporary routes, so they will be called “Temporary Work – Creative Worker”, “Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker”, etc.

The main requirement for getting an International Sportsperson visa is to have an endorsement from the UK governing body of the relevant sport. Those wishing to stay for longer than 12 months must also speak basic English (level A1). These requirements are expressed as “points”, but they are in reality mandatory rules, since the only way to earn the points is to tick the boxes.

Table A    
Points required (mandatory) Relevant rules Points available
Governing Body Endorsement ISP 5.1 50
Certificate of Sponsorship ISP 5.2 and ISP 5.3 10
Financial requirements ISP 7.1 to ISP 7.3 10
Table B    
Points required (mandatory) where the permission applied for exceeds 12 months Relevant rules Points available
English Language at level A1 ISP 8.1 and ISP 8.2 10

This takes effect from 11 October. We’ll look to write a more detailed summary of the International Sportsperson route between now and then.

Global Talent

Quite a few changes are being made to Appendix Global Talent. This is the visa for people with “exceptional talent or exceptional promise” in various fields. Generally they must have an endorsement from a specific organisation in that field: Arts Council England for the arts and culture track, Tech Nation for the digital technology track, etc.

Those organisations seem to have given feedback on how it’s all working, which is being reflected in changes to the endorsement criteria. Those changes include:

  • evidence of exceptional talent/promise in arts and culture can include media coverage of the applicant’s work “as a named member of a group”, not just individually (see paragraphs GTE 3.3 and 3.4).
  • evidence of exceptional promise in digital technology can be accompanied by just one example, rather than two (GTE 7.4).
  • fast track endorsement will be possible for people who have held an approved fellowship or award from the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering or British Academy in the past five years, rather than the past 12 months (GTE 8.2).

Various other changes are highlighted in the explanatory memo. The broad effect is to make it a little easier to get Global Talent endorsements.

Similarly, the list of “prestigious prizes” that qualify the recipient for a Global Talent visa without the need for an endorsement at all is being expanded. At present there are 72 such awards in Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes. Five of them are Nobel Prizes and six are Oscars, so the bar is pretty high.

The new list contains twice as many awards — I make it 145 — with a big expansion in science, engineering, humanities and medicine. See page 63 of the statement of changes for the full list.

EU family permits

The non-EU family members of EU citizens with pre-settled or settled status under Appendix EU to the Rules need a type of visa called a “family permit” to join their sponsor in the UK. The rules governing these permits are in the inscrutable Appendix EU (Family Permit). Those rules are, according to the explanatory memo, being changed as follows:

  • to allow a joining family member to apply to the EUSS whilst in the UK as a visitor. From 6 October 2021, the temporary concession to this effect outside Appendix EU where certain joining family members are concerned, as currently set out in the EUSS caseworker guidance, will cease to operate.
  • technical changes to reflect the passing of the 30 June 2021 deadline for applications to the EUSS by those resident in the UK by the end of the transition period (though a late application can still be made where there are reasonable grounds as to why the person missed that deadline).
  • technical changes to reflect the fact that, as the Home Office has already confirmed to relevant stakeholders, a person who is exempt from immigration control can, if they wish, apply to the EUSS whilst they remain exempt, or they can apply once they have ceased to be exempt.

We’ll have to take their word for it, as there is no hope of puzzling out the amendments themselves. For anyone who wants to try, see pages 32 to 39 of the statement of changes document. (We’re also hoping to put out a separate, more detailed article on these changes later in the week.)

Youth Mobility Scheme: Iceland and India

Citizens of Iceland and India will in future be able to get a Youth Mobility visa. There will be 1,000 places for Iceland (population: 366,000) and 3,000 places for India (population: 1.4 billion). Indians interested in the visa will therefore enter a lottery (“invitation to apply arrangements”), as Japanese, Taiwanese, Hongkongers and South Koreans already do.

There are also extra requirements for Indian citizens. They must satisfy either paragraph YMS 4.5B or YMS 4.5C:

YMS 4.5B. This additional requirement is met where the applicant:

(a) holds a qualification equal to or above RQF level 6; and

(b) provides evidence of that qualification in the form of written confirmation from the issuing institution that they successfully completed their studies and graduated with the required qualification

RQF level 6 means an undergraduate degree. Alternatively:

YMS 4.5C. This additional requirement is met where the applicant:

(a) has a minimum of three years’ work experience in a professional role equivalent to an eligible occupation listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations; and

(b) provides evidence of that work experience in the form of either:
(i) formal payslips from the applicant’s employer showing the applicant’s job title and employer’s name; or
(ii) payslips accompanied by a letter from the applicant’s employer, on the employer’s headed paper and signed by a senior official, confirming the payslips are authentic.

Appendix Skilled Occupations lists roles that can be sponsored for a Skilled Worker or Intra Company Transfer visas. The difference with Youth Mobility compared with those routes is that there is no need for employer sponsorship.

When the government first announced that Indians would get Youth Mobility visas, it said that they would need to “be able to express themselves in the language(s) of the host country”, but that seems to have been dropped as there is no mention of an English language requirement.

None of this takes effect until 1 January 2022.

Settlement for refugees

People with refugee status or humanitarian protection can apply for settlement in the UK after five years. This is normally a formality, although the Home Office does reserve the right, in theory, to send people back where they came from if they are no longer in need of refuge.

The statement of changes introduces a new Appendix Settlement Protection. The explanatory memo says that this is to “provide greater clarity”, rather than to change the substance of the refugee settlement rules. These are currently in paragraphs 339R, 339S and 339T in Part 11 of the Rules, which are being deleted.

The revised rules say that, where someone is refused settlement but is still entitled to refugee status or humanitarian protection, they will get a 30-month extension of permission to stay instead. There are separate provisions for main applicants and for dependants; the rules for the latter say that a partner applying for settlement must be in a “genuine and subsisting relationship” with their sponsor.

Coronavirus concessions

Various ways in which the Home Office promises to go easy on migrants affected by coronavirus are being written into the Rules, rather than being left as guidance. The concessions being incorporated in this way cover:

  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa holders unable to fulfil the job creation requirement
  • Skilled Workers and Sportspersons who began working before their visa was granted
  • Covid-related absences from the UK for people with EU pre-settled status; existing guidance is being replaced by changes to Appendix EU

We’re planning a separate follow-up article on this aspect of the statement of changes, so will leave it at that for now.

CJ McKinney is Free Movement's editor. He's here to make sure that the website is on top of everything that happens in the world of immigration law, whether by writing articles, commissioning them out or considering pitches. CJ is an adviser on legal and policy matters to the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, and keeps up with the wider legal world as a contributor to Legal Cheek. Twitter: @mckinneytweets.

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