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New Immigration Rules: revised but not so simplified

On 1.12.2020 UK Visas and Immigration published over 150 new guidance covering the new routes for migration to the UK. These accompany a major overhaul of the UK Immigration Rules published in October 2020 (HC 813) and which mostly took effect at the beginning of this month.

Whilst the intention was to simplify the Immigration rules which had reached "a degree of complexity that even Byzantine emperors would have envied" by using loose language and tucking away large proportions of the Immigration Rules in the myriad of Appendices (at least, for the time being) much room for confusion and argument has been created.

Whilst there are some welcome changes, for example, to the Skilled worker route such as lowering the skills threshold to Level 3 and removing the Resident Labour Market Test, further intricacies have been introduced and the pressing need to add Care workers to the shortage occupation list has been overlooked once again.

Change for the sake of change has also meant we end the year with more re-branding and recycling of old routes.

Certificates of Sponsorship become “Defined CoS” (instead of Restricted CoS for overseas applications) but remain nevertheless vetted by the Home Office whilst Unrestricted CoS have the new appellation of “Undefined CoS”.

The lack of “definition” in the Tier 2 route was probably more to do with a failure to address the needs of business by providing a fast, responsive and user friendly system with UKVI’s commercial partners playing a more co-ordinated role in relation to the provision of biometrics and facilitating transmission of the applications to caseworkers.

It has to be said, there are some further sensible improvements to the new style Points Based System such as reducing the need to have held the funds for maintenance from 90 days to 28 days instead although the actual amount has increased from £945 to £1270.

EU and Turkish nationals who may apply from now for a Skilled worker visa will be able to come in using the visa from 1.1.2021. Their visa fees benefit from the gesture of a £55 reduction compared to those for the rest of the world, which for a three year plus visa weigh in at £1,220 per person if applying for a Skilled worker visa from overseas or £1408 if applying in country. In country switching has also been widened. Costs may remain prohibitive for some employers who, despite the high levels of unemployment we are likely to witness in the coming months, will find it difficult to recruit locally.

Appendix EU, which perhaps could have benefited most from simplification, remains inherently difficult to fathom with its mammoth Annex 1 and endless cross-referencing. Perhaps it reflects the level of perplexity involved in the EU withdrawal process.

Regrettably, a meaningful route for businesspeople other than the Innovator alternative for the now obsolete Tier 1 Entrepreneur is still woefully missing. SMEs tend to drive an economy forward. If we are to tackle the deep recession that will come hot on the heels of Covid-19 and Brexit we need to encourage inward investment that will create jobs and genuinely attract entrepreneurship to compensate for the brain drain we will have inevitably engendered. Whilst myopic vision clearly blighted some making decisions in government earlier this year, can we “afford” to allow this Kingdom of ours to disintegrate further asunder and inflict yet more acts of self-harm upon ourselves. If we wish to attract “the brightest and the best” we will first need to have a stable, dynamic and attractive economy rather than driving anyone who could “add value” away with an obsessive pursuit of reducing net migration and adding to the level of hostility in the environment.

Whilst we all adapt and come to terms with a new way of living and working, and try to cope with the fall-out from turning our backs on our closest allies, one might think that some "stability" would be more welcome than the relentless changes to the Immigration Rules, at least for a couple of years...

Author: Nilmini Roelens

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