The Graduate route is open: Further changes announced to the Immigration system in April 2021
Last week, the Home Office published a new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules. The Government announcement explained the launch of a new Graduate route on 1 July 2021. This appeared along with amendments to the Rules. Furthermore, in the Budget published last week, the Chancellor announced further anticipated changes to the current Immigration system. They intend through this, to boost the economy as part of the pandemic recovery plan.
Graduate route to open on 1 July 2021
The Graduate route launches as a post-Brexit incentive for UK education and aims to retain bright international students in the UK.
- The Graduate route will open for applications on 1 July 2021.
- It will allow international students who have completed a Bachelor or Masters degree at a UK Higher Education Provider to stay in the UK for further two years. This also includes professional qualification degrees, such as LPC or PGCE. PhD graduates can stay for three years.
- Applicants must have a valid Student (or Tier 4) visa at the time of application. Unfortunately, graduates whose Tier 4 or Student visa expires before this route opens cannot apply.
- Graduates will be able to work or look for work during the two / three-year period.
- No sponsor is needed and applicants will not need a job offer to apply.
- There is no minimum salary requirement on this route, so applicants can work freely and flexibility under this route.
- The Graduate route does not lead to settlement. Applicants must switch to other categories before their visa expiry to remain in the UK.
- All applicants will need to be in the UK for a minimum required length of time, subject to COVID-19 concessions below.
- Students who began their studies in Autumn 2020, but cannot travel to the UK due to COVID-19 must enter the UK by 21 June 2021 to apply. Those students who began their studies in January or February 2021 must enter the UK by 27 September 2021.
- Those Dependants who are already in the UK as Dependants of students, can apply with the main applicant. However, no new Dependants may join the main applicant, apart from UK-born children.
- The visa application fee is £700. Applicants must also pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge at the full rate of £624 per year.
Other changes from the statement of changes
The statement of changes also announced several other changes to the existing work-related routes. These include:
- Shortage Occupation list for skilled workers. This expands to include eight more professions, such as senior care workers, physiotherapists, pharmacists etc. Chefs are now excluded from the list.
- In a nod to the fishing and farming industry, deckhands on large fishing vessels and chicken sexers were added to the list of professions eligible for sponsorship.
- Minimum salary for Skilled Workers now demands a minimum hourly rate of £10.10. This prevents employers from increasing weekly hours for staff to qualify for the general minimum salary level.
- Changes to Global Talent route include introduction of Prestigious Prizes list. This announces that winners of certain prizes will not need an endorsement from an Endorsing body. They can apply directly for a visa. The list includes prizes, such as Nobel Prize, Grammy, Golden Globe, Turing Award etc.
- Changes to BN(O) route includes: Permission for those individuals who are in the UK on the BN(O) route and later become destitute or risking imminent destitution, may apply for access to public funds.
- Continuous residence now clarifies the position of dependants of work-related route migrants applying for settlement. They don’t have to include their absences outside the UK in the 180 day limit for the period before 11 January 2018.
- A change to the Innovator route adds a requirement that applicants must be the sole founder. Or alternatively, an instrumental member of the founding team of the business endorsed by an endorsing body. This prevents applicants from joining an existing business and applying for endorsement as a director, but not founder of the business.
Further changes to the Immigration System in 2022
The UK government aims to bring more changes to the current Immigration Rules. This aims to help the country attract high skilled workers and global talents in the coming years. In his Budget, the Chancellor set out the roadmap and timescale to modernise the current Immigration system.
The government did not release any details, but in summary they plan to make the following changes:
- Introduce by March 2020 an elite points-based visa. There will be a ‘scaleup’ stream within this visa, enabling those with a job offer from a recognised UK scaleup to qualify for a fast-track visa.
- Reform of the Global Talent visa: This allows holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for early promise to qualify automatically.
- Review of the Innovator visa: To make it easier for those with the right skills and experience to establish an innovative business in the UK and to obtain a visa.
- Launch of the new Global Business Mobility visa: By spring 2022 for overseas businesses to establish a presence or transfer staff to the UK.
- Modernise the immigration sponsorship system to make it easier to use. The government will publish a delivery roadmap in the summer.
- Provide practical support to small companies using the visa system for the first time.
- Establish a global outreach strategy: By expanding the Global Entrepreneur Programme. They will market the UK’s visa offering and explore building an overseas talent network.