Changes to work visas from 11 January 2018
The government has announced a number of changes to work visas with effect from 11 January 2018, with some positive outcomes for migrants and their employers:
Electronic entry clearance
The government is trialling electronic entry clearance for certain groups from 11 January 2018 (as opposed to the traditional stamp in a migrant's passport). The affected groups have not yet been announced but it is anticipated that a broader rollout will follow if the trial is successful.
Migrants with electronic entry clearance will not be required to present their visa to an Immigration Officer on arrival in the UK as it will be checked electronically at the border. However, the migrant will still need to present their passport to evidence their identity in the usual way.
Tier 2 (General) and settlement
Currently, a Tier 2 (General) migrant who has spent 5 years in the UK must have been continuously employed throughout the five year qualifying period to be eligible for settlement in the UK. Only breaks of employment of less than 60 days can be disregarded. This means that a Tier 2 (General) migrant with a break of more than 60 days between periods of employment could not qualify for indefinite leave to remain in the UK after five years. Instead, they would have to apply to renew their leave, but the maximum period of leave under Tier 2 (General) is capped at a maximum of six years. Therefore, these migrants could not apply for indefinite leave to remain and would have to leave the UK after six years. They would then be caught by the cooling-off period requiring them to be outside the UK for at least 12 months, unless they were high earners.
Going forwards Tier 2 (General) migrants who enter the UK after 11 January 2018 are not required to have been continuously employed throughout the qualifying period to be eligible for settlement. The provision is deemed unnecessary as a Tier 2 migrant who is no longer working for their sponsor is subject to a 60 day curtailment of their visa in any event.
Switching from Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2
From 11 January 2018, students will be able to apply to switch from their Tier 4 (student) visa to a Tier 2 work visa as soon as they have completed their course, rather than having to wait until they have received their final results (as currently).