Changes to UK "Tier 1" business immigration rules

27 May 2014

The Home Office has announced that:

  • from 6 April 2015, Tier 1 (General) migrants will no longer be able to apply for an extension to their leave to remain in the UK; and
  • from 6 April 2018, Tier 1 (General) migrants will no longer be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILTR) in the UK.

From 2002, highly skilled people who met certain education and earnings thresholds were able to apply to come to the UK to look for work and self-employment opportunities, under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme which was then subsequently renamed the Tier 1 (General) scheme. The Home Office closed the Tier 1 (General) scheme to overseas applicants in December 2010 and to applicants from within the UK in March 2011. However, individuals who were already in the UK under the Tier 1 (General) scheme when it closed have always been able to extend their permission to live and work in the UK.

As a result of the Home Office announcement, Tier 1 (General) migrants will need to consider their options carefully before 6 April 2015. If a migrant's leave to remain will expire before 6 April 2015, an extension application can be submitted in the usual way. If a migrant's leave to remain will expire after 6 April 2015, it may be possible to submit an early extension application subject to the migrant satisfying the relevant Tier 1 (General) criteria. Migrants will need to consider the impact which any early extension application may have on their overall immigration strategy. Extensions will be granted for 2 or 3 years depending on when the migrant was last granted leave to remain under the Tier 1 (General) rules.

A Tier 1 (General) migrant with five years' continuous residence in the UK may qualify for ILTR if he meets all of the requirements of the Tier 1 (General) and ILTR rules before 6 April 2018. If the migrant does not qualify for ILTR before 6 April 2018 or before the expiry of the extended Tier 1 (General) status (if sooner), then he will need to look to alternative immigration schemes – such as Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 2 (General) – in order to extend his leave to remain in the UK.

We strongly recommend that all employers undertake a thorough audit of all migrant workers and put in place an appropriate strategy to ensure that all Tier 1 (General) migrants submit appropriate applications before the above deadlines or otherwise put in place contingency arrangements.

Bird & Bird has extensive experience in advising on a wide range of immigration issues and applications, as well as supporting businesses and senior executives with their overall HR strategies of which these form a part – working seamlessly alongside our international Employment, Tax and Employee Incentives & Benefits teams to do so. Our Business Immigration team is international and covers the 18 countries where the firm has a presence, in addition to a large number of others where we have alliance relationships in place, providing a complete ' global mobility' service.