Bird & Bird's UK Business Immigration team brings you the latest updates from the Home Office:
- The Home Office issued £11.6 million in civil penalties against employers who were in breach of working legislation between 1 October 2017 and 31 December 2017. Conducting a valid and legal right to work check and ensuring compliance with regulations are becoming increasingly important as enforcement activities are no longer centred around takeaway restaurants and carwashes.
- On 13 June 2018, the Home Secretary announced a new start-up visa route, replacing the existing graduate-only visa route. The hope is to make the UK's worker market more accessible to 'a wider pool of talented business founders'. Applicants will need to have an endorsement from a university or approved business sponsor. With a particular focus on the tech sector, the aim is to encourage job creation and investment in the UK economy. The new route will launch in Spring 2019. It remains to be seen how this new route will compare with the existing Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route.
- As of 6 July 2018, ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) holders who have resided outside of the UK for more than two consecutive years are now required to apply for and obtain an entry clearance for indefinite leave to enter. Previously, it was at the (subjective) discretion of the Immigration Officer at the border to decide the intention of individuals who were seeking re-entry after having lived outside of the UK for more than two consecutive years. The proposed change to Section 19, Part 1 of the Immigration Rules clarifies the situation.
- From 6 July 2018, the Exceptional talent visa (Tier 1) will also be made available to exceptional fashion designers. The designers will be assessed by the British Fashion Council under the endorsement remit of the Arts Council England. As well as designers, the route will also be available to a wider pool of TV and film applicants. A total of 2,000 talent visas are available annually.
- On Friday 15 June 2018, the UK Government announced that highly skilled doctors and nurses would be taken out of the Tier 2 visa annual cap. The Tier 2 visa entry route has had an annual cap of 20,700 since 2011. However, the cap has been met every month since December 2017, despite a continuing shortage of doctors and nurses in the UK. As well as enabling more medically-trained staff to enter the UK more freely, the change enables other highly-skilled occupations to take advantage of the freed-up places.
- The restrictions on Croatian workers working in the UK will expire on 30 June 2018. The Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, announced that there was "not enough evidence to satisfy the legal requirements to extend the controls". The restriction was originally put in place to prevent a severe disturbance to the UK's labour market, but with unemployment at 'near record lows' the Minister no longer believes that Croatian access to the market is a cause for concern.
- On 21 June 2018, the Home Office published new guidance on the EU Settlement Scheme. The draft guidance provides further clarity on how EU nationals and their family members who are residing in the UK can register under the new scheme once the UK exits the EU. The new registration scheme remains subject to the draft Withdrawal Agreement currently being negotiated between the UK and the EU, in anticipation of the UK leaving the EU on 30 March 2019.