My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before Parliament a statement of changes in the immigration rules that will reshape tier 1 of the points-based system (PBS) for migration, tighten the requirements of tier 2 of the PBS, and tighten criteria for indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom. The changes also include a route of entry for family reunion for those granted protection; reduce the re-entry ban for immigration offenders who leave promptly, and facilitate visits by diplomatic and special passport holders from Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The statement of changes will take effect from 6 April 2011.
This Government are committed to reducing net migration to the UK to the tens of thousands. We review all routes of entry to the UK and implement a range of measures spanning all aspects of the immigration system.
In July 2010 the Government implemented an interim limit on tier 1 general and tier 2 general of the points-based system. These measures were taken to prevent a surge in applications through these routes while the Government consulted on the design of a mechanism to operate a permanent limit on non-EU economic migrants.
The UK Border Agency consulted employers in all sectors and received around 3,200 responses. Those responses helped shape the new tier 1 and 2 policies that formed the basis of the Home Secretary’s statement on 23 November and were elaborated upon in our tier 2 statement of intent published on 16 February. I will today place a copy of our tier 1 statement of policy in the House Libraries along with the impact assessment for the tier 1, tier 2 and settlement changes. The policies detailed in the statements will be given effect by the immigration rules laid before Parliament today.
Tier 1 is being re-focused to provide a route for migrants that have real value to offer the UK.
In support of the principle that all non-EEA workers should be sponsored by their employer, we will close tier 1 general to new applicants from 6 April. We closed the route to new applicants out of country on 23 December. Transitional measures will be put in place to ensure that tier 1 general migrants already in the UK will be able to extend their stay so long as they meet the requirements in place at the point they entered.
Current tier 1 investor and entrepreneur categories will be reformed to fit the profile of the high-value migrants they are intended for and to ensure that unnecessary bureaucracy does not stand in the way of these important individuals.
Investors will continue to qualify for settlement after five years if they have invested £1 million in the UK. Additionally, those who have invested £10 million will be able to apply for settlement after the investment is in place for two years. Those investing £5 million will be able to apply after the investment is in place for three years. Allowable absences will be increased from 90 to 180 days, enabling international business people to better manage their affairs abroad.
A new prospective entrepreneur visa will be introduced to allow entrepreneurs to come to the UK to secure funding. Switching in to the tier 1 entrepreneur category will be allowed.
For the tier 1 entrepreneur category: the existing £200,000 funding threshold will be reduced to £50,000 where the funding was provided by a venture capitalist, a Government Department or a seed competition. Up to two business partners will be able to use the route if they have equal access to the funding. Finally, successful entrepreneurs who create 10 full-time jobs or have a turnover of £5 million will be able to apply for settlement after three years.
A new category for exceptionally talented migrants working in science or the arts will be introduced in tier 1. The scheme will be administered by competent bodies in the arts and science. We will announce the details of these organisations in due course. We will apply a limit of 1,000 places in the first year. That limit, and the success of the route, will be monitored throughout the first year.
The number of certificates of sponsorship available for out of country migrants in tier 2 general will be limited to 20,700 for the year from 6 April.
The route will be reserved for graduate level occupations only. On Monday we announced that we have accepted the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendations on graduate level occupations on the current shortage occupation list. I have also asked the MAC to undertake a full review of the shortage occupation list.
In addition the minimum English language requirement for tier 2 general will be raised to B1 on the CEFR scale.
The limit will be operated on a monthly basis. A total of 4,200 places have been reserved for the first month and 1,500 places per month thereafter. When the limit is undersubscribed in a given month the places will be carried over to the next month. Where the limit is over subscribed we will prioritise according to scarcity of skills in the first instance and then according to salary. Scientists, academics and researchers will be afforded an additional premium. A points table will give effect to this prioritisation.
The tier 2 intra-company transfer route will be reshaped and focused on specialists and managers. Transferees will be able to come to the UK for up to five years if they are paid over £40,000, including allowances. Other transferees will be able to enter for up to 12 months if paid £24,000 or more. There will be a 12-month cooling off period at the end of the migrants’ stay to prevent individuals being perpetually sent to the UK for 12-month periods.
Transitional arrangements will ensure that the new requirements do not apply to those granted a tier 2 visa before 6 April.
On settlement the rules change applies a new criminality threshold to settlement applications, requiring all applicants to be clear of unspent convictions and also extends the income criteria that applies to those on a temporary route, so that it also applies when they apply for settlement, and to require such applicants to pass the “Life in the UK” test prior to gaining settlement, subject to some transitional provisions.
I am also introducing an amendment to the immigration rules relating to the general grounds for refusal. The existing re-entry ban for those previously removed from the UK is being amended to make it clear that where migrants participate in an assisted voluntary return programme or leave otherwise voluntarily, we expect them to do so promptly after being told to leave the UK. Those who voluntarily leave the UK promptly at public expense will have their re-entry ban reduced from five years to two years. Those who continue to delay receive a five-year or 10-year re-entry ban. This addition seeks to bring cases to a conclusion earlier by providing a clear incentive for people to depart from the UK sooner and increase participation in assisted voluntary return programmes.
There are also changes to the immigration rules in respect of certain family members of refugees and those granted humanitarian protection, where the family relationship arose after the sponsor in the United Kingdom left his or her home country.
I have also made provision to enable nationals of Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates who hold a diplomatic passport to be able to come to the United Kingdom for a visit without the need for a visa. This will facilitate travel and close working relations between these passport holders and the United Kingdom.