My right hon Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in the immigration rules, which implement the next phase of our reforms to the immigration system.
The student reforms, originally proposed in our student visas consultation which ran from December 2010 to January 2011, were set out in more detail in a statement of intent published by the Home Office on 13 February.
These changes include closing the post-study work route which gave migrant graduates free access to the UK labour market. The Government believe this route is inappropriate when UK national graduates are struggling to find work. However, in keeping with our focus on the brightest and best, I am introducing a new tier 1 route for graduate entrepreneurs and new provisions for graduates who have an offer of a skilled job to switch into tier 2. I am renewing the annual limit for tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) at the same level it was set for the last year, 1,000 places. In order to give more certainty to potential applicants, I propose that this level will remain the same for each of the next two years, and will be reviewed again for April 2014.
I am making changes to the rules for entry clearance and leave to remain under tier 2 which will apply to applications made after April 2012. Temporary leave as a skilled worker will be limited to a maximum stay of six years and will be granted in two blocks of three, rather than the current 3+2. In addition, the changes will mean that tier 2 migrants who leave the UK will need to wait 12 months after the expiry of their leave before they may reapply to return under that tier.
The changes I am proposing to make to the immigration rules for tier 2 settlement, tier 5 of the points-based system, the visitor rules and the overseas domestic worker routes, give effect to the next phase of our programme of immigration reform, following the public consultation on employment-related settlement, tier 5 and overseas domestic workers which ran from 9 June to 9 September last year. The Home Secretary set out the detail of the changes in her written ministerial statement to the House on 29 February 2012, Official Report, column 33WS. I am today publishing impact assessments of these policy changes and will place these documents in the Library of the House. The rule changes will introduce a new minimum pay threshold for tier 2 migrants eligible for settlement from April 2016, and limit the total amount of time a person may remain in the UK as a tier 2 migrant to six years. They will also implement reforms to the overseas domestic worker routes to return them to their original purpose, to enable visitors and diplomats to bring their overseas household staff with them to the UK for temporary stay. Taken together, these measures will break the link between coming to the UK to work and settling permanently.
Some targeted changes to tier 5 will enhance the focus and flexibility of this tier. Those coming to participate in internships and work experience schemes under the Government Authorised Exchange sub-category will be restricted to one-off stays of a maximum of 12 months, which is sufficient for these purposes. However, the rules for sports persons entering under the creative and sporting sub-category will be amended so that individuals may undertake some guest sports broadcasting work, where this is not filling a permanent position. To introduce further flexibility for those coming to undertake short-term engagements, I will create a new visitor route (“Permitted Paid Engagements”) outside the points-based system for specific fee-paid engagements, which will enable certain professionals, as well as artists, entertainers and sports persons to come for up to one month without the need for formal sponsorship by a UK-based employer.
I am also introducing a premium customer service for those A-rated sponsors who wish to apply and pay for a range of benefits. These will include direct contact into the UK Border Agency, guaranteed access to public enquiry office appointments and swift return of documents for their sponsored workers. This is being introduced in response to requests from business for a higher level of customer service for themselves and their international workers.
Finally, I am making changes to Rule 323A to make curtailment of leave to enter or remain mandatory, rather than discretionary, where a migrant under tiers 2, 4, or 5 of the points-based system is not working or studying with their sponsor. Rule 323A also sets out limited exceptions to mandatory curtailment.