My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules as set out below. These changes continue our reforms to the UK immigration system.
The changes we are making to the rules will ensure that those who do not qualify for international protection on account of their conduct, for example serious criminality, are not granted settlement or limited leave to remain in the UK under the immigration rules.
We are also abolishing the “28-day grace period”, during which we currently accept out of time applications for a range of routes including work and study, to encourage greater compliance with the immigration rules. This will make clear that people must comply with the rules and make any application for further leave before their current leave expires.
The changes also include the reduction in the threshold of NHS debt from £1,000 to £500 for family cases and armed forces cases to align with changes made elsewhere in the rules in April 2016.
The changes also provide for a new English language requirement for non-European economic area national partners and parents applying to extend their stay in the UK. The new requirement, which can be met by passing, as a minimum, an A2 level common European framework of reference for languages speaking and listening test, will apply to partners and parents whose current leave on a five-year route to settlement under the family rules is due to expire on or after 1 May 2017.
The new A2 requirement will deliver on the Government’s manifesto commitment to ensure that those coming to the UK on a family visa with only basic English become more fluent over time. We believe this will improve integration in communities. An associated statement of intent and policy equality statement will be published today on gov.uk.
Following a review by the independent Migration Advisory Committee, on 24 March 2016 the Government announced two phases of reforms to tier 2, to be implemented in autumn 2016 and April 2017. The changes being laid today implement the first phase of these reforms. This includes changes to the salary thresholds for tier 2 (general) and short-term intra-company transfers (ICTs), and closure of the ICT skills transfer category. There are exemptions from the new salary for certain occupations in health and education.
We are also making technical changes to the immigration rules to clarify the concepts of a first country of asylum and a safe third country.