My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department is today laying before the House a statement of changes in immigration rules.
We have made a change to the immigration rules which will open the new graduate route to enable international students to remain in the UK to work, or look for work, for two years (three years for doctoral students) after they have completed their studies. The route will open on 1 July 2021. All international students who have successfully completed a degree (or other qualifying course) at undergraduate level or above at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance, and who have valid student (or tier 4) permission, will be able to apply. The doctorate extension scheme (DES) will close when the graduate route opens. The introduction of this route, which was announced in September 2019, will significantly improve the UK’s offer to international students.
We are making changes to accommodate the launch of the new graduate route. The first change is to expand the definition of a new entrant to include those switching from the graduate route. Time spent in the graduate route will count towards the maximum period of four years for which a person can be considered a new entrant. We are also making a change so those previously on the student or graduate routes, who make a short visit to the UK, do not disqualify themselves from being considered a new entrant.
We are also giving effect to some of the recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee in its review of the shortage occupation list (SOL) in September 2020. We are adding eight occupations in the health and care sector as well as modern language teachers to the UK-wide SOL. We are removing chefs from the SOL, although they will continue to be eligible for the skilled worker route due to the expanded skills threshold.
In addition, we are accepting the recommendation to add deck hands on large fishing vessels and vent chicken sexers, where those occupations meet experience requirements, to the list of occupations which are eligible for the skilled worker route.
We are updating the salary thresholds to include a minimum hourly rate to safeguard against employers who may require employees to work longer hours to make up for the lower rates of pay. We are including a transitional arrangement for those already on the skilled worker route in a job paying less than the minimum (£10.10 per hour) to avoid anyone losing their job as a result of the change.
We are making a change to prevent employers from reducing their skilled worker salaries below the level of tradeable points which have been assessed and awarded by the Home Office. If a sponsor wishes to reduce a salary based on a different set of tradeable points, a new application will be required. This ensures the Home Office has assessed and confirmed that the skilled worker continues to meet the requirement of the route.
We are expanding the academic technology approval scheme to include those coming to the UK under a sponsored work route to work in an occupation which includes postgraduate research in an academic environment, in certain sensitive subjects where an individual’s knowledge could be used in programmes to develop advanced conventional weapon technology, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), or their means of delivery. This change is designed to protect UK research from exploitation and from inadvertently supporting the proliferation of WMD or advanced conventional weapon technologies.
Some adjustments are being made to the EU settlement scheme (EUSS) and the EUSS family permit. These will ensure their continued operability and the full implementation of the citizens’ rights agreements beyond the 30 June 2021 deadline for applications to the EUSS by those EEA citizens and their family members resident in the UK by the end of the transition period. By 31 January 2021, more than 5 million applications to the EUSS had been received and more than 4.5 million grants of status had been issued.
We are making changes to the global talent route to enable applicants who have reached the pinnacle of their careers to bypass the endorsement requirement and instead qualify if they have received a prestigious prize. An initial list of prizes have been identified and agreed by the endorsing bodies for the route based on their expert opinion and represent the leading awards in their respective fields.
Applicants meeting this requirement will not be required to apply for endorsement, which should expedite the application process. In all other aspects, the requirements and conditions applying to individuals relying on a prestigious prize will be consistent with those who qualify using an exceptional talent endorsement, including having a three year qualifying period for settlement and identical conditions applied to their permission.
There are currently two separate schemes to assist current and former locally employed staff (LES) in Afghanistan: the ex-gratia scheme (EGS) and the intimidation policy. The existing intimidation policy is available to any current or former Afghan LES who have been employed directly by the UK Government in Afghanistan since 2001, from the first day of their employment, regardless of their role, job or length of service. This is being replaced with the Afghan relocation and assistance policy (ARAP) for current and former Afghan LES to reflect the changing security situation in Afghanistan and the risk faced by current and former LES there. The EGS will continue to operate without change until the closing date of 30 November 2022 already set out in the immigration rules.
The ARAP moves away from the present policy model which is based on the investigation of alleged cases of intimidation and requires discrete evidence, and into an assessment-oriented approach. This will be grounded in a recognition that the situation in Afghanistan has evolved and poses a latent threat to many current and former LES in particular roles. Other assistance, e.g. internal moves in-country and bespoke security advice, will still be available where appropriate and reflects that not all LES are able or willing to relocate.
An amendment is being made to clarify the grounds for refusal policy intention that permission may only be refused or cancelled on the basis of rough sleeping where the person has repeatedly refused offers of support and engaged in persistent antisocial behaviour.
Finally, a change is being made to Appendix Hong Kong British national (Overseas) which will allow those on the British national (Overseas) route to apply to vary their conditions to have their no recourse to public funds condition lifted where they are able to demonstrate they are destitute or at imminent risk of destitution.