The UK immigration system has incurred major changes this year. These changes aim to transform and simplify the immigration rules, system and policies.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is working to fully digitalise the Immigration system by 2024. The first step in achieving full digitalisation has been to stop the production of physical Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs). Recently issued BRPs have an expiry date of 31 December 2024 irrespective of the actual leave to remain/leave to enter end date stated in the Home Office approval letter. From the 1 January 2025 migrants will have to digitally evidence their UK immigration status, irrespective of their nationality.
The Home Office has announced delayed processing times for in-country visa applications. Current processing times via the standard service are delayed from 8 weeks to approximately 16 weeks, from the date of a biometric appointment. This is in large part due to the ongoing problems and glitches resulting from the digitisation of the Immigration system. Whilst some applications are being decided within the published service standard, others have been taking much longer to be decided. This has caused major concerns and complaints mostly coming from many purchasing the priority service and not receiving a decision within the expedited timeframe, which should be within 5 working days from the date of a biometric appointment.
Sponsor licence application
The sponsor licence application standard service has been subject to Home Office delays, increasing from 8 to 10 weeks, which is expected to last until the beginning of March 2023. To eliminate this issue, the Home Office is hiring and training additional personnel, however, this hiring process is not due to be completed until the new year or later.
Immigration Skills Charge: new exemption
Subject to Parliamentary approval, from the 1 January 2023, sponsors hiring individuals coming from a linked EU business for less than 36 months, will be exempt from the payment of the Immigration Skills Charge. This should result in them saving up to £3000 per sponsored individual.
Work start date
The relevant Home Office guidance has been updated to confirm that a sponsored worker may commence their employment as soon as they receive their permission to enter or stay in the UK, whether this is before or after the work start date stated on their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). It has also been confirmed that a sponsor does not need to report a change of start date via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) unless the worker’s start date is delayed for more than 28 days following the initial CoS’ start date.
Travelling to the UK: Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme
The Secretary of State has introduced a 'Permission to Travel scheme' in 2023, to further strengthen the UK border. This means that all travellers to the UK will need permission in advance of travel. The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 introduced the power to require travellers to the UK to hold an ETA (digital approval to travel to the UK). This mimics the approach used by many countries, including the USA (ESTA), Canada (ETA), Australia (eTA) and New Zealand (NZeTA). The European Union is expected to launch a similar scheme in 2023 (ETIAS).
Individuals applying for an ETA will provide their biometric and contact details in addition to answering a short set of suitability questions. This information will be checked against the UK’s immigration systems and will be assessed to determine whether the person has permission to travel to the UK.
Events this year, ranging from Liz Truss’ resignation to the Immigration’s system’s digitalisation, have had a significant impact on the decision-making process for both UK sponsors and migrant workers. Further changes to facilitate the migration of 'highly skilled' individuals to the UK are expected to take place in 2023.
If you have any questions on the above, or need any help, please feel free to contact us.