The government has today announced some limited changes to the Immigration Rules affecting the EU Settlement Scheme, Representative of an Overseas Business (‘sole rep’), Start-Up, Innovator and Global Talent immigration routes, as well as minor clarification of the Appendix FM partner route. In summary, there is nothing that fundamentally alters the nature of the various visa routes, these changes being more of a technical and/or clarificatory nature.
Apart for those in respect of the EU Settlement Scheme, the changes will come into effect on 4th June, 2020. The EU Settlement Scheme changes will come into effect on 24th August, 2020.
EU Settlement Scheme
The EU Settlement Scheme is effectively extended to include the family members of “people of Northern Ireland” whether British or Irish citizens, as well as to victims of domestic violence. The changes also provide a continued right of residence for partners whose marriage or civil partnership has been legally terminated, in line with the former EEA Regulations provisions for retaining a right of residence in such circumstances. There are a few other small changes we don’t need to mention here.
Global Talent visa
In respect of the Global Talent visa, the changes are either of a clarificatory or technical nature, primarily concerned with the nature of the evidence an applicant can provide to endorsing bodies, and there are no changes to the route itself.
Appendix FM partner route
There are minor changes to the Appendix FM partner route, the only one of note being a clarification that, where an applicant is applying for leave to remain and they have been convicted and sentenced to a period of imprisonment for a period between twelve months to four years, they will be automatically refused unless ten years has passed since the end of the sentence.
Start-up and Innovator
There are some small but significant changes to the Start-up and Innovator Immigration Rules. The Rules are being reinforced to make it clear that an applicant needs to come up with the business idea and the business plan themselves and that they must be a founder. The new Rules also clarify that an applicant’s business may already be trading as long as they are a founding member.
UKVI has inserted a provision which allows them to request additional evidence or information from the applicant or the endorsing body where they have concerns about the endorsement. A term to this effect was already contained in the credibility assessment provisions so there is no real change here but it seems UKVI is putting the endorsing bodies on notice by spelling this out under the endorsement provisions.
The ‘viability’ criterion is being augmented to include a requirement that, “The applicant’s business plan is realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources”.
It is being made clear that applicants can change business ventures as long as the new venture continues to meet the approval of the endorsing body according to the endorsement criteria. New endorsement is not required.
The Rules are also being changed to enable higher education institutions to become endorsing bodies for Innovators and to enable government departments to become endorsing bodies.
There are further minor changes we don’t need to mention here.
In summary, it seems clear UKVI is now turning its focus on endorsing bodies and the endorsement itself, although the route itself is, alas, left unchanged.
Representative of an Overseas Business (often referred to as ‘sole rep’, being the old terminology)
There is an important change being made to this route, that being dependent spouses are prevented from being majority shareholders of the overseas business. UKVI is also trying to beef up its assessment of the applicant in terms of suitability for the role of representing the employer in the UK and the genuineness of the applicant. This will presumably provide more scope for UKVI to refuse applications where they are not satisfied. The changes are summarised as follows in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Changes:-
- An amendment is being made to prevent an overseas business sending a representative to facilitate their entry to the UK when there is no genuine intention for them to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK;
- Clarification is being added to reflect that overseas businesses must be active and trading and intend to maintain their principal place of business outside the UK;
- An amendment is being made to reflect that applicants must have the skills, experience, knowledge and authority to represent the overseas business in the UK;
- Clarification is being added to reflect that applicants must be senior employees and cannot engage in their own business or represent any other business in the UK;
- An amendment is being made to reflect that the ownership of overseas businesses is not limited to businesses that issue shares;
- An amendment is being made to prevent majority owners from entering as the dependent spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner of a representative of their own business. This will prevent owners circumventing the rules intended to prevent them relocating their business to the UK under this route.
- An amendment is being made to the extension criteria to clarify that the branch or subsidiary must have been established in the UK, and not overseas.
If you have any queries in relation to these changes, or any immigration questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.