Wood stick with small white flags on yellow and blue background showing past and future

The most recent Statement of Changes HC1160, published on 9 March 2023, sees yet more important changes being introduced to the UK Immigration Rules.

Statement of Changes HC1160

As stated in the explanatory memorandum to this Statement, the “changes being made primarily deliver Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETA), introduction of the Innovator Founder route and updates to the employment requirements in work routes.” These changes are intended to go live from 12 and 13 April 2023. So what is set to change?

Introduction of the Innovator Founder Route

Possibly the most significant change to be announced was the introduction of the new Innovator Founder Route, which has replaced the existing Innovator and Start up routes. The idea behind the change is to make more flexible provision for those with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and sufficient funds to deliver it, after it was widely reported that the existing routes were seen to be too restrictive and not fit for purpose, with an extremely low take up rate.

The Innovator Founder route removes the requirement to have funds of at least £50,000 and relaxes the existing restrictions on innovators engaging in employment outside the running of their business, provided such secondary employment is in a skilled role. The existing Start-up route will be closed to new initial applications except where they are supported by endorsements issued before 13 April 2023.

It is hoped that the changes will ensure that overseas nationals who have the skills and experience to set up and run innovative businesses in the UK are able to secure their visa more easily than ever before, by cutting down the bureaucracy involved in applications.

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has made it clear that one of his government’s main priorities is to secure our borders by ensuring that everyone wishing to travel to the UK (except British and Irish citizens) has permission to do so in advance of travel. In this Statement of Changes, it has now been announced that the “gap” in the system will be filled by the introduction of the Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme (ETA). This Scheme will apply to third country national passengers visiting or transiting through the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays.

The detail of how the ETA Scheme will work in practice has not yet been released, but it is expected in the next few months. The ETA scheme will be implemented in a phased manner, on a nationality basis, over the next two years, with Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia being the first countries to benefit from the ETA scheme from October 2023. By the end of 2024, ETAs will be a requirement worldwide for visitors who do not need a visa for short stays, including those visiting from Europe.

Changes to work routes

The salary requirements for skilled work immigration routes have been updated in line with the latest Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data. The minimum salary threshold for Skilled Worker visas is now £26,200, which is an increase from £25,600. This will now be based on a 37.5 hour week, as opposed to 39 hours which is the case currently. It has also been clarified that the minimum salary requirement for Global Business Mobility Senior and Specialist workers is £45,800 and £24,220, and £34,600 for Scale-up workers. Further, for all work routes which require an applicant to have a specific job offer, applications will be refused if the decision maker has “reasonable grounds to believe that the job does not comply with the National Minimum Wage Regulations or the Working Time regulations”.

In addition, Jury service and attending court as a witness will be added as valid reasons for absence from employment in relation to consideration about continuity of employment.

Youth Mobility Scheme for New Zealand Nationals

The Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) is an international agreement between various countries, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Under this Scheme, young people between the ages of 18 – 30 (from certain countries) can apply for a two year visa which enables them to come to the UK to work and/or study.

The UK’s bilateral agreement with New Zealand has been enhanced in respect of the Youth Mobility Route. In particular the age range for young people entitled to apply for YMS visa has increased from 30 to 35. The duration of the visa has also been extended from 2 to 3 years. The Rule changes bring these enhancements into effect.

Changes to the EU Settlement Scheme

The Statement also provides (at long last) clarification for those submitting applications to the EU Settlement Scheme as durable partners. The changes made to Appendix EU underline the original policy intent under the Scheme that it is only where applicants had another lawful basis of stay in the UK before the end of the transition period, that a durable partner who does not have a document issued as a partner, can rely on that residence. This will be welcome news for many people, not least those who have pending appeals on this very point.

If you are seeking advice or have any questions in relation to this article, please contact our Immigration team.