The expansion of the shortage occupation list and the introduction of a two-year automatic extension for pre-settled status have garnered widespread support among sponsors and migrants. However, the prospect of limiting international students' ability to bring dependents into the country, while aligned with the government's net migration goals, requires careful consideration to ensure the competitiveness of UK universities globally and to mitigate potential broader economic and social consequences.
On the 17th of July 2023, the government released a Statement of Changes to the immigration rules, documented as HC 1496. Notable adjustments that are likely to impact businesses and migrant workers in the UK are outlined below.
The shortage occupation list lower salary requirements and lower visa application fees for roles classified as shortages, where immigration is deemed a practical solution for addressing that shortage. As per recommendations by the Migration Advisory Committee, the following occupations were appended to the shortage occupation list on the 7th of August 2023:
- Bricklayers and masons (5312)
- Roofers, roof tilers, and slaters (5313)
- Carpenters and joiners (5315)
- Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified (5319)
- Plasterers (5321)
- Agriculture and fishing trades not elsewhere classified (5119)
- Fishing and other elementary agriculture occupations not elsewhere classified (9119)
EU Settlement Scheme
Extension of Pre-Settled Status
In the case of Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens' Rights Agreements v the Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 3274 (Admin), it was ruled that individuals granted pre-settled status do not lose their UK residency rights by failing to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The Immigration Rules have been revised to grant the Secretary of State the authority to prolong permission under the EUSS (in accordance with sections 3(3)(a) and 4(1) of the Immigration Act 1971) without requiring a fresh valid application. Starting from September 2023, individuals with pre-settled status will automatically receive a two-year extension before it expires if settled status is not acquired. Furthermore, the Home Office intends, by 2024, to convert as many eligible "pre-settled status" holders as possible to "settled status" automatically when eligible, eliminating the need for a separate application.
The "Surinder Singh" and "Zambrano" case routes were closed for new applicants from the 8th of August 2023. Any applications after this date will need to adhere to the family Immigration Rules applicable to other cases.
In alignment with the government's commitment to reducing net migration, commencing from the 17th of July 2023, the following changes have been implemented:
- International students (beginning courses on or after the 1st of January, 2024) will no longer have the ability to bring dependents to the UK, except for those enrolled in postgraduate courses currently categorised as research programs.
- International students will no longer have the option to switch from the student route to work routes and commence employment prior to completing their studies. Students pursuing courses at degree level or above will have the opportunity to apply before their course concludes to transition to sponsored work routes, provided their employment start date does not precede their course completion. PhD students will be permitted to switch after 24 months of study, as opposed to the previous 12 months.
Youth Mobility Scheme
The regulations are being revised to clarify that New Zealand nationals already in the UK with a valid Youth Mobility Scheme visa, applying for the one-year extension, can benefit from a total of three consecutive years of leave, encompassing their original entry permit.
For further insight into these changes and other upcoming adjustments to the Immigration Rules, get in touch with our immigration team here.
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