What’s new in immigration law?

Rhona Azir outlines recent changes to EU settled status and the shortage occupations list

The shortage occupations list for sponsored workers is set to expand once more, marking a growing demand for scientists in the UK. Among the new additions, announced in September’s ‘Statement of changes to the Immigration Rules’ and in force since 1 October, are biological scientists and biochemists as well as psychologists, vets, medical doctors and architects. For these roles and the rest on the list, it will not be necessary to complete the resident labour market test.

In a nod to the importance of the IT sector, stringent rules relating to digital technology roles have been relaxed on the list through the removal of the qualifying company criteria. 

For PhD-level roles, the statement of changes includes an exemption for PhD-level occupations from the annual Tier 2 certificate of sponsorship cap of 20,700 a year and the ability to exclude absences from the UK for the purposes of Tier 2 work from indefinite leave to remain absence calculations. This will also apply to their partners who accompany them.

A considerate approach for indefinite leave to remain absences for Tier 2 migrants appears as a theme in the changes. Those wishing to apply but are unable to meet the relevant salary threshold because of sickness absences may now be eligible. Previously, absences in very limited circumstances including maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave were accepted, but it has now been confirmed that applicants who have been absent from work because of sickness, statutory parental leave, assisting in a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis, or taking part in legal strike action may still qualify.

A change to the resident labour market test advertising rules was also made, with the announcement that teaching roles could be advertised on the gov.uk teaching vacancies page. Sponsors must still advertise in two places but, for those roles where this website is used, the ‘Find a job’ site no longer has to be one of the two websites.

EU settled status update

While several positive changes were made to the immigration rules relating to migrant workers, the rights of EU nationals in the UK are still subject to much confusion. 

To summarise, the EU settlement scheme is open. If an employee is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, along with their family, they can apply to the EU settlement scheme to continue to live in the UK after the application deadline of 30 June 2021. If their application is successful, they will be given either pre-settled or settled status, similar to permanent residence, thus reassuring them of their status in the UK.  

Pre-settled status will lead to settled status provided that an individual has not been absent from the UK for more than six months in any 12-month period. As the rules currently state, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, they would need to be living in the UK before it leaves the EU to apply under the scheme and the deadline for applying will be 31 December 2020.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who move to the UK after Brexit will need to apply for European temporary leave to remain. This is a temporary UK immigration status, valid for 36 months from the date granted. A digital status will be provided and, from January 2021, this will be needed to demonstrate a right to work and rent property. 

Temporary leave to remain will allow an individual and their close family members – including spouses, partners and dependants under 18 – to live and work in the UK, use the NHS, enrol in education or continuous study, access public funds and travel in and out of the UK.

Rhona Azir is a immigration associate at Dentons UK & Middle East