News story

Flexible changes to immigration rules for highly skilled workers and investors

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Changes to the immigration rules, which will ensure the UK remains the destination of choice for exceptional overseas talent, will be published today.

Responding to feedback from businesses, the government is extending the offer already available for highly skilled migrants to encourage the brightest and best global talent to come to the UK to work, invest and set up business.

Highly skilled workers entering the UK as intra-company transfers - who are currently able to stay in the UK for five years - will now be able to stay for nine years if they earn £150,000 or more. This means that companies and manufacturers, who have told the government that they prefer to transfer senior staff to the UK for longer time periods, will be able to do so.

The nine-year maximum meets business needs while maintaining the temporary nature of this route by preventing applicants qualifying for settlement purely because of long residency.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said:

‘The UK is open for business to the brightest and best migrants and today’s changes will ensure we remain an attractive destination for global talent.

‘The government remains committed to supporting a private sector-led economic recovery. At the same time we continue to cut out abuse of the immigration system and remain focused on bringing net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.’

The UK border agency is also amending the rules to allow skilled workers, who need to travel as part of their job, the ability to do so without it counting against them when it comes to applying for settlement in the UK. Previously, workers who were absent from the UK for more than 180 days over five years would not qualify for settlement, but from December they can be absent from the UK for up 180 days per year without it affecting their application to stay permanently in the UK, provided the absence is for a legitimate reason.

There will also be a slight amendment to the 12-month ‘cooling off’ period, introduced earlier this year for skilled workers. Previously, a skilled worker who had worked in the UK could not return to take up another job offer for 12 months from the end date of their visa, even if they left the UK before their visa expired. This meant a small number of migrants had to wait longer than 12 months before re-entering the UK.

As such, some businesses and employers called for more flexibility in the way the ‘cooling off’ period is applied. Therefore, from mid-December the 12 months will be counted from the day a worker leaves the UK, regardless of when their visa is due to expire, providing they can show when they left the UK and that they have not returned to work here since.

And finally, entrepreneurs will no longer have to display a higher level of English than those migrants entering the UK via other routes. This change has been made to ensure potential, genuine migrants will not be deterred from applying.

Other changes are being announced today to put a stop to potential abuse of various routes, which include:

  • curtailing the leave of an investor migrant if they fail to maintain the required level of investment for the duration of their stay;
  • clarifying the investor route rules to emphasise that investments must be under the applicant’s control and will genuinely benefit the UK;
  • ending switching from the student route to the entrepreneur route unless the migrant has £50,000 funding from a specified source or is applying in the new graduate entrepreneur category;
  • clarifying student route rules to state that where a student is using a promise of a student loan to satisfy the maintenance requirements when applying for a visa, the loan letter should be from government or a government-sponsored student loan company, or from a provider of an approved academic or educational loan scheme.

Further changes include:

  • introducing a limited leave route for former members of the armed forces. This will enable individuals who have been subject to a minor conviction to have another way of remaining in the UK until such time as they qualify for settlement or citizenship;
  • establishing a new framework for considering the impact of criminality in immigration and nationality cases;
  • refining and clarifying the new rules for family migration;
  • introducing a number of other provisions, clarifications and changes to the rules.

Notes to editors

  1. A full list of the changes being made to the immigration rules can be found here -

  2. The majority of the rules will come into force on 13 December 2012, with the exception of some changes to tier 5 and tier 4 which will come into force on 1 January 2013. A further change relating to tier 4, which stops fake loans being used to meet student maintenance requirements comes into force on 28 February 2013.

  3. For more information on work routes under the points based system please visit the UK border agency website

  4. For more information on the student route under the points based system please visit the UK border agency website

  5. For more information please call the home office press office on 020 7035 3535.