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UNITED KINGDOM: New Developments in the Immigration Rules for Family Migration & Other Applications

New Immigration Rules for Family Migration and Other Applications

A Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules was issued on June 13, 2012, which covers a wide range of visa applications, including those to join or remain with family members in the United Kingdom (UK) who are British citizens or settled persons. The new rules are effective on July 9, 2012. The rules will also: (1) make changes to applications under a human rights treaty to incorporate them within the Immigration Rules; (2) include a provision for those who have overstayed in the UK; and (3) add South Korea as a participant in the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme, with 500 places pro-rated for the rest of this year.

Below is a summary of the main changes to the immigration rules:

Financial Requirement

The government has decided to introduce a minimum gross annual income threshold suggested by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) of £18,600, which a British citizen or settled person must be able to demonstrate to sponsor the settlement in the UK of a non-European Economic Area spouse or partner, or prospective spouse of partner. If the couple has a child, the minimum income threshold will be £22,400 and £2,400 for each further child. There will be an exemption for sponsors receiving certain disability allowances.

Income may be from a variety of sources, including employment or self-employment, interest from savings, and others, and may also include cash savings of the sponsor or applicant above £16,000 that has been held for at least six months in a regulated financial institution.

Transitional Arrangements

All applications submitted before July 9, 2012, will be decided under the existing rules. For these applicants, the existing rules will apply for each subsequent application, up to and including an application for indefinite leave to remain.

Introduction of New English Language Test in October 2013

Beginning in October 2013, all applicants for settlement (including Points-Based System migrants) must take both the "life in the UK" test and an English language test at level B1 or above, unless they are exempt.


The probationary period will increase from two years to five years before a migrant may apply for settlement as the spouse/partner of a British citizen or settled person or as a dependent of a Points-Based System Migrant. The ability to obtain indefinite leave to enter based on four years' marriage or cohabitation with a British citizen will be abolished.

Furthermore, the ability to apply to settle in the UK after 14 years of residence will be abolished. Instead, applicants must have resided in the UK for 20 years or be able to demonstrate they have no ties to their country of origin before they can apply to begin a 10-year route to settlement in the UK.

Over Age Dependent Relatives

It will no longer be possible to switch into this category in the UK. All applicants outside the UK will be limited to close family members; i.e., children over 18, parents, grandparents, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. Parents and grandparents over 65 must demonstrate that as a result of age, illness, or disability, they require a level of long-term personal care that can only be provided in the UK by their relative and without recourse to public funds.

The Statement of Intent: Family Migration (summarizes the new rules)

New SOC Codes and Rules for Tiers 2 and 5 of the Points Based System from 14 June

New Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) 6+ are now applicable for all tier 2 visa applications, with the exception of shortage occupation roles and some roles in the creative sector, where the SOC codes at NQF 4+ still apply. It is important to check whether the SOC codes you currently use are still listed in the new codes (see link below). The Immigration Rules and UK Border Agency guidance have been amended to reflect this change.

The MAC is reviewing the SOC codes and will consider evidence from employers on suitability. Evidence must be submitted to the MAC by July 27, 2012.

Finally, changes to the resident labor market test means that a Job Centre plus advertisement is no longer necessary for PhD-level roles and also for those earning between £70,000 and £150,000.

Occupation Codes of Practice for Tier 2 Sponsors

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