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Comprehensive Guide to UK’s New Immigration Changes in September 2023
The Home Office constantly changes and updates the immigration rules. Sometimes these changes are to rectify minor mistakes within the rules or to provide clarification on certain routes. Other times it is to bring specific routes in line with recent case law or current policies.
The latest changes introduced on 7 September 2023, introduced a number of changes, both minor and major. We are seeing significant updates concerning the Youth Mobility Scheme, Long Residence rules, Appendix Children and an introduction to the forthcoming Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). This guide goes through some of these changes, focusing on key implications both for individuals and companies.
Most of these changes take effect from 4 October 2023. See the full update from the Home Office here
Youth Mobility Scheme: Expanded Age and Duration
The Youth Mobility Scheme, previously tailored for young adults aged 18-30, has received important updates. Bilateral arrangements with Australia and Canada have extended the age range to 35 so now applicants between the ages 18-35 can qualify under this route.
These changes had already been introduced for nationals of New Zealand but will now also take effect for Australian and Canadian nationals.
The other major change is that the duration of stay has increased from two to three years.
This programme was originally open to applicants from:
- New Zealand
The changes introduced now also include Andorra on to the list of participating countries, broadening the programme’s international scope. Nationals of Hong Kong, Japan, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, San Marino, Iceland and India have to meet country specific requirements.
Long Residence Rules: Stringent Definition of ‘Lawful Residence’
Long residence usually refers to individuals who have resided in the UK for at least ten years continuously and lawfully. However, the definition of ‘lawful residence’ has now been narrowed. Since April 2023, time spent on immigration bail, as a visitor, short-term student, or seasonal worker, won’t count towards ‘lawful residence.’ This clarification extends to prior versions of temporary admission and release and previous categories like visitor or short-term student visas.
Appendix Children: Standardisation of Requirements
In an effort to consolidate existing regulations, the Home Office has introduced ‘Appendix Children.’ It is a unified section featuring standard requirements for children applying as dependants or independently. Criteria regarding age, independent life, care, and relationships have been assembled into one comprehensive section. Moreover, a common parental consent requirement will now be implemented for both entry clearance and permission to stay, enhancing the transparency of existing rules.
Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA): Scope, Eligibility, and Critical Considerations
Many countries have introduced ETA in recent years. Canada, Australia and United States are among those. The UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) will be launched in a phased approach from Oct 2023. The ETA will primarily target non-visa nationals and travellers who intend to visit or transit through the UK.
The next phases will be introduced for GCC countries.
Qatari nationals will need an ETA if they’re travelling to the UK on or after 15 November 2023 and will be able to apply from 25 October.
Nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates will need an ETA if travelling to the UK on or after 22 February 2024 and will be able to apply from 1 February 2024.
NHS Debt: A Previous Ground for Refusal, Now Removed
Earlier provisions of the ETA appendix allowed for the refusal of an ETA application based on outstanding NHS debts valued at £500 or more. However, in the new update, this requirement has now been removed, mainly due to technical difficulties with ETA processing systems, which wouldn’t allow timely access to NHS debt information.
Entry Refusal at the UK Border
Despite the removal of NHS debt as a ground for ETA refusal, travellers should be aware that unresolved NHS debts could still lead to denied entry upon arrival in the UK. If you have outstanding debts with the NHS, it’s advisable to clear them prior to travel to prevent any complications at the border.
Ireland Residency: Common Travel Area Exemptions
An ETA will not required For those lawfully residing in the Republic of Ireland and travelling to the UK from within the Common Travel Area (CTA). However, as of the latest policy updates, anyone aged 16 or over will be obliged to demonstrate their residency status in Ireland if asked by a UK official. Acceptable forms of proof include Permanent Residence Certificates, European Health Insurance Cards, Irish driving licences or learner permits, Medical cards and GP visit cards, National Age cards, and Irish Residence Permits.
A Successful ETA Doesn’t Guarantee Entry
While a successful ETA application pre-clears a traveller for their journey to the UK, it does not guarantee entry into the country. Entry clearance is ultimately granted by UK border officials, who can refuse admission based on several grounds.
EU Settlement Scheme: Automatic Extensions
Good news for those who have EU pre-settlement status! Starting September 2023, the Home Office will automatically extend pre-settled status by two years for those who haven’t yet transitioned to settled status. This change aims to prevent anyone from losing their immigration status due to a lapse in application.
The status will automatically reflect in the person’s UKVI digital account, and eligibility will be checked through their National Insurance Number history.
Immigration Fees: Upcoming Increases in October 2023
We also have a series of fee updates for various immigration and nationality services that will take effect on October 4, 2023.
These include a £15 rise for a visitor visa (less than 6 months visitors), taking it to £115, and a £127 increase for student visas, aligning it with the in-country application fees at £490.
The changes are part of a larger overhaul that includes a 15% increase in the cost for most work and visit visas and at least a 20% surge in priority visas and certificates of sponsorship fees.
Who is Affected?
Visitor Visas: A Slight Increase in Cost
If you are planning to visit the UK for less than six months, your application fee will increase by £15. The cost of a visitor visa. This adjustment isn’t too surprising given that the government looking for ways to fund pay raises without costing the taxpayers.
Student Visas: More Expensive Than Before
Students will also see a substantial increase in visa fees. Previously set at £363, the fee for a student visa will now be £490, equating to the amount paid for in-country visa applications. This increase is part of a wider strategy to streamline and standardise application costs across different categories.
Priority Services: 20% increase
Applicants should be aware that the cost of priority visas will also rise significantly. However, we don’t have specific figures yet. A general increase of at least 20% will be applied to the following categories:
- priority visa services,
- study visas
- certificates of sponsorship
This change highlights the government’s aim to increase revenue from speedier processing services.
Settlement Priority Service: A Rate Alignment
The fee for settlement priority service will be reduced to match regular priority service costs. This adjustment aims to create a more cohesive pricing structure for priority services in and out of the country.
Naturalisation and Registration: New Rates Await
If you’re looking to register or naturalise as a British citizen, you will also face new fees, though the exact amounts have yet to be disclosed.
Health and Care Visas and Other Certifications
The Health and Care Visa, as well as fees for certificates of sponsorship and confirmations of acceptance for studies, are subject to change.
What’s Not Included: Immigration Health Surcharge
According to the government, new rates do not cover changes to the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which are expected to be announced later in the autumn. Any alterations to the IHS could have a further financial impact on visa applicants, and those changes will need to be considered separately when budgeting for immigration costs.
The immigration rule changes in September 2023 will impact visitors, new citizenship applications, students and both employers and employees. Individuals and businesses must therefore, be fully aware of regulatory changes and plan accordingly.
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About the Author
With over 15 years of immigration law experience at top London firms, Jay Moghal established Lexus Law in 2020 to offer prompt, personalised services without the bureaucratic hurdles associated with larger firms.