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UK immigration routes for Indian nationals: what does the future hold?

Posted: 11/11/2019

The UK is heading for a December election, which may or may not result in a new government. In the meantime the EU has granted an extension to Article 50, allowing the UK more time to ratify the withdrawal agreement.

The current government has stated that once the UK leaves the EU, it proposes to introduce a new single immigration system from 1 January 2021.

In this article Pat Saini, head of immigration, looks at the current UK immigration routes available to Indian nationals, what immigration announcements have already been made and exactly what changes are being considered.

Current UK immigration routes

Business visitor
For a short-term, temporary business visit, a business visitor visa may be obtained. Individuals will be allowed to enter the UK for business purposes (which includes attending meetings, negotiating or entering into contracts), but are not allowed to undertake paid or unpaid work.

Individuals may be allowed to remain in the UK for a period not exceeding six months, although in principle it is not expected that applicants will remain for the full time.

Business visitors from India will be required to obtain entry clearance as a standard visitor in order to enter the UK as a business visitor.

Sole representative - representative of an overseas business
This route is often used by Indian companies wishing to set up a UK branch or a wholly-owned subsidiary of an overseas parent company and to send a senior representative to the UK. The company should not already have established a trading presence in the UK.

Sponsor licensing
Companies with plans to send or hire non-EEA nationals in the UK will need to consider obtaining a sponsor licence.

There are two types of Tier 2 licence: the Tier 2 General licence for UK companies that want to hire new migrant workers; and Tier 2 ICT (intercompany transfers) for UK subsidiaries to transfer workers from one of their overseas entities to the UK.

Tier 1 (investor)
This category is for high net worth individuals making a substantial financial investment in the UK. To be eligible, individuals will have to show that they have control of at least £2 million of their own funds, which must be held in a UK or overseas-regulated financial institution and be disposable in the UK.

Applicants can apply for expedited settlement (after two years if they invest £10 million or after three years if they invest £5 million).

Tier 1 (exceptional talent)
Two thousand endorsements (these are split between the five designated endorsing bodies) annually are available under this category. Applicants can apply for this visa if they have been endorsed as a recognised or emerging leader in their field in science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology or arts.

The start-up visa
This category is for those seeking to establish a business in the UK for the first time. Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. The start-up visa is an expanded version of the Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa, which allowed universities to endorse international students.

The innovator visa
This category is for more experienced businesspeople seeking to establish a business in the UK. Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. With some exceptions, applicants will also have funding of at least £50,000 to invest in their business.

Graduate visa
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the introduction of the graduate visa. It is expected that that this route will be available from the summer of 2021 to international students who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a higher education provider.

What the future UK immigration system could look like
In December 2018 the then prime minster, Theresa May, published an immigration white paper, setting out proposals for an immigration system which will apply equally to both EU and non-EU nationals. The approach outlined was based around a minimum salary threshold for incoming workers with no overall cap on the numbers.

In contrast the current prime minister has instructed the government’s independent Migration Advisory Committee to advise on how an Australian style points based system would work in the UK. The characteristics of such a system allow for levels of migration to be carefully calibrated according to demand for different industries and professions, with points awarded for experience, qualifications and professional expertise.

It is not yet known what immigration system the UK government will end up introducing post 2021. Much will depend on Brexit and which political party is in power following the December 2019 General Election.

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