Yesterday, the Home Office announced its plans to close the Tier 4 Student route and replace it with the ‘Child Student’ and ‘Student’ routes.
The changes are being introduced to give effect to the Government’s plan to create a global visa system which applies equally to all individuals coming to the UK to work or study, including EEA nationals. Tier 4 is the first route to be simplified and streamlined.
Student Route will replace the current Tier 4 visa in the new UK’s Points-Based Immigration System on at 9:00 am (British Time) on 5 October 2020.
It will affect Student and Student dependant applications made on or after then, regardless of the date on which a CAS was assigned. Applicants who have a valid CAS issued before 5 October at 9:00 under the Tier 4 route will be able to use it for an application under the Student route.
The Student and Child Student routes will apply to both EEA nationals (as of 1 January 2021) and non-EEA nationals.
What is new?
- EEA nationals will be incorporated into a global application system. EEA nationals will be required to meet the same requirements to study within the UK as non-EEA nationals and will need to apply under the Student rules;
- Students at higher education providers with a track record of compliance will not routinely be required to provide evidence of academic qualifications used to obtain the offer of sponsorship;
- The eight-year time limiton studying courses at postgraduate level has been removed. There is no longer a limit on the time that an individual can spend studying postgraduate courses;
- There are increased switching permissions within the study route and increased switching between routes within the Points Based Immigration System. Students will be able to apply for further permission from within the UK, provided they meet the Academic Progression requirement and the new course of study commences within 28 days of the expiry of the current leave;
- New Rules on English Language and Finance:
- Applicants will only be required to prove the required level of English Language once;
- The Majority English Language country list will also include Malta and Ireland;
- Applicants who have gained GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK can rely on this to prove their English Language;
- Maintenance – applicants will no longer be required to meet the maintenance requirement for an extension of their leave if they have been supporting themselves in the UK for more than one year;
- Applicants will be able to rely on electronic bank statements and they will be able to meet the maintenance requirements by relying on a wider range of accounts; and
- EEA nationals will be added to the list of those not required to provide documentation to show maintenance from the outset.
A student will be required to meet a minimum of 70 points in order to be awarded Student/Student Child status, i.e.
- Sponsorship – 50 points;
- Financial Requirement – 10 points;
- English Language – 10 points.
New Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa Route
The UK Government has published a policy statement on the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (BN(O) Visa route for Hong Kong residents with British National (Overseas) status and their immediate family members, including non-BN(O) citizens.
The UK Government’s decision to introduce a new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa follows the imposition by the Chinese Government of a national security law on Hong Kong that restricts the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. On Monday, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, suspended the UK’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong. The new national security law comes after mass protests in Hong Kong throughout 2019, which initially saw the bill withdrawn last September.
The publication of the policy statement follows the Government’s 1 July pledge to offer Hong Kong residents the chance to settle in the UK, after China was seen to be encroaching on Hong Kong’s independence as a Special Administrative Region under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement. The 50-year agreement was intended to protect the civil liberties – also referred to as Hong Kong’s Basic Law – of residents, including the right to protest, freedom of speech and the independence of the judiciary. The new legislation effectively criminalises what would previously have been considered free speech.
BN(O) status and Hong Kong
During the ten years prior to the handover of Hong Kong by the British to China, those in Hong Kong with British Dependent Territories citizenship were entitled to apply for BN(O) status under the Hong Kong Act 1985 and Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986. Some 3.4 million people registered for this status, of which it is thought around 2.9 million are still alive. BN(O) status is not hereditary and could not be retrospectively applied for after the deadline passed.
This new migration route to the UK is set to open in January 2021 and will be part of the UK Government’s new immigration system.
The new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will allow BN(O) citizens to reside and work or study in the UK, with a pathway to settlement (also known as permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain) and then citizenship. For their part, BN(O) citizens wishing to come to the UK will be expected to be self-sufficient and to integrate and contribute to the betterment of UK society.
The visa will be valid for up to 5 years, during which time the holder is subject to UK immigration control. After 5 years in the UK and, provided they have stayed free of criminality, have supported themselves financially and otherwise complied with the terms of the visa, they will be able to apply for settled status; after a further year they may apply to naturalise as a British citizen.
Immigration fees and charges will be payable at each stage and it will be a condition of temporary residence that visa status is obtained and maintained in accordance with our rules. Visa holders will not require additional permissions to work or to study, and may become the dependants of a UK resident, for example through marriage.
To be eligible for the new visa route, applicants must demonstrate the following:
- They have BN(O) status (although having a valid BN(O) passport is not necessary)
- They normally live in Hong Kong
- They can accommodate and support themselves financially in the UK for at least 6 months (those on the visa route are not entitled to access public funds)
- They can show a commitment to learn English, where appropriate
The Home Office have initially stated that ‘close family members’ for the purposes of this route refers to:
- A spouse or civil partner
- An unmarried partner
- Children (under the age of 18 when they first apply)
The policy also states that visas will be granted on a discretionary basis to adult dependent children of BN(O) citizens who were born after 1997 (so are not BN(O) citizens themselves) but who are over the age of 18 (and so would not normally be considered a dependant).
Although the route is set to open in January 2021, BN(O) citizens can currently come to the UK as visitors without a visa for up to 6 months. However, doing so does not allow you to work, reside or study in the UK.
The Government is expected to unveil the new Immigration Rules for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa in the Autumn.
The Home Office does not intend to extend the Coronavirus Policy to automatically extend visas beyond 31 July 2020. The Home Office will instead make case-by-case assessments.
Until now, those with visas or leave expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 could apply to have their visas extended without any additional cost by completing an online form notifying the Home Office of their circumstances.
The policy was intended to ensure that those who were unable to leave the UK for COVID-19 related reasons, such as self-isolation or travel restrictions, were not at risk of overstaying their leave in the UK. The Home Office confirmed that “many, many thousands of requests” had been dealt with since the introduction of the policy.
Any migrant who needs to extend their leave beyond 31 July 2020 will now be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Where the Home Office consider there are “good reasons why someone cannot leave … we absolutely will make sure that will go down on our systems”.
The housing market, as with the rest of the economy, has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown meant activity slowed sharply, with sales at half the levels of a year earlier.
Viewings, sales and moves have now resumed in much of the UK, but buyers and sellers face fresh unease about job and income prospects, prompting some to rethink plans over property.
The Nationwide, which bases its figures on its own mortgage lending, said that house prices, on an annual basis, dropped from a 1.8% rise in May to a 0.1% fall in June as the effects of the shutdown were felt. The typical home was now worth £216,403, it said.
This will be welcomed by first-time buyers hoping for a consistent fall in house prices, although restrictions by lenders mean mortgages have become more difficult to secure.
The prime markets of London have seen a significant recovery in activity levels since reopening on 13 May.
A surprising number of people are reassessing their housing needs and are now looking for a property that better meets their requirements.
Almost two-thirds of London agents reported that vendors’ price expectations of the property they are selling had reduced, while 85% said buyers’ budgets had decreased. This means the market remains price sensitive, despite an increase in activity and sellers need to remain realistic on their price expectations.
Across prime London, 97% of Savills agents reported an increase in demand for property with a garden or other outside space and 71% have seen more buyers looking to upsize, with many looking for a separate space to work from home. As a result, houses in outer prime London outperformed flats in the second quarter of 2020.
The government has temporarily increased the stamp duty threshold to £500,000 for property sales in England and Northern Ireland, until 31 March 2021, to boost the property market and help buyers struggling because of the coronavirus crisis.
Anyone completing on a main residence costing up to £500,000 between 8 July 2020 and 31 March 2021 will not pay any stamp duty, and more expensive properties will only be taxed on their value above that amount.
This will save buyers as much as £15,000, if they are buying a property of £500,000 or more.
The move is aimed at helping buyers who have taken a financial hit because of the coronavirus crisis.
It is also intended to boost a property market hit by lockdown.
How much stamp duty will I pay now?
If the property purchased is your main home you won’t pay any stamp duty on it at all if it costs £500,000 or less.
The next portion of the property’s price (£500,001 to £925,000) will be taxed at 5%, and the £575,000 after that (£925,001 to £1.5 million) will be taxed at 10%
The remaining amount (over £1.5 million) will be taxed at 12%.
The Government is considering introducing a six-month stamp duty (SDLT) holiday to revive the housing market later this year.The temporary measure would remove tax on the purchase of homes at the lower end of the housing market.
Treasury officials are said to be looking at raising the threshold at which homebuyers start paying SDLT.
Rishi Sunak has drawn up proposals to exempt most homebuyers from paying any stamp duty under plans to kick-start Britain’s economic recovery.
Currently homebuyers don’t pay any SDLT on the first £125,000 of homes, then 2 per cent of the value of the home up to £250,000 and 5 per cent on the next £675,000. The new SDLT threshold could be set as high as £500,000.
The increase in the threshold, which is expected to be implemented in the autumn budget, is a temporary measure intended to stimulate the housing market. Mr Sunak will announce the plans on Wednesday as part of several measures to support the economy, including a temporary VAT cuts for pubs, restaurants and cafés to help protect 2.4 million jobs in the hospitality sector.
Businesses have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work part time from 1 July as part of the government’s plan to re-open the UK and kick-start our economy.
From 1 July, businesses can bring furloughed employees back to work on a part-time basis.
Firms will be given the flexibility to decide the hours and shifts of their employees, with the government continuing to pay 80% of salaries for the hours they do not work.
The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has so far helped protect more than 9.3 million jobs through the pandemic, with employers claiming more than £25.5 billion to support wages.
The scheme will remain open until the end of October and will continue to support jobs and business in a measured way as people return to work, the economy reopens and the country moves to the next stage of its recovery.
The UK government has set up a new cross-departmental unit called the “Office for Talent” to make it easier for international scientists, researchers and innovators to obtain a UK visa to live and work in the UK in the post-Brexit immigration system.
This announcement follows the recent publication of the UK Research and Development Roadmap, prioritising “ground-breaking research” to attract top global talent. The news came as part of a wider package of measures to encourage research and development, unveiled by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), itself an element of Boris Johnson’s wider “new deal” for post-coronavirus economic recovery.
Officials say the office for talent will involve the Home Office, BEIS and other departments, with Downing Street coordinating its function.
The UK government will ensure an extension of the graduate route into the jobs market for international PhD graduates.
“The new Student Route, being introduced this autumn, will be simpler and have new features: no limits on study time at postgrad level, 6 month application window and you can switch visa category within the UK rather than returning home.”
In addition, when the student route opens, there will be other improvements.
They include extending the window in which prospective students can make visa applications and removing study time limits at postgraduate level, as well as allowing students to switch to any other type of visa from within the UK.
Currently, people arriving in the UK from outside the Common Travel Area (the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) must self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Any person arriving into the UK must fill out an online locator contact form – providing details of where they will spend their 14 days in self-isolation.
The Home Office said the proposed accommodation will need to meet necessary requirements, such as a hotel or a private address with friends or family.
There will be a fine of £100 for failure to complete the form, and the Border Force will have the power to refuse entry to non-UK citizens who do not comply with the new regulations.A breach of self-isolation would be punishable by a £1,000 fixed penalty notice, or prosecution and an unlimited fine for persistent offenders.
Lorry drivers, seasonal farm workers, and coronavirus medics will be exempt.
At present, there is no obligation for incoming travelers to the UK to take antibody tests or to prove through any official medical test that they are COVID-19 negative. The policy simply requires that any person who has Coronavirus symptoms must continue to isolate beyond the 14-day period until they are treated or no longer show symptoms.
From 22 June 2020 UKVCAS is adding new service points and opening the booking system to more customers based on registration dates, including those in Belfast, Cardiff Bay, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester.
All applicants who had been given access to the booking system would be able to book an appointment until 26 July 2020. It was also stated that these applicants would only continue to have access to the booking system until 20 June 2020.
Taking a phased and organised approach
In order to be fair to everyone, UKVCAS is now opening up in date order starting with people who registered with UKVCAS before the 27th March but did not have an appointment at the time.
Sopra Steria confirmed that they are working from the earliest to the most recent registrations. Applicants will receive an email confirming their access to the booking system. The email will have full instructions about next actions.
Worried about your visa?
If you are worried that your visa will expire before you can get an appointment please contact Svetlova LLP and we will be happy to assist you.