Visa and Immigration

Guidance on Immigration for job applicants

Under UK legislation, all non-EEA migrants are required to hold a valid visa to lawfully reside in the UK; whether this is leave to enter, leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain.  This guide will provide all necessary information that is required in order to apply for visa to work for the University of Abertay and other necessary steps during the recruitment process.

General information for applicants

The UK Immigration Rules outline how an individual may enter, work in and remain in the UK.  The Points-based System is part of the Immigration rules which currently regulates a non-EEA migrant’s right to work within the UK and specifically, under the Tier 2 visa route.  There are other routes available which allow you to work but this guidance will focus on the Tier 2 visa route.

There are five tiers that are available under the Points-based Immigration system but only four are currently used by the UK Government.  This guide will cover in detail the requirements for Tier 2: Skilled Workers and switching from the Student Visa to Tier 2 visa.

Immigration during pandemic of COVID19

During COVID-19 all overseas visa application centres remain closed until overseas governments will state its safe for staff to return.

Your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19). Please note that this date will most likely require to be changed in the next few days/weeks if and when the UK government extend this deadline.

The current position is that if your visa expires between 24th January 2020 and 31st May 2020, you must request an extension by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT)  detailing the reasons why you cannot leave the UK at present but are not planning to stay in the UK in the long term.

If you’re applying to stay in the UK long-term

You can apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31 May 2020 if your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

You’ll need to meet the requirements of the route you are applying for and pay the UK application fee. More guidance can be found here.

Clarification of new English language guidance will be issued soon, but it was emphasised that the ability of sponsors to self-assess for pre-sessional programmes applies only when and where SELT centres are closed. The impact of this change is envisaged to be minimal while VAC’s remain closed.  The expectation is that few CAS will be issued during this period.

The current concessions are in place until 31st May.  If they are extended this will need to be done in a way which is consistent with the guidance provided and potentially other immigration routes.

It is worth noting at this point that after submitting your application online, you will usually be expected to arrange a biometric appointment with the Home Office’s commercial partner, Sopra Steria, however due to Covid-19, Sopra Steria offices are temporarily closed.

Points-based immigration system; post Brexit

Due to Brexit, the UK government plans to introduce a new Immigration Bill which will announce end of free movement and introduction of a new Points Based System for the high-skilled workers. The new Immigration Rules would be applicable from 1 January 2021; however the government has confirmed that it intends to open key routes from autumn 2020 to ensure that migrants can start to apply ahead the system taking effect in January 2021.

The new system will replace free movement with the UK’s points-based system to cater for the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students and a range of other specialist work routes including routes for global leaders and innovators.  As part of the new Immigration system, the government will bring the skills threshold down from Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 to Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3 and suspend the cap on the number of people who can come on the skilled worker route, with the requirement of the resident labour market test being removed altogether.

The government has confirmed that they do not intend to create a route or system for low-skilled workers to get visas under post-Brexit immigration plans.  The Settlement Scheme for EU citizens will still be applicable to current UK residents.

These changes will be followed by further improvements to the UK’s sponsorship system and the operation of the UK border.  This includes, in the longer-term, the introduction of Electronic Travel Authorities to ensure foreign nationals entering the UK have the relevant permission to do so in advance of travel.  The UK government has confirmed that they intend to take a phased approach to ensure the new system is implemented smoothly and to allow sufficient time for everyone to adapt.

Skilled worker- criteria

The new points-based system is designed to ensure that the all applicants, both EU and non-EU citizens, are treated equally post-Brexit.  The government is hopeful that this system will provide simple, effective and flexible arrangements for skilled workers from around the world to come to the UK through an employer-led system.  All applicants will need to meet 70 points to be eligible for the skilled worker route; although the applicant must prove that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor, that the job offer is at the required skill level, and that they speak English.  This will make up 50 points of the required 70 points needed to be successful. 

The applicant will be able to acquire a further 20 points by meeting the relevant additional requirements. These requirements can be found on the government website.

A total of 70 points is required to be eligible to apply (see table below); some characteristics are tradeable.

 

Characteristics

Tradeable

Points

Offer of job by approved sponsor

No

20

Job at appropriate skill level

No

20

Speaks English at required level

No

10

Salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039

Yes

0

Salary of £23,040 – £25,599

Yes

10

Salary of £25,600 or above

Yes

20

Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC)

Yes

20

Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job

Yes

10

Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job

Yes

20


The Home Office will publish further information on the points-based system in due course.  This will include detailed guidance regarding the points-based system tables, shortage occupation roles and qualifications.  The Home Office will continue to refine the system in the light of experience and will consider adding further flexibility into the system including additional attributes that can be ‘traded’ against a lower salary. For example, this might include a greater range of qualification levels or other factors such as age or experience studying in the UK.

Fees

The government has confirmed that foreign nationals entering the UK for the purpose of work or study will need to obtain a visa for which they will be expected to pay a fee.  Home Office will levy the Immigration Skills Surcharge on employers and the Immigration Health Surcharge on the same basis as is the case currently.  There will be exemptions as is the case now which will include some short-term business visitors and short-term students, etc.  For employers sponsoring skilled migrants, the process will be streamlined to reduce the time it takes to bring a migrant into the UK by up to eight weeks. 

For the proposed visa process and more details please visit the government website.

Recruitment through Tier 2

In order to recruit a foreign worker, the employer must hold a Sponsor Licence.  There are two types of sponsor licences available: Tier 2 - skilled workers with long-term job offers and/or Tier 5 - skilled temporary workers licence.  Employers are permitted to hold either tier or both licences.  University of Abertay currently holds both Tier 2 and 5 sponsor licences.

Once the employer is satisfied that the foreign worker is the best candidate and is eligible to apply, they will provide the foreign worker with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).  The foreign worker requires a CoS to apply for Tier 2 visa.  There are four Tier 2 categories:

  • Tier 2 (General) visa;
  • Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa;
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) visa; and
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa

The University of Abertay holds a Tier 2 (General) Visa sponsor licence.

During the recruitment process there will be checks to prove that the foreign worker is permitted to work in the UK. The current Tier 2 (General) visa require the employer to meet the requirements of the resident labour market test (RLMT) before assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship, or confirm if an exemption from the RLMT applies.

The requirements that an individual needs to meet in order to successfully apply for Tier 2 can be found at UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) website.  However, it is advised that each applicant seek legal advice before submitting an application under the Tier 2 (General) visa route.

 

Recruitment through Tier 4

Students who hold a Student Visa by the regulations are only entitled to legally work up to 20 hours per week, or 10 hours if below degree level, during term time.  The term ‘work’ in this context is used for paid and not paid activity.

Managers will be informed in writing if they have a member of staff who is on a Student Visa to ensure that they do not work more than 20 hours per week.  In addition to this, the HR Advisor will write to the Student Visa holder to ensure that they understand that they cannot work more than 20 hours per week (included in their contract of employment).

A Student Visa report has been created and scheduled to run on a monthly basis detailing the number of hours claimed by the employees.  This will be monitored by the HR Advisor to ensure the Student Visa employees are complying with the regulations.

Switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2

A Student Visa issued for full-time degree level studies allows you to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time. This is a maximum of 20 hours in total in any one week, including paid or unpaid work and for one or more organisation.  The 20 hours cannot be averaged over a longer period.

Non-EEA nationals who are studying a full-time degree under the route Student Visa are entitled to legally work for a maximum of 20 hours per week, or 10 hours if studying below degree level at a "higher education institution".

When switching from leave to remain in the UK as a Student Visa  student to leave as a Tier 2 (General) migrant, you can go through the process quicker as it is easier to apply due to Student Visa concessions. During the switching period the applicant can also get ‘unrestricted sponsorship’ which makes it easier to issue the CoS and in certain circumstances, the employer may not be required to carry out the Resident Labour Marker Test (RLMT).

Moreover, you can start working for your employer once the Tier 2 application is submitted. When switching from Student Visa to leave as a Tier 2 (General) migrant you must have a job offer before you apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa.

It is important to note that Student Visa concessions do not apply for part-time students.

If you are applying for leave as a Tier 2 (General) migrant from outside the UK, you cannot rely on the Student Visa concessions, and the standard Tier 2 application process applies.

Applying for a Visa

If you meet the requirements of the Tier 2 (General) category, you will be granted valid leave in the UK for up to 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter, with the possibility of extending this leave.  However, any extension and leave in this route is limited to a total stay of 6 years.

The CoS cannot be issued more than 3 months prior to the start date of any employment and it is valid for 3 months.  The employment start date cannot be moved forward more than 28 days otherwise the CoS will be cancelled.  The overall timescale to complete the process can vary, however the minimum time is 9 weeks.

Any Tier 2 (General) application must be made online: https://www.gov.uk/tier-2-general/apply.  The fees for this visa depend on the type of visa and where you are applying from.  If you are applying for a Shortage occupation role there will also be different fees applicable.  A shortage occupation is a skilled job which the UK government consider is on the shortage occupation list found on https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-k-shortage-occupation-list.  The current fees can be detailed as per below.

 

Up to 3 years

Apply from outside the UK

Extend or switch from inside the UK

Applying  from inside or outside the UK – shortage occupation role

Applicant

£610

£704

£464

Applicant is a citizen of Turkey or Macedonia

£555

£649

£409

All dependants

£610 per person

£704 per person

£464 each person

 

More than 3 years

Apply from outside the UK

Extend or switch from inside the UK

Applying  from inside or outside the UK – shortage occupation role

Applicant

£1,220

£1,408

£928

Applicant is a citizen of Turkey or Macedonia

£1,165

£1,353

£873

All dependants

£1,220 per person

£1,408 per person

£928 each person

 

Applicants will also be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (pay the healthcare surcharge) as part of your application.  Check how much you’ll have to pay before you apply.

 

 

Visitor Visas

There are four types of visitor routes which depend on the purpose of the visit:

   

Standard Visitor visa

  • Genuine intention to visit:
    • Maximum length of stay is 6 months; up to 11 months for private medical treatment and potentially up to 12 months for academic visitor
    • No Frequent visits
    • Sufficient funds to cover reasonable cost of visit
  • Prohibited activities:
    • Cannot ‘work’ in the UK including: employment, contracting, self-employment, work experience, internships, selling to public, providing goods and services. Except for permitted activities.
    • Receive payment for UK source
    • Study (except for 1 month recreational study)
  • Permitted Activates – general

Marriage/civil partnership visit

 

  • Can come to the UK to:
    • Visit to marry or to form a civil partnership, or
    • To give notice of this in the UK and
    • Do permitted activities in
    • The maximum length of stay that can be granted: up to 6 months

Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) visit

 

  • Certain visitors can come to the UK for up to one month and be paid by the university:
    • Give a lecture or series of lectures (but not undertake a formal teaching role), or
    • Examine students, or
    • To participate in or chair selection panels
  • No restriction on amount they can be paid
  • The maximum length of stay that can be granted: up to 1 month

Transit visit

  • Transit to the UK
    • Maximum length of stay that can be granted: up to 48 hours

 

 

eGates

Nationals coming from Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the USA and potentially a national of an EU country – should the individual have a biometric symbol on the cover of their respective passport - will be able to use automated eGates on the arrival into UK, free of charge.  There will no longer be need to complete a landing card on arrival for those nationals. There are over 250 eGates in place at 15 air and rail ports in the UK to enable quicker travel into the UK.

International Students

International students arriving for short term period (up to 6 months) should not use the eGates as they will need to see an officer for a stamp in their passport, unless they have applied for entry clearance before travel. Without this passport stamp these individuals will be unable to do activities they are coming to the UK to do. Long term students who already have student visa or a student biometric residence permit can use the eGates.

Permitted Paid Engagements

Those coming to the UK to carry out Permitted Paid Engagements (including academic, professors, guest speakers or people coming for a PHD) from Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States of America will need to see an officer and get a stamp in their passport.  These travellers will require a specific grant of leave, which has to be given by an officer (in the form of a stamp). Without this passport stamp these individuals will be unable to do the activities they are coming to the UK to do.

Absence from the UK

EEA citizen

Absence(s) of 6 months or less (in total) in any 12 month period or a single absence of up to 12 months for an important and strong reason, will not break continuity of residence for the purposes of acquiring a right of permanent residence.  However, any absence from the UK of 6 months or more in any 12 month period will require the EEA citizen requesting Home Office discretion which is not guaranteed.

EU Settlement Scheme

Holders of settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme can spend up to 5 years in a row outside the UK without losing their status.  However, if the holder of settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme is a Swiss citizen, the Swiss citizen and their family members can spend up to 4 years in a row outside the UK without losing your settled status. 

Holders of pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme can spend up to 2 years in a row outside the UK without losing their status. It is noted that holders of pre-settled status should bear in mind the need to maintain their continuous residence to ensure they are eligible to qualify for settled status.

Non EU citizen

No more than 180 days’ absences are allowed in a consecutive 12-month period.  This is based on whole days in this calculation. Part day absences, for example, less than 24 hours, will not be counted.  However, employers must record and authorise any and all absences for sponsored Tier 2 and Tier 4 visa holder.

Language Test

If the visa you are applying for, asks you to prove your English language ability, you need to demonstrate your language ability by passing a test with a Home Office approved Secure English Language Testing (SELT) Provider in an approved by Home Office centre, which can be found in UK and Overseas.

Accredited SELT tests:

  • IELTS SELT Consortium (UK and Overseas)

  • Pearson Education Ltd (UK and Overseas)

  • PeopleCert International Limited Consortium (UK and Overseas)
  • 
Trinity College London (UK only)

  • PSI Services (UK) Ltd (Overseas only)

The level of English language you are required to prove can change according to the visa you’re applying for. Check the guidance for your visa to find out the level required.

Moreover, there are some exemption that apply, for full details please go to gov website.

Future Immigration System post Brexit

The freedom of movement from and to the UK is planned to cease from 31/12/2020 with the new immigration system due to come into place from 1st January 2021.

New staff and students who arrive in the UK before 1 January 2021, to start a job/course in January 2021, will continue to be covered by the EU Settlement Scheme. After that day institutions will be expected to treat EU nationals as subject to immigration control from 1st January 2021.  Employers will continue to accept EU citizens’ passports and identity cards as evidence of their immigration status until 30 June 2021.

From 1st January 2021, sponsorship duties should also be broadly in line with how they are now, for EU nationals. More guidance can be found here.

Immigration after 1st January 2021; Skilled Worker Route

As previously advised, the Tier 2 visa route will be drastically changed 1st January 2021 with a different set of requirements.  This will include both EU and non-EU citizens who need to meet the following requirements shown in diagram below:

The new points-based system will include a route for skilled workers, both EU and non-EU citizens, who meet the following requirements: Job offer from Home Office licensed sponsor (Skill level RQF3 - A-level and equivalent and above, Relevant salary threshold), Speak English and Criminality threshold. Read more at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-points-based-immigration-system-employer-information/the-uks-points-based-immigration-system-an-introduction-for-employers

Migrant workers must have a job offer with a sponsoring employer (confirmed with a Certificate of Sponsorship), at the appropriate skill level and speak English at the relevant requirement.  These three criteria are mandatory requirements and will provide the applicant with 50 points. 

The applicant will be required to provide evidence of meeting additional 20 points which are “tradeable”.  This can be by way of their salary, the job being in a shortage occupation role as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), or by holding a PhD qualification.  Different points are awarded depending on what “tradeable” criteria they have as detailed in the UK government website.

  • The minimum salary requirement is the higher of £25,600 or the “going rate” for the job. For some public sector jobs, the “going rate” will be referenced to national pay scales
  • It will be possible to pay a lower salary (but no lower than £20,480) through “tradeable points” – i.e. if the migrant worker has a PhD relevant to the job or the job is in a “shortage occupation” or they are a “new entrant”. Only one of these tradeable characteristics can be used.
  • The Government has accepted the MAC recommendation to include postdoctoral researchers (see paragraph 5.58 of the MAC report)

The Immigration Health Surcharge and the Immigration Skills Charge will continue to apply and will, from 1 January 2021, include migrant workers from the EU (unless a reciprocal agreement is agreed).

Further guidance is expected from the Home Office to provide further clarification in respect of the new Immigration system.