As we head into the Autumn, this month's business immigration article focuses on some of the key measures the government is putting in place to assist the UK with business mobility, including the current HGV driver shortage and pressures in the food industry, the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions, changes to the Immigration Rules and changes to the acceptability of EU, EEA and Swiss citizen's ID cards at the UK border.
HGV and Poultry worker short-term visas
The government has announced a number of new measures to tackle the current HGV driver shortage in the UK, including the introduction of short-term visas to encourage overseas drivers to come to the UK for three months in the lead up to Christmas. 5,000 short-term visas will be available for HGV drivers from October and the visas will be valid until Christmas eve.
The government has also announced 5,500 short-term visas for poultry workers in order to ease pressure on the UK food industry in the lead up to Christmas. As with the HGV short-term visas, the visas will be available from October and valid until 24 December 2021. It is expected that the visas will be delivered through the Temporary Workers route and it is reported that these visa applications will be processed in a timely manner. We would hope they will be expedited otherwise this provides little help to an already struggling sector. We will continue to report on this new temporary route as further details are announced
Easing of travel restrictions
The rules for international travel to England will change on 4 October 2021. The traffic light system of countries has been replaced with a single red list and there will be simplified travel measures for arrivals from non-red list countries. A summary of the guidance for those arriving from red list and non-red list countries is below:
Arrivals into England who are fully vaccinated
From 4am on Monday 4 October, if a traveller who is over 18 and has been fully vaccinated, under an approved vaccine, for at least 14 days then they won't need to quarantine but must take a day two PCR test and complete a passenger locator form. Arrivals must be able to prove that they have been fully vaccinated.
Arrivals into England who are not fully vaccinated
Restrictions remain tough for arrivals who are not fully vaccinated. On arrival, travellers must still quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days. Requirements remain to take COVID-19 tests pre-departure, on or before day two and on or after day eight. The test to release scheme still applies.
Travel from red list countries
Restrictions remain toughest for those travelling from red list countries, with the requirement to quarantine for the 10 full days in a managed quarantine hotel on arrival and take tests on days 2 and tests as well as the requirement to take a COVID-19 test pre-departure.
Companies are advised to keep up to date on the latest "red list" to understand how, if at all, quarantine will impact on the traveller's arrival to England. For more information about the changes to international travel, please do visit the government guidance.
Changes to Immigration Rules
The Government presented to Parliament a Statement of Changes to Immigration Rules on 10 September 2021. Among minor corrections and tweaks were some changes of interest to businesses and sponsors including:
The rules have been updated to confirm that a sponsor must be A—rated in order to certify maintenance for the main applicant and dependent. This brings the rules in line with the Sponsor Guidance.
The rules have also been amended in relation to settlement under this route, including an amendment to the salary requirement for settlement, which provides that all options include a minimum hourly rate of £10.10, and the inclusion of a concession to account for COVID-19.
The rules have also been amended in relation to what constitutes a permitted change of employment to account for those with current permission in the predecessor Tier 2 (General) route.
Global Talent Visa
Reforms have been made to make it easier for applicants from arts and culture groups to satisfy the requirements. Further, the administrative burden has also been reduced for applicants needing to show endorsement or endorsed funding under science, engineering, humanities and medicine fields.
The list of prestigious prizes in the Immigration Rules: Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes has also been expanded. From 5 May 2021, a person who has been awarded a prestigious prize is not required to apply for an endorsement.
The Permitted Activities have been clarified to allow employees of overseas manufacturers or suppliers to come to the UK as visitors to install, maintain, service or advise on equipment, software or hardware. The new rules will also permit them to train UK-based employees to provide these services.
Youth Mobility Scheme
From 1 January 2022, nationals from Iceland and India are being added to the Youth Mobility Scheme. Iceland is being added to the scheme without Deemed Sponsorship Status with an allocation of 1,000 places. Nationals from India will have to follow the invitation to apply arrangements to access the 3,000 places.
EU, EEA and Swiss citizen's ID cards no longer valid
From 1 October 2021, citizens from the EU, EEA and Switzerland will no longer be able to enter the UK using a national ID card. Instead, they must present a valid passport to demonstrate nationality and identity when arriving in the UK. National identity cards will no longer be accepted as valid travel documents.
However, this does not apply to EEA citizens with pending applications or visas under the EU Settlement Scheme who can continue to use their national ID card to enter the UK until at least 31 December 2025.
If you would like to discuss any aspects of this article or have any other immigration queries, please get in touch with Gemma Robinson in our team.