On 6 April the government implemented significant changes to Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the points-based system. It also amended the Immigration Rules covering asylum seekers, English language qualifications and marriage visas for members of the Armed Forces.

The government has accepted changes to Tier 1 recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), and has set out details of how it will implement the MAC’s recommended changes to Tier 2.

The changes include new points criteria for both tiers, a simpler route for very highly skilled workers without Master’s degrees, greater flexibility for short-term transfers by multinational companies, and more protection against the use of such transfers to fill long-term vacancies that should go to resident workers.

The changes were announced last month by Borders and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas, who said:

‘We’ve always said that we would run our immigration system for the benefit of the UK, and that is what we are doing.

‘The changes that we are making today will build on an already robust system which is now the envy of the world. A strength of the points-based system is the flexibility to predict and respond to events.

‘By utilising the flexibility of the points-based system, we are now ensuring that only those that we need to come to the UK to work can do so.

‘I will continue to ensure that immigration does not act as a disincentive for employers to employ and improve the skills of the British workforce.’

The changes are included in the latest Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, which was laid before Parliament today.

The other changes to the Immigration Rules include:

  • revised provisions governing English language qualifications for migrants who are applying for permanent residence, to ensure that those relying on qualifications in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) will study at accredited colleges, and to clarify the progression that migrants are required to demonstrate before they can apply for permanent residence;
  • changes to prevent asylum applicants from claiming humanitarian protection if there are serious reasons for considering that they have engaged in undesirable behaviour;
  • clarified interview procedures for unaccompanied children seeking asylum;
  • removal of a requirement for asylum seekers to be asked to sign the interview record, as other safeguards are in place;
  • lowering the marriage visa age to 18 for serving members of the Armed Forces and their partners, recognising partners’ role in supporting those on the front line and reflecting the unique circumstances in which the Armed Forces operate; and
  • adding Monaco to the Youth Mobility Scheme.

The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules will be incorporated into a consolidated version of the Immigration Rules.

The changes came into effect on 6 April and 7 April 2010. Applications that were made before the new rules came into effect will be considered under the rules in place on the date of the application.

Migrants who want to apply in person should note that the date of their application is the date when they go to the public enquiry office.