Navigating Business Restructuring: Strategies for Success in Turbulent Times

Introduction

Due to the interconnected global economy, markets are experiencing significant disruptions causing turmoil and challenges for businesses and their stakeholders. Successfully guiding clients through complex restructuring and insolvency processes across borders demands not only experience but also a global presence, expertise in advising diverse stakeholders, and seamless coordination across legal domains.

Understanding Business Restructuring

Business restructuring is an important process that businesses go through to deal with tough economic times, adapt to changes in their industry, or fix internal problems. Making it work usually means making smart decisions, working together with everyone involved, and being ready to change how the business operates. This article looks at real examples of companies that have successfully restructured their finances, showing what they did and how it helped their overall business.

Legal Considerations in Business Restructuring

Legal considerations play a vital role in business restructuring. It is integral to business restructuring to encompass regulatory requirements and contractual obligations. Understanding the relevant regulatory framework is essential to ensure compliance with corporate governance, securities laws, and industry-specific regulations. Managing existing contracts may necessitate renegotiation or termination, whilst adherence to employment laws is critical, especially concerning workforce changes. Moreover, considerations such as intellectual property, taxes and environmental regulations must be carefully evaluated to avoid legal complications. A comprehensive grasp of the legal landscape is vital for effective restructuring, risk mitigation and regulatory compliance.

Steps in Business Restructuring

Preparing for restructuring is similar to laying the groundwork for a major renovation project. It involves a comprehensive examination of the company's financial health and operational efficiency, identifying areas that need improvement and devising a detailed plan to address these issues. This plan should outline specific objectives, strategies and timelines, serving as a roadmap for the restructuring process. Seeking input from financial advisors and legal experts can provide valuable insights and help anticipate potential challenges that may arise.

Negotiating and documenting the restructuring plan requires collaboration with various stakeholders, including creditors, suppliers and employees. This entails renegotiating contracts, restructuring debt agreements and formalising legal documents such as restructuring plans and employment contracts.

Throughout this process, clear communication, transparency, and attention to detail are essential to ensure everyone is aligned and the restructuring strategy is executed effectively. By carefully laying the groundwork and meticulously planning each step, companies can navigate the complexities of restructuring with confidence and achieve their desired outcomes while safeguarding the interests of all involved parties.

Conclusion

Navigating the complexities of business restructuring requires a comprehensive understanding of the interconnected global economy and the legal landscape. With expertise in debt finance, restructuring, and litigation, our team is well-equipped to guide clients through the intricacies of restructuring, safeguarding their interests and achieving long-term success.

This article is provided  for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact us using the contact form or email us on reception@cnsolicitors.com

Continuous residence rule in the Long Residence applications

The main requirement for the Long Residence visa category is to spend at least 10 years in the United Kingdom lawfully. The word “lawfully” is defined as having valid permission to be in the UK, such as for study, work, family purposes (but not permission as a visitor or short-term student or a seasonal worker).

The 10-year period that includes time spent in the UK unlawfully is not covered by this post. More information on this can be found in Appendix Private Life.

Appendix Long Residence

The Statement of Changes (“SoC”) in Immigration Rules laid before Parliament on the 14th of March 2024 (HC 590) introduced big changes to the Long Residence route. As such, a new requirement was brought in for applicants to have had their current permission for at least one year before attempting a settlement application under the Long Residence route.  In addition, it altered the way of meeting the “Continuous residence” requirement by introducing new absences calculation technique “for greater consistency across immigration rules” [quoted from the Explanatory Memorandum to the SoC (HC 590)]. Although consistency is a value of paramount importance, it remains questionable whether the primary legislation needed consistency in this particular instance.

The newest edition of the Immigration Rules for Long Residence visa route can be found in a recently introduced Appendix Long Residence, which replaced the provisions in Part 7 of Rules. It includes requirements for Permission to stay, Settlement as well as the Transitional arrangements for those, granted an extension of stay on the basis of Long Residence on or before 8 July 2012. The main difference between Permission to stay and Settlement routes is that in the latter, the English Language and Life in the UK test requirements must be met.

Historical background to “Continuous residence” requirement

The Immigration Rules for the Long Residence visa route were first laid before the House of Commons on 31 March 2003 (Statement of Changes HC 538). From there on, and until the 11th of April 2024, ‘Continuous residence’ in the Immigration Rules was defined as:

residence in the United Kingdom for an unbroken period, and for these purposes a period shall not be considered to have been broken where an applicant is absent from the United Kingdom for a period of 6 months or less at any one time, provided that the applicant in question has existing limited leave to enter or remain upon their departure and return, but shall be considered to have been broken if the applicant:

….

(v) has spent a total of more than 18 months absent from the United Kingdom during the period in question.”

In one of our past articles, we wrote about the Immigration Rules being interpreted differently by the Home Office and the applicants themselves, resulting in refusals and subsequent litigations. The article was focused on the correct interpretation of “existing leave to enter or remain upon their departure and return” within the definition of ‘Continuous residence’, setting out the case law that impelled changes in the Home Office’s decision-making practices. Some years later, the definition of “18 months” was challenged.

Historically, “18 months” was defined by the Home Office as being 540 days. The case  [2021] UKUT 65 (IAC) challenged this approach and brought the change to the interpretation of 18 months being 548 days.

Notably, the wording of the relevant paragraph of the Immigration Rules remained unchanged. However, the Home Office’s approach to applying the “Continuous residence” definition in the casework practices was revised.

With the new SoC (HC 590), the Home Office decided that there was time to change the primary legislation, that hadn’t been amended since 2003, and to do so in respect of the absences calculation under the “Continuous residence” requirement. With the new Rules, the 548 days became law rather than a guidance.  However, the new absences calculation technique has caused much confusion as the correct approach depends on when the 10-year qualifying residence is completed. The Home Office is known for introducing the requirements that are bafflingly complex and the new Rules under Appendix Long Residence have not been an exemption.

New absences calculation

As of the 11th of April 2024, to meet the “Continuous residence” requirement, the time spent outside of the UK should be calculated as follows:

10-year period completed before 11 April 2024 No more than 548 days during the 10-year qualifying period

 

No more than 184 days at any one time

 

10-year period completed on/after 11 April 2024 No more than 184 days for any single absence started before 11 April 2024

 

No more than 180 days in any 12-calendar month period

 

Essentially, the Home Office has given the prospective applicants more flexibility in terms of how much time they can spend outside of the UK during the decade in question. However, the concern now arises from the discrepancy in the wording of the Immigration Rules and the Home Office operational guidance in relation to the absences calculation. Such discrepancy is a potential pathway for litigations that, as history serves, may well alter the Home Office's decision-making practices in the future.

 

Note: This article was prepared on the 25th of April 2024 in line with the version of the Immigration Rules and relevant Home Office operational guidance in place on this date.

This article is provided  for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact us using the contact form or email us on reception@cnsolicitors.com

How to navigate salary thresholds under the work visa routes

A new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, laid before Parliament on the 14th of March 2024, introduced a sharp increase to the minimum salary thresholds for work routes, including Skilled Worker, Health and Care, Scale-Up and Senior or Specialist Worker routes. In addition, the Shortage Occupation List was replaced by a new Immigration Salary List, specifying the occupations where a reduced salary threshold applies in the Skilled Worker route and the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) code system was updated from SOC 2010 to SOC 2020. The Home Office has also introduced transitional arrangements for existing work visa holders.

This has resulted in the expansion of the Appendix Skilled Occupations from three tables to six and in the version of the Rules which is difficult to follow. The Home Office operations guidance, which was updated on the 4th of April 2024, is not much of a help. Moreover, there are noticeable discrepancies in the Rules and guidance as well as operational issues since the implementation of the new Rules.

There is a hope that the Home Office will address the identified issues promptly. In the meantime, this post intends to shed light on how to navigate different salary levels when sponsoring migrant workers on the work routes.

 

Transitional provision

The starting point is to identify whether the prospective applicant falls within the transitional provision. The transitional provision applies when:

  • The prospective applicant was granted permission as a Skilled Worker before the 4th of April 2024 and they have had continuous permission as a Skilled Worker since, and the date of application is before 4 April 2030; or
  • The prospective applicant’s Certificate of Sponsorship (“COS”) was assigned before the 4th of April 2024 and they have had continuous permission as a Skilled Worker since, and the date of application is before 4 April 2030; or
  • The job is eligible for the Health and Care ASHE visa (some conditions apply). More information can be found in paragraph SW A1.1. of Appendix Skilled Worker of Immigration Rules; or
  • If being sponsored under Table 2a of Appendix Skilled Occupations, the prospective applicant was sponsored by the same sponsor in the most recent grant of permission and the sponsor continues to sponsor them.

If any of the transitional provisions apply, the minimum salary threshold will be assessed against the following options:

Option F: £29,000 per year, £11.90 per hour and the going rate for the SOC 2020 occupation code

Option G (PhD in a subject relevant to the job): £26,100 per year, £11.90 per hour and 90% of the going rate for the occupation code

Option H (PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job): £23,200 per year, £11.90 per hour and 80% of the going rate for the occupation code

Option I (Job is in the Immigration Salary List): £23,200 per year, £11.90 per hour and the going rate for the occupation code

Option J (New entrant): £23,200 per year, £11.90 per hour and 70% of the going rate for the occupation code

Option K (Job listed in Health and Education Occupation): £23,200 per year and the going rate for the occupation code (Table 3 of Appendix Skilled Occupations)

The going rate for Options F to J can be found in Table 2 of Appendix Skilled Occupations.

 

New salary levels

If the job does not fall under any of the above-listed options, then, new salary thresholds apply:

Option A: £38,700 per year, £15.88 per hour and the going rate for the occupation code

Option B (PhD in a subject relevant to the job): £34,830 per year, £15.88 per hour and 90% of the going rate for the occupation code

Option C (PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job): £30,960 per year, £15.88 per hour and 80% of the going rate for the occupation code

Option D (Job is in the Immigration Salary List): £30,960 per year, £15.88 per hour and the going rate for the occupation code

Option E (New entrant): £30,960 per year, £15.88 per hour and 70% of the going rate for the occupation code

The going rates for Options A to E can be found in Table 1 of Appendix Skilled Occupations.

 

Changes to Global Mobility and Scale-Up Routes

Alike the Skilled Worker salary thresholds, the salary thresholds for the Global Mobility Routes have gone up. The good news is that the going rates for the Global Mobility Routes will continue to be based on the 25th percentile of roles within the relevant SOC code and can be found in Tables 2 and 2b of Appendix Skilled Occupations. However, the minimum salary thresholds have gone up from £45,800 to £48,500 per annum for Senior or Specialist Workers and from £24,220 to £25,410 for Graduate Trainee applicants.

Important to note that some SOC Codes which were eligible for sponsorship under the Global Mobility Routes are no longer eligible as of the 4th of April 2024. Such codes are now listed in Table 2b of Appendix Skilled Occupations and can be used by someone with permission on this route before the 4th of April 2024 and who is applying for an extension to continue working in the same role.

For the Scale-Up route, the general threshold has been raised from £34,600 to £36,300.

 

What is next?

By introducing the above changes, as stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, the Home Office intends to encourage UK businesses to invest in the resident workforce rather than over-relying on migration. This has been the aim for many years but changing the immigration policy has not [yet] brought the desired results.

What is certain is that the Immigration Rules are becoming harder to navigate even for experienced immigration practitioners and, coupled with the increase in Immigration Health Surcharge and other visa costs, it could be assumed that this could have been done intentionally to discourage businesses from employing foreign workforce.

This article has been published in line with the relevant Rules and policies that apply on the 24th of April 2024.

 

This article is provided  for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact us using the contact form or email us on reception@cnsolicitors.com


What happens if a fee waiver request has been withdrawn?

What happens if a fee waiver request has been withdrawn?

The answer to this question does not appear to be straightforward.

As a brief background, a fee waiver allows eligible applicants to partially or fully avoid the payment of the Immigration Health Surcharge and/or application fees. The fee waiver option was originally available to in-country applications only. In 2022, the Home Office changed the Rules to allow overseas applicants to apply but only in limited circumstances.

To become eligible, an applicant must demonstrate upon legitimate evidence that they cannot afford the visa application and/or Immigration Health Surcharge fees for a reason of being destitute or at risk of becoming destitute, or, the total income earned is not enough to meet the child’s additional needs. If granted, the actual visa application must be made within 10 working days from the date of the decision on the fee waiver request when applying within the UK or 28 calendar days when applying from outside the UK followed by the submission of biometric data. Important to note that only certain application types are eligible for a fee waiver and applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (also known as settlement), even those based on human rights claims, are not eligible for a fee waiver.

The processing times for a fee waiver request have recently been subject to increase, making many wonder what happens if a paid visa application has been submitted whilst a fee waiver request remains pending. This all comes down to section 3(c) of the Immigration Act 1971, or as commonly known “section 3(c)”.

To put it simply, section 3(c) extends one’s permission to remain in the UK lawfully whilst their in-time UK visa application remains pending decision at the Home Office or until all appeal rights associated with an in-time refused visa application are exhausted. In relation to a fee waiver request, without going into many technicalities, if the request has been made before the expiry date of a valid UK visa, the applicant’s rights to remain in the UK lawfully continue at the time when the decision on a fee waiver application has been made and at the time when an actual visa application has been submitted, even if the visa validity already came to an end. But what happens if a fee waiver request has been withdrawn or a paid visa application is made whilst the visa has already expired but a fee waiver request is yet to be decided?

The simple answer is that section 3(c) will not be triggered which means that the person will be an overstayer once their UK visa comes to an end. This is because a fee waiver is not an application for leave to remain in the UK – it is merely a request for the UKVI fees to be waived.

Case study

On 5 November 2023, Tom submitted a request asking the Home Office to waive the payment of the Immigration Health Charge and UKVI fees in relation to his UK Spouse extension application. Tom’s permission to remain in the UK expired on 1 January 2024 and his leave was transitioned to section 3(c).

Tom then realised that on 7 February 2024, he accumulated 10 years in the UK. Tom decided to not wait for the outcome of his fee waiver request and on 11 February 2024 he submitted a paid Indefinite Leave to Remain visa application under the 10-year Long Residence route using an expedited service.

On 11 March 2024, Tom’s application was refused. The reason is that to be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain under the 10-year Long Residence, Tom had to demonstrate that he was lawfully present in the UK for a consecutive 10-year period. Unfortunately, making a paid visa application, Tom’s fee waiver request became void, making him an overstayer since 2 January 2024, and therefore, short of lawful 10 years of residence.

The wording in some of the Home Office operation policies might suggest that a fee waiver request submitted in time is treated as an application for leave to remain, however, since the fee waiver is not an application for leave, it cannot be varied.

In the wake of the incredibly high visa fees and legal costs, it is more important than ever to correctly interpret the Immigration Law and requirements to avoid any disappointment and unnecessary expenses. Our Immigration team can assist with very complex immigration matters including fee waiver requests. Contact us for a quick assessment.

This article is provided  for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact us using the contact form or email us on reception@cnsolicitors.com

Revocation of the cohabitation requirement for a UK partner visa

For many years it was a standard practice to comply with the cohabitation requirement when applying as an unmarried partner to join a family member under various immigration routes. With the introduction of a new Appendix relationship with Partner that relaxed the definition of “durable relationship”, the relationship requirements under Appendix FM and Appendix FM-SE have now been brought in line.

The unmarried partner visa applies to couples that have been in a durable relationship (not married or in a civil partnership) for at least 2 years. In other words, the couple must demonstrate that they have been in a relationship similar to marriage or a civil partnership for at least 2 years before the date of a UK visa application. The unmarried partner visa option is available not only for partners or British or Irish nationals, persons with settled status in the UK, with protection status, with limited leave under Appendix EU and Appendix ECAA applying under Appendix FM and Appendix FM-SE of the Immigration Rules, but also for partners on the work and study routes.

As history serves, the requirement for unmarried partners in relation to “durable relationship” for many years was that the couple “must have been living together in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership for at least the two years before the date of application”.  This implied at least two years of cohabitation, regardless of whether the application for a UK visa is submitted within the UK or abroad.

With the introduction of an Appendix relationship with Partner into the Immigration Rules for applicants on work and study routes in 2023, the cohabitation requirement was abolished. Instead, the assessment is now based on the facts of each case, regardless of whether the couple have cohabitated or not.

On the 31st of January 2024, the same approach came into force for applications under Appendix FM and Appendix FM-SE of the Immigration Rules, which is rather welcome news.

As marriage is no longer required as a public display of commitment, unmarried partnerships have become very popular and have a very diverse form within and outside the UK. In addition, with technology playing a very prevalent role in modern society, it brings opportunities, enhances communication and provides couples with a new way of maintaining long-distance relationships. This is particularly relevant in some countries/cultures where cohabitation isn’t permitted or where same-sex relationships are not recognised or accepted. The Home Office’s implementation of cohabitation flexibility to the “durable relationship” requirement, therefore, is excellent news.

Where the couple has not cohabitated or has not lived together for some parts of the 2-year period, consideration will be given to the reason for living apart, level and frequency of communication, visits, joint holidays, events attended, financial support and evidence of joint care for children. There may also be cases where no documents can be provided in relation to a durable relationship. In such circumstances, the decision will be based on the facts of the case.

Our Immigration team has decades of experience assisting couples with their immigration matters, in particular, in complex cases where no or little cohabitation documents can be provided. Do not hesitate to get in touch for a brief free assessment or detailed legal advice.

This article is provided  for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact us using the contact form or email us on reception@cnsolicitors.com

What is the purpose of the Scale-up scheme, and do we still need it?

 

The UK's Scale-up Visa, launched in 2022, aims to attract talent to fast-growing businesses by offering a two or three year visa’s to those in qualifying roles who meet specific requirements including the minimum salary threshold, English language and financial requirements. After five years, it would open a pathway to settlement.

The recent announcement about the increase in the minimum salary threshold for a Skilled Worker visa raises questions about the need for potential adjustments to the Scale-up scheme and its continued advantage for individuals and businesses. This article introduces the Scale-up visa scheme and explores its future.

What is Scale-up scheme? 

This visa route offers two visa options: a sponsored and an unsponsored. The sponsored visa is available for up to two years, while the unsponsored visa can last up to three years. Applicants must apply for a sponsored visa, which is the starting point for this program.

To qualify for the Scale-up visa, individuals must obtain a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from an approved, UK-based Scale-up sponsor for a role that meets the required skill level with a minimum annual salary of £34,600. In addition, applicants must prove their English proficiency to at least the CEFR Level B1 (equivalent to IELTS 4.0) and meet the financial requirement. After six months of employment for the sponsor, Scale-up visa holders can switch to a different employer without needing another sponsorship or having to notify the Home Office.

The unsponsored scale-up visa route requirements are identical to the initial sponsored visa. Still, the only difference is that the applicant must have completed a minimum six-month period with their sponsored employer, provided they continue to earn a minimum yearly salary of £34,600 or £33,000 for those whose Certificate of Sponsorship was issued before 11 April 2023. This setup offers a straightforward and adaptable path for skilled individuals pursuing work opportunities in the UK.

Dependent family members 

Partners and children can accompany the applicant on the visa by meeting specific criteria such as the relationship, age, and financial requirements. This flexibility benefit is advantageous for employees relocating with their families. The visa scheme’s primary advantage is keeping families together, allowing dependent partners to work except as professional sportspersons and there is no specific minimum salary threshold for them to fulfil. When lead applicants switch or extend their visa, their partner or their child's status remains unchanged. However, the partner or child must apply for an extension or visa switch simultaneously with or before the lead applicant's visa expiration.

Settlement 

Those aiming to settle must accumulate a continuous five-year period in the UK, adhering to the pathway toward indefinite leave to remain. During this period, they must fulfil the earnings requirement to be eligible for settlement.

 

A Scale-up Sponsorship License and the burdens 

To be eligible to become a Scale-up sponsor, a company can apply through either of the two available pathways: standard or endorsement. To qualify under the standard path, the employer must have grown by an average of 20% over three years in either employment or total sales and have at least ten employees at the start of the three-year period. The endorsing pathway is for companies with an HMRC history of fewer than three years that cannot provide the evidence required in the standard path. To qualify, the company must pay an additional fee to obtain an endorsement from the Home Office-approved endorsing body, which must be obtained within three months from the date of application. There are seven requirements to be satisfied, including demonstrating the potential growth rate required for the Scale-up standard and being expected to meet the definition of a Scale-up in the next four years. In addition to these seven mandatory requirements, employers must also satisfy at least three out of five additional requirements to receive the Sponsorship License.

Does the scheme work so far? 

Despite the seemingly straightforward way of obtaining the Sponsorship License, the Scale-up visa scheme presents significant challenges to businesses, including the financial and administrative burden, compounded by the need for more assurance that employees will remain in their posts beyond the initial six-month period. Given that this scheme's principal benefit is attracting highly skilled workers, as of 22nd February 2024 there were only 52 out of over 103,000 Sponsors who were successfully licensed under the Scale-up Scheme since its launch in 2022. This raises the most obvious concern over the attractiveness of this visa route. Or, perhaps, this visa route has been overlooked?

Those businesses that are aware of this sponsorship option undoubtedly will weigh up whether it is worth investing their time and resources, especially when there are other ways to hire a foreign workforce. Another important aspect is that unlike other sponsored work routes, the Scale-up License cannot be renewed beyond the initial four-year period. This aspect further underscores the potential limitations of the Scale-up scheme as a long-term solution for businesses aiming to attract and retain skilled talent. This situation prompts a broader reflection on the necessity of this scheme.

 

Do we need a Scale-up scheme? 

Since its introduction, the Scale-up visa scheme has received minimal attention. According to Sponsored work visas by occupation and industry data, from Q1 to Q3 2023, there were 237,284 applicants for sponsored worker visas. However, only 26 applied for the Scale-up visa, with 20 receiving approvals. In comparison, 174,646 applied for the skilled worker visa and 163,386 were granted.

Before the Home Office introduced the increase in the minimum salary threshold, the Skilled Worker visa route was more appealing due to the lower salary requirement than the Scale-up visa. With the increase, the salary requirement for both visa routes are similar, potentially enhancing the Scale-up visa's appeal due to its added flexibility. However, the future of the Scale-up visa remains to be determined, depending on whether the Home Office decides to revise the threshold further. If the Home Office opts for another increase, it could significantly impact the scheme's demand, casting doubt on the advantages the Scale-up visa offers to attract more applicants, especially considering the already low figures for individual and business applications.

 

How Our law firm can help 

Our team of immigration experts is dedicated to offering comprehensive legal advice and support designed to make your immigration journey as seamless as possible. We pride ourselves in providing personalised assistance tailored to each client's specific needs and circumstances, ensuring a higher likelihood of successful application success.

 

This article is provided for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact us using the contact form or email us at reception@cnsolicitors.com

 


2024 Immigration rule updates

 

Recently, the United Kingdom has implemented significant changes in its immigration policies, impacting both businesses and individuals. Notable revisions include:

  • The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
  • Skilled worker minimum salary threshold.
  • Spouse, Partner visas (Appendix FM) minimum income threshold.
  • The renewal policy for business sponsor licenses.

These changes have introduced considerable financial challenges and administrative shifts for those planning to work, study, or reunite with family in the UK. This article explores these critical immigration developments and their multifaceted effects on immigration processes, recruitment strategies, and administrative burdens.

 

The Immigrant Health Surcharge Rise

The UK government's recent revision of the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), effective from 6th February 2024, presents substantial financial challenges for businesses and individuals. The IHS has seen a significant increase, rising from £624 to £1035 annually and an increase from £470 to £776 for children under 18, students and their dependents. This policy change aligns to make a sufficient financial contribution' reflecting the government's commitment to addressing the impact of migration on the NHS.

The IHS is a mandatory fee for those intending to stay in the UK for over six months. While incremental increases in the IHS have occurred since 2019, this recent rise poses a significant financial challenge for businesses reliant on international talent, potentially effecting their ability to attract and retain skilled overseas workers. Companies may need to reassess compensation and benefits packages, revise recruitment budgets, and consider the overall impact on organisational costs. Similarly, individuals, especially skilled workers, and international students, must engage in careful financial planning as the higher IHS fee adds to the overall cost of obtaining a UK visa. This change may discourage some from choosing the UK as their destination for work or study, potentially reducing the available recruitment pool.

 

Skilled worker minimum salary threshold.

The recent changes in the skilled worker minimum salary threshold announced on 4th December have far-reaching implications. This nearly 50% rise from £26,200 to £38,700 will come into force from 4th April and could lead to reassessing hiring strategies, particularly for sectors heavily reliant on low-paid skilled migrants. The policy will significantly impact the recruitment pool as it becomes more difficult for immigrants to apply for visas and meet the minimum threshold in the UK. While intending to attract highly paid skilled workers, it may also necessitate a review of hiring strategies in sectors dependent on low-paid skilled migrants.

These changes also impact the Graduate Visa route, vital for international students seeking employment in the UK. While the Graduate Route offers opportunities, the new immigration rules and the raised minimum salary threshold may influence career decisions, potentially affecting sectors traditionally employing international graduates. Moreover, when coupled with increased visa application fees and health surcharges, these policy changes create additional hurdles for individuals pursuing work and education in the UK.

 

Spouse, Partner visas (Appendix FM) minimum income threshold.

Additionally, aiming to reduce net migration, the Home Secretary has announced a gradual increase in the minimum income requirement for Spouse and Partner visas. Starting 11th April, the threshold will increase from £18,600 to £29,000, eventually reaching £38,700 by early 2025. Family visas are crucial for individuals seeking to reunite with their family members, partners, or spouses in the UK. Anyone wishing to bring their family to the UK must consider applying for a visa before the new requirements take effect in April.

The renewal policy for business sponsor licenses.

On the other hand, a significant change in the UK's immigration law regarding business sponsor licenses takes effect from 6th April 2024. This change automatically extends all sponsor licenses set to expire after this date by ten years, eliminating the need for renewal and associated fees. Nevertheless, sponsors with licenses expiring before 6th April 2024 still need to apply for renewal and pay the associated costs to remain licensed. Failure to renew could lead to employment restrictions for sponsored employees. The new policy removes the need for renewal every four years, reducing administrative efforts and costs burdened on businesses.

This change is a significant relief for businesses employing foreign workers. Eliminating renewal requirements means cost savings and less time spent on administrative processes. Businesses can focus more on strategic talent acquisition and management without worrying about sponsor license renewals. With these changes, companies must understand their new responsibilities and opportunities. The extension of the sponsor license validity period marks a positive shift for firms in the UK, simplifying the process of employing foreign talent and providing more stability and predictability.

Given these significant changes, our law firm extends its expertise in providing legal advice and support to navigate the evolving immigration landscape. We assist businesses in understanding and complying with new regulations, optimising recruitment strategies and addressing legal challenges. We also guide individuals, particularly skilled workers and international students in navigating visa applications and career planning amidst these transformative shifts. Our firm ensures that businesses and individuals can thrive in this changing immigration environment.

 

This article is provided for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact us using the contact form or email us at reception@cnsolicitors.com

 


Understanding the Returning Resident Visa: Requirements, Eligibility, and Application Process

Returning Resident visa caters to those who previously had indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom (also known as “settlement”) which has now lapsed, and who now want to return to and settle in the UK.

 

If the visa application is successful, having been granted permission to re-enter the UK, the applicant's residential rights and benefits will be restored.

 

The Returning Resident visa application must be submitted from outside of the UK and the following validity requirements must be met:

 

  • The application must be submitted on the ‘UKA/ROA/RR’ form or (for applicants under the Windrush Scheme) the ‘Windrush Scheme application (Overseas) form
  • The applicant must be outside the UK
  • The required fees must be paid (no fee is required for the Windrush Scheme)
  • The required biometrics must be provided
  • The applicant’s identity and nationality must be established
  • There must be a record of the applicant being previously granted settlement in the UK, which has now lapsed due to the absence

 

On the application, the genuine intention to settle in the UK must be demonstrated as well as strong ties to the country through family, assets or business connections. Furthermore, the length of time the applicant had lived in the UK before their departure will also be a factor in considering whether there is a strong link. As such, the longer the period of residence in the UK was, the more reason will be to believe that the applicant has established a strong connection with the UK.

 

Important to note that when assessing an application, the Home Office will also take into consideration the reason for the prolonged absence, would it be medical treatment, caring for a family member, overseas employment/self-employment or studies. Overstaying due to inability to travel can also be taken into consideration.

 

Lastly, some applicants might be subject to a TB test requirement.

 

The application fee is currently set at £637. The current processing time is 3 weeks. If the application is successful, the passport will be endorsed with an entry clearance vignette valid for 3 months. The BRP card will be available for collection at a designated post office upon arrival in the UK.

 

At Chan Neill Solicitors LLP we have an experienced immigration team which has been successfully assisting applicants with a Returning Resident visa for many years. Do not hesitate to contact us for advice and assistance.

 


How will new immigration rules affect international students and their families studying in the UK?

On 17th July 2023, the Home Office made some changes to immigration rules, the most significant of which is the restriction on overseas students bringing family members to the UK.

 

However, when the news was released in May, the Home Office announced the scheme expected to be implemented in January next year.

 

Unexpectedly, yesterday's Immigration Rules Update document announced without warning that the restriction on overseas students bringing family members had begun.

Today's post will focus on how this update to the immigration rules will affect overseas students.

 

Restrictions on student visa holders bringing family members to the UK.

 

The UK is home to several world-renowned institutions of higher education. Hence, so many international students from all over the world come to the UK every year to further their studies.

 

Students of all ages come to the UK for higher education, with many returning to study after starting a family.

 

To allow students to combine family life with study, the UK government has previously allowed holders of long-term student visas to bring their spouses and children to the UK.

 

Whilst student visa holders are subject to restrictions on working hours and other business activities, their spouses are free to work and do business in the UK whilst on a Dependant visa.

 

As a result, more and more people are using the combination of a student visa and a Dependant visa as a transition for the whole family to immigrate to the UK, which has led to the student visa being gradually abused and losing its original purpose.

 

This immigration rule update is also the result of the UK government's desire to stop the abuse of student visas and return them to their original purpose of serving academic research.

 

Overall, the Home Office has not applied a blanket rule on overseas students bringing family members with them. Instead, they have increased the requirements for overseas students who can bring family members with them, depending on the circumstances.

Currently (after 17th July) there are specific conditions for students to be able to bring their families to the UK:

 

- Government Scholarship students studying a programme of 6 months or more

- Full-time students studying a postgraduate or above programme (RQF level 7 or above) of 9 months or more.

 

Please note that the requirements will remain in effect until the end of this year, except for government scholarship students who will not be affected. Additionally, restrictions for students pursuing postgraduate or higher-level courses will be further strengthened starting from January 1, 2024.

 

Only the following two types of postgraduate or above courses commencing after 1/1/2024 will be allowed to bring dependants:

 

- PHD doctoral degree or other doctoral degree (RQF level 8)

- Research-based Higher Degree (RQF 8)

 

This update to the immigration rules is only for upcoming dependents of students, and applications for dependents of students submitted before 17 July will be reviewed under the previous rules.

Pathway requirements added for a student visa to other work/business visas.

 

Some new prerequisites for student visas to be converted to other work/business visas have been added to the Immigration Rules Update published on the 17th.

 

The work/business visas affected are:

- Skilled worker visas

- Visas within the Global Business Mobility Programme

- Tier 2 Minister of Religion Visa

- Overseas Chief Representative Visa

- British Ancestor Visa

- Global Talent Visa

- High Potential Talent Visa

- Expansion Worker Scale-up Visa

- Innovation Founder Visa

- International Athlete Visa

- Various short-term work visas, etc.

There were no special requirements in the previous immigration rules for converting a student visa to another work/business visa.

 

If the student found a company with employer sponsorship qualification that is willing to sponsor him/her for the corresponding work visa or fulfilled the eligibility criteria for a particular business visa, then the student could convert to the corresponding visa at any time during his/her student visa.

 

However, with effect from yesterday (17 July), one of the following conditions must be met to be able to convert from a student visa to a work/business visa:

 

(a)The applicant must have completed the course of study for which the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies was assigned (or a course to which ST 27.3 of Appendix Student applies); or

 

(b) Condition B:

(i) The applicant must be studying a full-time course of study at degree level or above with a higher education provider which has a track record of compliance; and

 

(c) Condition C:

(i) The applicant must be studying a full-time course of study leading to the award of a PhD with higher education provider which has a track record of compliance.

(ii) The Certificate of Sponsorship in SW 1.2(d) must have a start date no earlier than 24 months after the start date of that course.''.

 

The requirements for Global Talent Visa, High Potential Talent Visa and Innovative Founder Visa are more stringent, and only applicants who fulfil point 1 or 3 of the above conditions can complete the conversion from student visa to these 3 types of visas.

These are the highlights of this immigration rule update on the overseas student community.

 

There is no restriction on international students to stay in the UK after graduation. If they cannot immediately convert from a student visa to a work or business visa, they can still obtain a two-year stay on a Graduate Visa and look for work opportunities in the UK.

 

These measures are to prevent the misuse of student visas, work, or business visas, and to regulate the influx of immigrants to the UK. Additionally, they aim to enhance the overall quality of immigration.

 

Students undertaking advanced academic education and research in the UK will still be able to enjoy the right to bring their dependants with them, and the threshold between student and work/business visas will go some way to improving the quality of professional or business immigration.

Under the current criteria, if you wish to save time by completing a seamless transition from a student visa to a work or business visa to achieve permanent residence, we recommend you start your immigration pathway planning as early as possible.

 

The professional immigration team at Chan Neill Solicitors can provide you with the most suitable immigration solution based on your background. If you require any assistance, kindly reach out to us.


Immigration Case Studies

Sponsor licence granted for small-sized company in 10 working days.

Background of the case: The company is a small-sized education consulting company with only two full time employees. The company has been established for a long time and it is a stable and mature business. The business operation is relevantly small, and the company’s turnover is low (below the VAT threshold).

Chan Neill Solicitors assisted the company with accumulating the following information and documents to prove the stability of the company's business: business model, business profile and various business activities. In addition to explaining why the company needs overseas employees for its business and justify the necessity of applying for a sponsorship licence.

Based on the client’s needs, expedited service was successfully approved (this service is limited to 10 applications per day) and the company was granted a licensed sponsor under the Skilled Worker Route in 10 working days.

Recently the UK has introduced Global Business Mobility routes and High Potential Talent visas to attract overseas talent. To retain these talents, UK companies are still required to have a valid sponsor licence to provide workers with a  work visa.

 

Tourist visa switched to Dependant visa in 2 working days

Background of the case: Mr Z and his spouse entered the UK as tourists in 2021. Due to the Covid restrictions, Mr Z could not return to his country. We assisted him in applying for an Exceptional Assurance (EA) extension before he must return to his country. An approved confirmation of EA was received with the validity date until July 2022 for Mr Z. In the meantime, we waited for his spouse to switch to a Skilled Worker visa to be granted as she was offered a position in the UK. After his spouse’s Skilled Worker visa was approved, Chan Neill Solicitors began to assist Mr Z’s to prepare for his Dependant as a Partner visa application.

Under the regulations and guidance from the Home Office, applicants are required to provide proof of address with their spouse for a period of two years as evidence that they living together. Mr Z were not able to provide the relevant documents for the past two years due to the following reasons first of all, they have not lived together for a long period of time, secondly previous accommodation documentations were not kept, lastly, they both entered the UK for a short period of time.

Since Mr Z were not able to fulfil the requirement of providing proof of address for the past two years. Alternatively, Chan Neill Solicitors advised Mr Z to compile the recent hotel reservations, travel confirmations and photos to be used as evidence showing they are living together and explained the reasons for Mr Z to apply for switch to a Dependant as a partner visa within the UK on the grounds of international travel restrictions. Mr Z attended his UK visa interview on a Friday and received the visa issuance email in two working days.

Typically, spouse visa or dependent visa applications requires several documentations as proof of relationship. Chan Neill Solicitors are able to advise and assist client’s based on their situation.

Our immigration advisors are focused on problem solving and are highly experienced in dealing with complex immigration issues.  If you have any queries regarding immigration and/or visa, please contact us.