Further changes to UK immigration rules announced

The Government has published a Statement of Changes to the UK Immigration Rules which contains changes to work and study visa routes from April 2021.  This followed hot on the heels of other changes announced by the Chancellor in the Budget on 3 March 2021. 

Key changes of relevance to employers are set out below.

New Graduate Route

The much anticipated new Graduate Route will open on 1 July 2021.  This will be available for international students who have successfully completed a degree at a higher education institution in the UK.  Students who have completed a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree will be granted leave for two years during which they can undertake work largely without restriction.  Students who have completed a PhD will be granted leave for three years. 

While time spent in the Graduate Route will not count towards continuous residence for indefinite leave to remain, holders will be able to switch into the Skilled Worker route.  When switching they will benefit from the ‘new entrant’ tradeable points option which provides for a lower minimum salary threshold.  Dependent family members will also qualify for the route if they are in the UK with leave as a dependant of the main applicant. 

This Graduate Route is likely to be valuable for many employers as it will enable them to employ new graduates for a period without having incur the costs associated with sponsorship for a Skilled Worker visa.   

Shortage Occupation List

The shortage occupation list is being updated from 1 April 2021, taking into account the recommendation of the Migration Advisory Committee.  A further eight occupations being added to the list including pharmacists, senior care workers, and nursing auxiliaries and assistants.  Roles on the shortage occupation list attract a lower salary threshold of 80% of the published ‘going rate’. 

Global Talent visas

The Global Talent route will be subject to minor changes from 1 April 2021.  Applicants who have received a prestigious prize will be able to bypass the usual endorsement requirements.  The Global Talent route is a ‘non-sponsored’ route designed for talented and promising individuals in the fields of science, digital technology, arts, and culture.  It can be bureaucratic to navigate, so this change will streamline the process considerably for some applicants.

Highly skilled migrants

In the Budget the Government confirmed its intention to introduce a points-based visa for highly skilled migrants to be in place by March 2022.  A 'scale-up' stream will be included within the category with the purpose of allowing individuals with a job offer from a pre-approved UK scale-up business to access a fast-track process.  Further details, including in respect of ‘fast track process  and the criteria business will need to meet in order to qualify for approval, will be published in due course.


The Covid-19 pandemic continues to create significant difficulties for people who wish to travel, including for business reasons.  On 5 March 2021, the Government introduced a travel declaration form for those wishing to travel abroad for legally permitted reasons. All individuals travelling outside of the UK will need to complete the form to declare the reasons for travelling prior to departure.  Some of the permitted reasons for international travel include work, education and volunteering. 

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