New statement of changes to the Immigration Rules from 31 December 2020

A new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules was published on 31 December 2020 and took effect at 11pm that night. It is short enough that you can get a sense of what’s in it by quickly glancing over the explanatory memo, but we’ll add a few comments on the main changes.

None of the amendments appear earth-shattering. Top billing probably goes to a change to the rules for the International Agreement Worker route, a type of temporary work visa (Tier 5, in old money). Within the International Agreement route, there are further subdivisions, with visas available for:

  • private servants in diplomatic households
  • employees of an overseas government or international organisation
  • contractual service suppliers
  • independent professionals supplying services

These last two categories basically refer to people who are based abroad but are coming to the UK for a short to medium term professional services assignment with a British company. These services range from auditing to midwifery, but whether someone from a given country can use this route to provide a given service depends on whether there is a services treaty in place between the UK and that country. Annex IAW1 of the guidance on sponsoring an International Agreement Worker contains tables showing the treaties available and what services they cover. For example, Canadian insurance consultants qualify, but not Georgian ones; Ukrainian architects are in, but Chilean chefs are out, and so on.

The Brexit trade agreement — the one wrapped up on Christmas Eve — includes such a services deal between the UK and EU countries. It covers a range of service sectors, such as accountancy, legal advisory and management consulting (but sadly not fashion modelling). Article SERVIN.4.4 deals with how long these service providers can stay:

The permissible length of stay shall be for a cumulative period of 12 months, or for the duration of the contract, whichever is less.

This is pretty much it when it comes to migration wins in the Brexit trade deal, incidentally — rather a long way from free movement within the EU.

Anyway, the statement of changes puts this 12-month commitment from the trade deal into the Immigration Rules. There is a similar deal in place for Switzerland (not in the EU). For all other countries, the maximum stay is six months. The relevant bit of Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) International Agreement Worker is paragraph IA 14.1.

That was rather a long time to spend on a single change to the Rules, I realise, but I’m sure we’ve all learned a lot about International Agreement Workers, which is the main thing after all.

The Brexit trade deal has also resulted in a few adjustments to the rules on permitted activities for visitors (of all nationalities). Per the explanatory memo:

  • business visitors will be able to conduct market research or analysis in the UK for their employment overseas;
  • researchers will be able to conduct independent research for their employment overseas; and
  • translators and/or interpreters will be able to translate and/or interpret in the UK as an employee of an enterprise overseas.

A final point to note is that the general grounds for refusal (Part 9 of the Rules) now explicitly apply to refugee family reunion applications.

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