Written ministerial statement: Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules

The Minister of State for Immigration (Mark Harper): I am today laying before the House a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules as set out below.

I will expand the process of genuineness assessments and interviews to Tier 1 (General), Tier 2 (Minister of Religion), and Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) applications for entry and leave to remain, and to Tier 4 Students applying for further leave to remain. I will also be replicating for Tier 4 in-country extensions the existing power to refuse applications where the applicant cannot speak English. We will add Barbados to the list of countries whose nationals benefit from different documentary requirements and are exempt from the genuineness test when applying for a Tier 4 visa.

I am making several small changes to economic routes to make them more attractive and more flexible for businesses. These changes include new provision in Tier 1 for artists of exceptional promise, removing the English language requirement for intra-company transferees, making it easier for graduate entrepreneurs to switch into Tier 2, and waiving share ownership restrictions for senior staff earning £152,100 or more.

I will also be introducing flexibility for tourists and business visitors to undertake some study where it is incidental to the main purpose of their visit, as well as increasing the permissible activities a business visitor can undertake in the UK. I am retaining the student visitor route for those whose purpose in coming here is for short term study. The prospective student route is being removed because it is little used and anomalous.

I am adding Hong-Kong to the list of participating countries and territories on the UK’s Youth Mobility Scheme, further strengthening business, trade and cultural ties between us.

I am introducing rules to give effect to the Secretary of State for Defence’s Statement to this House of 4 June 2013, which provides for some locally engaged staff, who have been or will be made redundant as a result of our drawdown, to relocate to the UK in recognition of the unique contribution they have provided to the UK’s efforts in Afghanistan. The new rules allow eligible applicants, their spouse/partner and their minor dependent children to be granted a period of 5 years’ leave to enter if their character and conduct is satisfactory.

In line with the Statement of Intent “Knowledge of language and life in the UK for settlement and naturalisation” published on 8 April, I am also making changes to the way in which applicants for indefinite leave to remain are required to demonstrate their knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK, together with necessary consequential amendments. These changes will come into effect on 28 October.

I am making changes to slow the path to settlement for refugees, and those granted humanitarian protection, who have committed crimes. Applications for settlement from refugees will be refused for 15 years from the date of their sentence if they have been sentenced to over 12 months’ imprisonment; for 7 years if they have been sentenced to up to 12 months’ imprisonment; and for 2 years if they have been given a non-custodial sentence. Discretion to delay the route to settlement will apply in the case of repeat offenders.

I am creating new temporary Immigration Rules to facilitate the entry and stay of certain Commonwealth Games participants and personnel during the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

I am making minor changes and clarifications to the Immigration Rules, including those relating to family life. I am making minor changes to repeal measures that are no longer required.

I am making a minor change to the curtailment rules. This change adds a power to curtail leave where a migrant’s offending is persistent or causes serious harm. The change supports the Home Office in its work to take tough action against those who commit offences whilst here.

I am making changes to the rules for dependants in the Points Based System and other work routes, following the High Court judgment in R (on the application of Zhang) v Secretary of State for the Home Department. The changes will allow dependants to apply from within the UK, providing they are not here illegally, as visitors, or on temporary admission or temporary release. They will still need to satisfy all other existing requirements.

I am making changes to the visit visa requirement for Kuwaiti nationals holding diplomatic and special passports issued by Kuwait. When travelling to the UK for the purpose of an official or general visit, they will no longer have to obtain a visit visa to travel to the UK.