Immigration Updates – 15th of March

Contributor(s): Daniel King
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    European Union

    European Parliament endorses new single permit rules

    On 13 March 2024, the European Parliament adopted an update to the single permit directive (2011/98/EU), which provides combined work and residence permits for third-country (non-EU) nationals.

    The proposed changes would ensure that decisions on applications are made within 90 days; that a permit holder can apply from within EU territory and change employer; and that up to six months of unemployment is permitted without having the permit withdrawn.

    The new rules now have to be formally approved by the Council. Member states will have two years after the entry into force of the directive to introduce the changes to their national laws. This legislation does not apply in Denmark and Ireland

    Faster decisions on applications

    In negotiations, MEPs succeeded in setting a 90-day limit for a decision to be taken on applications for a single permit, compared to the current four months. Procedures on especially complex files might get a 30-day extension and the time to deliver a visa, if necessary, is not included.

    New rules will introduce the possibility for a holder of a valid residence permit to apply for a Single Permit also from within the territory, so a person who is legally residing in the EU could request to change their legal status without having to return to their home country.

    Change of employer

    Under the new rules, single permit holders will have the right to change employer, occupation and work sector. MEPs ensured in negotiations that a simple notification from the new employer would suffice. National authorities will have 45 days to oppose the change. MEPs have also limited the conditions under which this authorization can be subject to labour market tests.

    EU states will have the option to require an initial period of up to six months during which a change of employer will not be possible. However, a change during that period would still be possible if the employer seriously breaches the work contract, for example by imposing particularly exploitative working conditions.

    Unemployment

    If a single permit holder is unemployed, they will have up to three months –or six if they have had the permit for more than two years- to find another job before their permit is withdrawn, compared to two months under the current rules. EU states may choose to offer longer periods. If a worker has experienced particularly exploitative working conditions, member states shall extend by three months the period of unemployment during which the single permit remains valid. If a single permit holder is unemployed for more than three months, member states may require them to provide evidence that they have sufficient resources to support themselves without using the social assistance system.

    Hungary

    New immigration law takes effect

    A new immigration law, published 1 January 2024 in Hungary, introduces major changes and stricter conditions to existing regulations for third-country nationals (TCNs).

    The application of the new regulations began on 1 March 2024. Pending implementation, the submission of new applications from TCNs was suspended, except those involving residence permits ‘of national interest’ based on ministerial approval. In cases where an application was submitted before 31 December 2023, the old regulations still apply. The validity of residence permits and permanent residence permits expiring between 1 January 2024 and 29 February 2024 was automatically extended until 30 April 2024.

    The previous immigration law in Hungary specified 18 types of residence permits. The new regulation outlines 24 types, including 8 for the purpose of employment. The residence permit for other purposes (known as the single permit) has been abolished and the new law introduces separate categories of work permits for highly-skilled workers (“Hungarian Card”), guest workers, posted workers, Serbian and Ukrainian nationals (“National Card”) and investors.

    The guest worker residence permit will only be granted, by law, to those employed by specified employers, from specified countries, and in specified occupations. Moreover, the guest worker permit can only be extended for a limited period, up to a total of three years. After this period the permit cannot be extended, and a new application must be submitted. Guest workers, therefore, are not entitled to permanent residence in Hungary, or to family reunification.

    The new law also introduces a so-called “golden visa”. From 1 July 2024, the guest-investor visa and residence permit will be available, allowing a residence of 10+10 years for a minimum real estate fund investment of 250 000 EUR. The detailed provisions for this have not yet been published.

    Effective 1 January 2025, certain residence permits can only be extended if the relevant applicant fulfils the conditions of ‘social coexistence’, which must be proved by taking an exam in Hungarian about Hungarian history and culture.

    The law also introduces a shorter validity for entry visas issued for the collection of residence permits, and stricter notification rules.

    United Kingdom

    Statement of Changes to increase minimum income requirements

    On 14 March 2024, the Home Secretary laid before parliament a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules which implements several previously announced changes to the skilled worker and partner routes, and which comes into effect on 4 April 2024.

    The Minister of State for Legal Migration and the Border has published a written statement setting out the changes.

    Changes to the Skilled Worker Route

    • The general salary threshold is being raised from £26,200 (based on 25th percentile UK earnings in eligible occupations) to £38,700 (based on median UK earnings in eligible occupations). Going rates are also being raised from the 25th percentile to the median. The new thresholds and going rates are based on the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) pay data. Workers sponsored for Health and Care visas, or in occupations where going rates are set using national pay scales, are exempt from the new median salary requirements. Instead, a general threshold based on the 25th percentile continues to apply, and is being updated from £26,200 to £29,000, based on the latest ONS pay data.
    • The Shortage Occupation List is being removed and replaced by a new Immigration Salary List (ISL). The contents of the new list have been informed by a review carried out by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The MAC will carry out a full review of the list later in 2024. As with the previous list, included occupations have a 20% discount to the general salary threshold (to £30,960 or £23,200, depending on whether they would otherwise be subject to the £38,700 or £29,000 threshold), but the previous 20% discount to the going rate requirement is being removed.

    These measures are on top of changes already implemented in March, where the government removed the right of care workers and senior carers to bring dependants, and introduced a requirement that care providers in England can only sponsor migrant workers if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

    Changes to the partner routes 

    • The financial requirement that must be met to sponsor a partner and child(ren) under the family rules, has increased to £29,000. This is the first step to bringing this requirement into line with the new minimum general salary threshold for skilled workers of £38,700. This will no longer include an additional income requirement for children.
    • The minimum income requirement (MIR) for HM Armed Forces (which includes the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Army, including the Brigade of Gurkhas and the Royal Air Force) partner route has also been brought into line with the HM Armed Forces salary minimum threshold, which is currently £23,496. This will similarly no longer include an additional income requirement for children.
    • Other aspects of the MIR under both routes will remain unchanged, such as the various ways in which it can be met and the consideration of exceptional circumstances where it may not be met in certain cases. The rules also make transitional provisions for those already granted under the family or armed forces rules.

    Changes relating to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

    The changes expand the scope of the immediate settlement provisions in Appendix Victim of Domestic Abuse (VDA) to include a spouse, civil partner, or durable partner with pre-settled status under the EUSS (meaning that the relationship was formed before the end of the transition period), and their dependent children.

    These dependents will also be included within the scope of the Migrant Victims of Domestic Abuse Concession (outside the Immigration Rules) so that they can obtain leave outside the rules with access to public funds pending the outcome of an application in the UK under Appendix VDA. This will ensure that partners of EEA and Swiss citizens with EUSS status are treated equally under these domestic abuse provisions, regardless of whether the relationship was formed before or after the end of the transition period.

    A person granted immediate settlement under Appendix VDA will still be able to apply for settled status under the EUSS at the point at which they would otherwise have been eligible for it, based on their continuous residence in the UK. However, in line with Article 18(1)(h) of the Withdrawal Agreement, the changes also require a person resident in the UK before the end of the transition period – where they seek to obtain settled status under the EUSS in place of indefinite leave to enter or remain granted to them under another route – to have held their existing indefinite leave at the end of the transition period.

    Immigration Salary List and Asylum

    The government is replacing the Shortage Occupation List with a new Immigration Salary List. Eligible asylum seekers granted permission to work in the UK can currently only work in roles on the Shortage Occupation List. Given the Shortage Occupation List’s replacement with the Immigration Salary List, asylum seekers who are eligible and granted permission to work in the UK from 4 April 2024 will only be able to work in roles on the Immigration Salary List.

    Changes to Appendix AR: Administrative Review EU 

    Appendix AR: Administrative Review EU has been redrafted and simplified in line with Appendix AR: Administrative Review. It has also been amended to remove the scope to apply out-of-time for administrative review of a relevant EUSS decision taken before 5 October 2023. Individuals will have had more than five months to apply out-of-time for administrative review, and they will continue to be able to apply to the First-tier Tribunal to appeal out-of-time and the tribunal will consider that application on its merits. The scope to apply for administrative review of a relevant EUSS decision taken from 5 October 2023 was removed by HC 1780.

    Updated guidance for sponsors of foreign workers

    On 5 March 2024, the government released updated the Workers and Temporary Workers Guidance for Sponsors Part 3: Sponsor Duties and Compliance to clarify reporting requirements on hybrid and remote working, include details of revised reporting requirements for offshore workers, and advise sponsors whose licences are due to expire on or after 6 April 2024 they no longer need to apply to renew their licence.

    On hybrid working, the guidance now states: 

    We recognise that many organisations have adopted a “hybrid working” model, where their workers work remotely (from either their home or another remote site, such as a work hub space) on a regular basis, as well as regularly attending a ‘traditional’ work location (such as one or more of your offices or branches, or a client site). 

    You no longer need to tell us if a sponsored worker is moving to a hybrid working pattern but you must continue to report any changes to their main office work location, or of any new client sites, if applicable, and maintain suitable records of your sponsored workers’ working patterns.

    You must, however, tell us, via your SMS account, if any sponsored worker is, or will be, working entirely remotely, with little or no requirement to attend your premises or a client site (a contractual home worker). In these cases, we reserve the right to ask you to explain why you need to sponsor the worker to come to the UK if (for example) they could work remotely from their home country.

    You do not need to report day-to-day changes in work location (for example, if a worker occasionally works at a different branch or site, or from home). You need only tell us about changes to their regular working patterns”

    The guidance has also been updated with a new procedure for sponsors notifying the Home Office of the dates when an offshore worker arrives in UK waters at the beginning of the job they are being sponsored for, and when they leave UK waters at the end of the job they are being sponsored for. these notifications for sponsored offshore workers must now be made via the online Sponsorship Management System (SMS), rather than via email.

    The guidance has also been updated to reflect the previously announced change that sponsors will no longer need to renew their sponsor licence:

    “If your licence is due to expire on or after 6 April 2024, you no longer need to renew your licence. We will publish further information about this change in a future update to this guidance.”

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