The UK government on Thursday unveiled changes to its visa and immigration system which includes two new visa categories for business people from around the world and an expansion of the list of countries offered streamlined student visa procedures.
India once again failed to make the cut to be added to the expanded list of countries, which has now included Brazil, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Oman, Peru and Tunisia. The UK Home Office said the change will not only benefit students, who will be able to apply for visas through a more streamlined process, but also help to ensure that the UK’s “world-leading education institutions remain competitive internationally”.
This is the second time in months when a review of the so-called Appendix H list for Tier 4 student visas, which includes China and Mexico among other countries, has overlooked India – among the top source countries for foreign students applying to UK universities. The UK government claims that India does not meet the “required criteria” to be included on the expanded list and that Indian students will experience no change in the service they receive.
The other key changes unveiled by the UK Home Office on Thursday include two new visa routes open to skilled business people to set up businesses in the UK. The Start-up visa route will be open to those starting a business for the first time in the UK, while the Innovator visa route will be for more experienced business people who have funds to invest in their business.
Both routes will see endorsing bodies and business experts – rather than the UK Home Office – assessing applicants’ business ideas. This will make sure that the routes are focussed on only the most innovative, viable and scalable businesses.
“My priority is making sure that talented business people continue to see the UK as an attractive destination to develop their businesses. This will help create more jobs across the country and ensure our economy continues to thrive,” said UK immigration minister Caroline Nokes.
Alongside these new routes, the Home Office is also bringing forward reforms to the Tier 1 (Investor) route. The government said the reformed route will better protect the UK from illegally obtained funds, whilst ensuring that genuine investors have access to a viable visa route. Applicants will be required to prove that they have had control of the required 2 million pounds for at least two years, rather than 90 days, or provide evidence of the source of those funds — seen as an effort to combat fears of money laundering.
“What we will not tolerate is those who seek to abuse our system and that is why I am bringing forward new measures which will make sure that only genuine investors, who intend to support UK businesses, can benefit from our immigration system,” Nokes said.
The Home Office will also extend the salary exemption in the Tier 2 (General) visa so that the state-funded NHS and schools can continue to attract and hire experienced teachers, nurses and paramedics from overseas, including India. The salary exemption applies to all nurses and paramedics, medical radiographers and secondary school teachers whose subjects are in maths, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin.
A two-year scheme, which will allow up to 20 nurses from Jamaica to come to the UK to gain vital experience in NHS hospitals as part of an exchange scheme, has also been announced.