News & Insights

Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules March 2023

The statement of changes to the immigration rules published 9 March 2023 introduces the new Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme and Innovator Founder route, as well as altering minimum salary requirements for work visas.

Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme:

The new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme will apply to individuals visiting or transiting through the UK, who do not currently need a visa for short stays. The scheme will be trialled on Qatari nationals from 15 November, and will then be extended to nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates from 15 February 2024, with the intention of further countries being added later down the line.

Residents of the Republic of Ireland who currently do not require a visa to enter the UK under the Common Travel Area arrangement will not need to apply for ETA.

Applications for the ETA scheme will be made online or using the UK ETA app, which is not currently available. It is expected that decisions will be made within three working days, with ETAs being linked to the individual’s passport and issued electronically. The ETA will be valid for two years, unless the individual’s passport expires sooner. As of yet, the Home Office has not confirmed what the cost of an ETA application will be.

Innovator Founder route:

The Innovator route, launched in March 2019, was intended for individuals seeking to establish a business in the UK to which they could contribute significant funding. However, the route has not been an overwhelming success, with only 299 Innovator visa grants in 2022. The similar Start-up visa, for individuals establishing businesses in the UK for the first time, was only granted 377 times in the same year.

Both routes have been replaced by the new Innovator Founder route. The new route aims to increase the flexibility of the current Innovator route, to enable those with genuine proposals for innovative businesses to enter the UK and establish their businesses with more ease.

The £50,000 “minimum funds” requirement has been scrapped entirely. Additionally, Innovator Founder visa holders will be able to engage in employment outside of the running of their business, provided that this employment is in work skilled to at least A-level.

There will also be the option to apply for settlement after spending just three years continuously resident in the UK on the Innovator Founder route.

The Innovator Founder route will be introduced from 13 April 2023 – the Innovator and Start-up routes will stop accepting new applicants from this same date.

Salary changes:

There have been various changes to the minimum salary requirements for work visas. The minimum annual salary for Skilled Workers is now £26,200, up from £25,600. For the Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker and Graduate Trainee routes, the threshold has increased from £42,400 to £45,800 and from £23,100 to £24,220 respectively. The minimum salary for Scale-up workers has also increased, up to £34,600.

The “going rates” for each of the skilled occupations have also changed, but these are too numerous to detail here.

Confusingly, the calculation of going rate annual salaries is now based on a 37.5 hour week, as opposed to the old 39 hour week. As always, sponsors will need to be careful to ensure that they not only pay their sponsored workers an annual salary at least as high as both the minimum annual salary for the relevant route and the “going rate” for the worker’s skilled occupation, but that they also pay the relevant minimum hourly rate.

Other changes to visa routes:

Jury service and attending court as a witness have been added to the list of permissible absences from work for the purposes of considering a migrant worker’s continuity of employment.

Under the Youth Mobility Scheme, New Zealand nationals can now apply up to the age of 35, as opposed to the usual 30. New Zealanders also benefit from an increased length of stay – now three years, rather than two. Australia has been allotted an additional 5,000 places on the scheme, with Canada getting an extra 2,000.

Nationals and permanent residents of Australia who apply for a Global Business Mobility – Expansion Worker visa will, uniquely, not need to show that they have worked for their overseas employer for 12 months prior to the application.

FSP can advise you on all aspects of immigration and keep you up to date with the latest developments from the Home Office.

If you require assistance with an immigration matter, please get in touch at [email protected]