It would be tempting to think that recent immigration delays at UK airports have been caused by staff of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) having to spend so much time away from their desks absorbing all the changes in the regulations that they have to apply. Certainly there can be few other Government agencies that work with such a complicated and regularly changing rulebook.

The Immigration Rules have again been overhauled and this article highlights the main changes that came into effect on 6 April 2012 and that affect all four operational tiers of the points-based system (PBS).

For those working in the construction industry, Tier 3 — low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages (in sectors such as construction) — is currently suspended.

Annual limits

The "Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules", issued by the Government to introduce the changes set out below, also confirms that the annual limit on Certificates of Sponsorship for 2012/13 and 2013/14 for Tier 2 will be 20,700. These limits will be reviewed before 6 April 2014 and a further Statement of Changes will be laid before Parliament to set limits for the following year.

All tiers

Where a migrant under Tiers 2, 4 or 5 has failed to start, or has ceased, his or her work or study with their sponsor, then curtailment of that sponsorship is now mandatory rather than discretionary. This includes cases where a sponsor notifies the UKBA, via the sponsor management system (SMS), that a migrant is no longer pursuing the purpose of his or her visa. The limited exceptions to this mandatory curtailment are set out in the Immigration Rules and include the migrant being under 18 or having a child dependant.

The curtailment threshold (the level of leave a person has, which means curtailment would not normally be pursued) has been reduced from six months to 60 days. Migrants subject to mandatory curtailment will normally be given 60 days to make an application to vary their leave or change their sponsor. This will enable those who have parted company with their sponsor for legitimate reasons to remain in the UK and seek a replacement.

Finally, the funds of which applicants will need to provide evidence, in order to meet the maintenance requirements for all routes in the PBS, have been increased. For Tier 4 and Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme, the changes came into effect on 6 April 2012. For Tier 1, Tier 2 and temporary workers under Tier 5, the changes will come into effect on 14 June 2012.

Last reviewed 6 July 2012