UK immigration law changes for universities

Out-Law Analysis | 24 Oct 2018 | 10:24 am | 1 min. read

ANALYSIS: UK universities may wish to speed up applications for academic staff visas in order to avoid a significant increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge, due to apply from December 2018.

The UK Home Office has also announced an extension to the settled status scheme pilot for EU nationals, which will take effect next month. More EU nationals employed by UK higher education institutions (HEIs) will be able to apply for settled status from 15 November 2018.

Doubling of the immigration health surcharge

The immigration health surcharge is levied on Tier 2 sponsored employees at the rate of £200 for each year sponsored. It applies both to the main applicant, and each of their dependents. The surcharge allows the applicant and their dependents to access NHS services in the same way as UK citizens.

The government has now proposed doubling the surcharge to £400. The rate for students is also due to double from £150 a year to £300 a year on a similar basis. The increase is intended to come into effect in December 2018, subject to parliamentary approval. The exact date is yet to be confirmed.

This is a big cost increase, especially for those employees with family members.

Tier 2 is unusual in that applications can be made up to three months in advance. Universities should therefore review the status of any existing Tier 2 employee or potential new employees who might be due to make a Tier 2 leave application or extension before March 2019 to see if there is an opportunity to make their application before the increased charge is introduced.

Extension of the settled status pilot

The settled status scheme for EU nationals who wish to obtain the right to remain in the UK after Brexit will be extended from 15 November 2018, following a private pilot. Among those who will be able to apply from this date are all those employed by or who work at a UK HEI or an overseas HEI in the UK which is classified as such on the Tier 4 Register of Licensed Sponsors.

This extension may be of interest to any employed EU nationals who are anxious about their status after Brexit.

An employee will be able to apply for settled status under the scheme if they are either:

  • a resident EU citizen with a valid passport; or
  • the non-EU citizen family member of an EU citizen who has a biometric residence card.

The employee will also need to be able to access an Android device in order to use a Home Office app as part of the application process.

The fee for settled status is £65 for adults, but EEA citizens who already have permanent residence will have no fee to pay.

Euan Smith is a university sector employment law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.