My rt hon Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, copies of which will be available in the Vote Office.
The offer the UK makes to highly-skilled international leaders in science, research digital technology and the arts is being enhanced by doubling the number of Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) places to 2000 visas per year.
As announced in the Autumn Budget, and to support our ambitions on innovation and research and development, the changes also include provisions to enable internationally recognised global leaders in science, as well as those in digital technology, and the arts and creative sectors, endorsed under the Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) route, to apply for settlement after 3 years, amend Tier 2 rules to allow for faster switching for Tier 4 students below PhD level, while also making it easier to employ international researchers and members of established research teams by relaxing the labour market test under Tier 2. The changes also provide for additional flexibility within our settlement rules to enable scientists and researchers who are called to assist with humanitarian and environmental crises to be absent from the UK for more than 180 days, if required.
The changes make other amendments to the settlement rules for work routes, for consistency. These relate to the 180-day absence provision, breaks in employment, time spent in the Crown Dependencies, and the calculation of the qualifying period.
The rules for entrepreneurs are being simplified following customer feedback, to make them clearer and easier to follow (the requirements themselves are largely unchanged).
We continue to improve and modernise the UK’s border and immigration system, which will now include moves toward further digitisation. These changes are required to facilitate the planned move toward introducing immigration permissions issued in electronic form. This will also allow trials to be undertaken that will test the operation of any new system. The rules are also being changed to permit holders of standard visit visas to transit the UK rather than having to get a different type of visa. This builds on the work, begun in April 2015, to simplify the Immigration Rules for visitors.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: