UK Immigration Rule Changes March 2019


Summary of the government’s Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, published on 7 March 2019, including changes affecting Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 1 as well as the EU Settlement Scheme. Employers are advised in particular to note the increase to Tier 2 minimum salary thresholds and amendments to the rule on Tier 4 to Tier 2 switching.

Tier 2 visas

Increased have been made to the minimum salary levels to be paid by sponsors to Tier 2 (General) visa holders under a number of Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Codes.

Tier 2 (General) visa holders applying for settlement from within this category need earn a minimum salary of:

  • Applying before 6 April 2019: £35,500
  • Applying before 6 April 2020: £35,800
  • Applying before 6 April 2021: £36,200
  • Applying before 6 April 2022: £36,900
  • Applying before 6 April 2023: £38,800
  • Applying before 6 April 2024: £40,100

If an employer wishes to sponsor someone on or after 30 March 2019, it is important to check that the proposed salary meets any revised minimum salary requirement.

Nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin continue to be exempt from the £30,000 minimum salary threshold. The exemption, which was due to end in July 2019, has been extended. With no indication of an expiry, this would appear to apply indefinitely.

Tier 4 Student Visas 

Tier 4 to Tier 2 switching

From 30thMarch 2019, eligible Tier 4 (General) visa students can now apply to switch into the Tier 2 category either once their course is completed or up to 3 months before their expected completion date of their course. This is a change from the previous rule requiring them to wait until completion of their course.

However, Tier 4 students must still wait until their course has been successfully completed before they can start employment with their Tier 2 sponsor.

Low risk nationalities

From 6thApril, the list of countries whose nationals benefit from lower documentary requirements when applying for a Tier 4 visa, so-called ‘low risk nationalities’, has been amended.

Brazil, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Oman, Peru and Tunisia have been added to the list of countries whose citizens no longer have to submit all of the mandatory documents with their Tier 4 application.

Argentina, The Maldives and Trinidad and Tobago have been removed from this list.

In a further change, Tier 4 dependants looking to rely on the low risk nationality list will also need to be a national of a low risk country. The dependant and the Tier 4 student must also be applying at the same time and in the same location.

Study time limits

Study time limits have been clarified where Tier 4 leave was held before the student turned 18. From 6th April 2019, study time from before the Tier 4 student’s 18th birthday will not count towards the limit calculation.

Tier 4 (Child)

In the Tier 4 (Child) category, used by non-EEA nationals under the age of 18  to study at independent schools in the UK, funds for maintenance purposes can now be held or provided by the visa holder’s foster carer or close relative if a private foster care arrangement has been made.

EU Settlement Scheme

The EU Settlement Scheme fully opens from 30 March 2019.

UK-resident EU citizens and their family members wanting to safeguard their UK immigration status and to remain lawfully in the UK permanently after Brexit will need to apply for the status by December 2020.

The scheme is open to eligible citizens of EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland and their family members.

The application can be made via the app (Android phones) or online. This means it is possible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme from outside the UK.

There is no fee to apply.

The ‘EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit’ is available for non-EEA national relatives of EU citizens granted settled status.

UK Start Up Visa

The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category is to be closed from 6th July 2019. It is being replaced by the ‘Start-up’ route, which opens 29th March. Students wishing to switch to the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category in the UK or make a new application from overseas must apply by 5 thJuly 2019.

The new route is aimed at non-EEA nationals looking to set up their first business in the UK. It is available to both graduates and non-graduates, and is hoped to encourage more foreign entrepreneurs to come to the UK and contribute to the British economy, with particular ambitions to accelerate growth in sectors such as tech.

As with its predecessor Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa, the start up visa requires endorsement of the applicant and the business idea from an approved endorsing body, including business organisations as well as universities.

UK Innovator Visa

Replacing the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, the new Innovator Visa is being introduced from 29th March 2019, aimed experienced business people.

Applicants will need a minimum of £50,000 available to invest in their business. They must secure endorsement from an authorised business body, who will assess the application against the visa criteria of innovation; viability; scalability. The applicant must also show their credibility and commitment to the venture – visa holders will only be permitted to work in the UK on the relevant business.

Leave under the innovator route will be granted for 3 years at a time, with no maximum time limit placed on visa holders under this category.

Tier 1 Investor visa

Tier 1 (Investor) visa

Investors applying under the Tier 1 (Investor) route must now provide evidence that the investment funds being relied on for the applicaton have neen held for a minimum period of two years. This is an increase from the previous 90-day rule.

Tier 1 Investor visa requires £2,000,000 or more into approved UK investments, such as government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.

Investor visa holders can also work, study or engage in business activities in the UK.

To apply for a Tier 1 Investor visa, applicants must be from outside the EEA and Switzerland, and show they have at least £2 million available to invest in specified UK investments. The investment funds must either belong to the applicant, their spouse or civil partner and they must be held in one or more regulated financial institutions and be available to be transferred to and invested in the UK. The source of funds must also be evidenced.

An initial Tier 1 Investor visa lasts for a total of 3 years and 4 months. Holders of the Tier 1 Investor visa may apply for a tier 1 investor visa extension to extend their stay for a further 2 years under Tier 1. Subsequent settlement options in the UK, including fast-tracked indefinite leave to remain, may also become available.

You will be required to collate and submit extensive documentation to evidence your investment activity during the course of your stay in the UK.

Do you have a question about changes to the immigration rules? 

Please contact us if you have a query about the UK immigration rule changes from March 2019 and April 2019. Our team of business immigration specialists are on hand to take your questions.



Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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