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New UK HSMP Visa Announced

7 November 2006: are the first Immigration Consultancy to publish an online points calculator for the new HSMP Scheme. To find out if you will qualify under the new criteria use our new HSMP Points Calculator.

On 7 November 2006, Liam Byrne, Minister for Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship announced a change in the Rules for the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). Applicants under this scheme will be judged against new enhanced points criteria designed to better reflect the likelihood of migrants' labour market success. The result will be to bring the HSMP closer in line with the Government's aims for migration, including supporting an objective set by the IND Review (July 2006), to 'boost Britain's economy by bringing the right skills here from around the world'.

HSMP is currently the only points-based immigration route into the UK. The change in assessment criteria reflects our determination to ensure greater transparency and objectivity in decision making for the applicant. Importantly too, these changes will inform the decisions Government will take towards establishing the new five-tiered Points Based System for all migration routes to the UK to work or study by April 2009.

In summary:

New points criteria for initial HSMP applications

  • There will be changes to the attributes for which points are awarded. We are deleting the work experience, significant achievements, skilled partner and GP Priority Provision categories. The new attributes will be academic qualifications, previous earnings, age and bonus points for previous work/study in the UK. The provision which allows holders of MBA degrees from designated institutions will continue. In addition, there will be a new mandatory English language requirement (IELTS level 6 or equivalent) for all applicants.

  • The changes will be made by announcing the deletion of the existing HSMP rules on 7 November 2006, effective from 8 November 2006. As part of this announcement, to prepare applicants and ensure an effective operational transition, we will effect a short suspension of the scheme until 4 December 2006. The revised scheme will be operational from 5 December 2006.

  • Suspending the HSMP for 27 days will enable us to manage the transition most effectively with the available resources and ensure that current levels of customer service are maintained when the new arrangements are introduced.

Initial HSMP applications during the suspension period

  • HSMP applications received up to 5pm on 7 November 2006 by our payment processing centre will be accepted and considered against the old criteria.

  • Furthermore, anyone already in receipt of a HSMP approval letter can still apply for entry clearance at a visa post for up to 6 months from the date that the approval letter has been issued.

  • Applications received on the old HSMP forms from 8 November onwards will be returned to the applicant/representative, with no fee taken.

  • The new HSMP forms and guidance will be available from our website from 7 November 2006; hard copies will be available to order later in November. Customers should not submit applications on the new form during the suspension. Any applications received after 5 December 2006 will be prioritised. Any applications received on the new form during the suspension period will take more time to process, since priority will be given to those applications received from 5 December.

New criteria for the extension of leave under HSMP

  • We will introduce a more robust points test for applicants looking for an extension of an initial period of leave under HSMP. This involves replacing the current test, that applicants must show that they have 'taken all reasonable steps to become lawfully economically active' with a new points test, which applies the same attributes being introduced for initial decisions: English language, previous earnings, qualifications and age.

  • The revised Leave to Remain criteria will ensure that those people on the programme who wish to extend their stay have been making a contribution to the UK economy.

  • Transitional arrangements will apply for those whose leave to remain expires under the new rules and whose applications will be considered against the new criteria. Those who are making a useful contribution to the UK economy – for example, working in a skilled job – but who fail to meet the new requirements, will be offered a 'grace period' in which they can switch into the Work Permits scheme (provided they meet the Work Permits criteria, with the Resident Labour Market Test being waived if they have been in post for a specified period).

Applications to extend leave to remain during the suspension period

  • We will not be considering extension applications during the suspension period. However, those on the HSMP whose leave to remain expires during the suspension period will not be disadvantaged, as their extension applications will be accepted and they will be given the opportunity to provide further evidence towards the consideration of their application under the new rules.

  • The old FLR (IED) form will continue to be accepted until 4 December. We will write to applicants applying on this form, informing them of the new arrangements and offering the opportunity to submit relevant pages of the new form, plus any additional evidence that may be necessary.

HSMP Review requests

  • Any HSMP review request received from individuals whose application was refused under the previous HSMP criteria, in place until 7 November 2006, will be reviewed against the previous criteria. Please note these reviews may not have been completed by 5 December 2006 when the new HSMP criteria come into effect.

New mandatory English requirement and documentation verification

  • We will promote the new mandatory English language requirement to ensure that applicants are aware of the level of proficiency necessary to support a successful application.

  • We will promote the change to the scheme which puts responsibility on the applicant to submit the required documentation with their application. We will verify evidence provided with an appropriate third party and not through direct contact with the applicant. We will confirm that applicants that don?t provide the required evidence or submit documents that cannot be verified will fail.

  • IND will conduct a thorough review of the changes to the HSMP scheme, covering both how the changes were implemented and their effectiveness.