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Initial Effects of UK Policy Tightening Emerge, Yet Major Changes May Lie Ahead

On April 30, 2024, the UK Home Office website (GOV.UK) released the latest visa data report. Since the beginning of this year, the UK has implemented measures to strictly control the issuance of various types of visas, and it can be seen that these measures have begun to take effect. Since January 2024, the UK has restricted accompanying spouses of international students, a policy that has led to a decrease of 26,000 student visa issuances compared to the same period in 2023.


In March of this year, the Home Office also instructed the Migration Advisory Committee to produce a report on the UK’s Post-Study Work Visa (PSW) by May, to disclose whether the visa has been abused. Onward, a local UK think tank, published a new report suggesting that the UK government should prohibit underperforming universities from issuing student visas to international students on the eve of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report. This report received support from Cabinet Minister Michael Gove reportedly. Additionally, some local UK newspapers have proposed that the Home Office is considering shortening the duration of the PSW, from the current issuance of 2 years for bachelor’s and master’s degrees and 3 years for doctoral degrees, to issuing visas ranging from six months to one and a half years. It is expected that once the official investigation report from the Migration Advisory Committee is released in May, the Home Office may begin to reform the PSW visa.


The UK’s immigration policy has historically not been lenient, and this year’s stringency is indeed a response to the adjustments made in the previous years due to concerns over the overall immigration policy. This led to a large influx of international students and healthcare workers, along with their spouses and children, to the UK, placing a burden on local welfare systems. Therefore, this year’s policies are aimed at tightening controls accordingly. However, regardless of the adjustments made to its policies, the UK consistently emphasizes its openness to welcoming intelligent, capable, and promising individuals to stay. For instance, the UK’s Global Talent Visa, which is aimed at attracting talent in certain fields to stay in the UK long-term, is a clear indication of the country’s desire to promote development in relevant sectors by retaining skilled individuals.


The UK’s Global Talent Visa program is open to applicants in the fields of digital technology, culture and the arts, as well as academic research. Especially tailored for those studying in the UK, the program requires applicants to meet two main criteria. Firstly, applicants must demonstrate outstanding achievements, such as awards, exhibitions, or publications, depending on their field. Secondly, they need to provide letters of recommendation from relevant individuals or institutions in the UK. While this may pose a challenge for those who haven’t previously studied, worked, or lived in the UK, it’s relatively easier for UK students, as their mentors or institutions where they’ve published work can provide recommendations.


For the digital technology category, UK endorsements are not required. Applicants from IT, computer science, AI, or fintech fields can prove their excellence through their achievements at work, codes, or published papers. The Global Talent Visa allows applicants to provide a maximum of 10 pieces of evidence, which alleviates pressure. Crafting a strategy to highlight an applicant’s outstanding achievements within this limited evidence is where professional immigration agencies play a crucial role.


From an immigration perspective, the Global Talent Visa offers excellent value for money in the UK. There’s no need for investment or entrepreneurship, and the costs are minimal. Applicants can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after three or five years, depending on their contributions. Those with over five years of contributions in relevant fields can apply for the three-year pathway, while those with less can opt for the five-year pathway. The application process from decision to approval takes around six months. Once approved, applicants can land in the UK with their spouse and children under 18 to start a new life, with access to free public education and healthcare, just like locals. After meeting residency requirements and demonstrating income in the UK, along with an IELTS score of 4, applicants can apply for ILR.


The Global Talent Visa program aligns with the UK’s immigration policy of attracting intelligent, capable, and promising individuals to stay. With no significant policy changes in recent years, assessments show that those holding the Global Talent Visa have smoothly integrated into the local workforce and contributed to the UK economy.


2024 is a year marked by frequent changes in immigration policies among major countries. At the beginning of the year, Australia completely halted its 188 series visa immigration program. By April, Canada also directly shut down the Federal Self-Employed Persons program and imposed limits on the Canada Start-up Visa program. In comparison, the UK raised salary requirements for employer-sponsored visas in April, which may be considered a relatively moderate tightening of policy. It is anticipated that there may be significant changes to the graduate visa program in May. Given these rapid changes in immigration policies among major countries, it’s wise not to delay in taking action.

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