It’s fair to say that July was a particularly busy month. Ahead of the summer recess, the Government pushed through several major changes to UK immigration and nationality law.

From changes to the Student and EU Settlement Scheme rules, to expansion of eGate usage, via increases in Government fees, Laytons’ Immigration Partner Victoria Welsh shares a summary of July’s main immigration and nationality updates.


1.    Greater Student restrictions, EU Settlement Scheme changes, Shortage Occupation List expanded, and more!

The Immigration Rules changes published mid-month included new laws which took immediate effect from 17 July, primarily to restrict the visa conditions of Students:

  • Students will no longer be able to bring newly arriving dependants (Spouse, Unmarried Partner, Children) to the UK for courses starting from 1 January 2024 onwards. Those dependants already in the UK will be permitted to extend their stay, and those studying courses commencing during the remainder of 2023 will still be able to apply to bring their qualifying dependants with them.

  • Students must complete their course before applying to change their visa to a working visa, unless they are studying a PhD and have completed a minimum of 24 months. Those with a Certificate of Sponsorship must have a work start date after the course completion date.

The Government has been under pressure to reduce net migration and scrutiny has been directed towards Students using this route to obtain a UK visa for themselves and their family members, and the perceived risk that they may not be genuine students or abide by the conditions of their visa. It remains to be seen whether these restrictions will have the desired effect or simply lead to financial difficulties for Universities who rely heavily on overseas Students paying higher course fees.

The remainder of the changes have an effective date of 8 August 2023, notably to the EU Settlement Scheme:

  • Surinder Singh and Zambrano routes will be closed to new applicants from 8 August 2023. Such applicants will need to meet eligibility criteria for other categories within the Immigration Rules in order to come to the UK, such as Appendix FM.

  • The validity criteria will now include whether an applicant has reasonable grounds for applying beyond the original deadline of 30 June 2021. This was previously an eligibility requirement. The effect is that a Certificate of Application will not be issued where an application is deemed invalid, meaning the applicant may be unable to work. The change also removes rights of Administrative Review or Appeal.

  • Following a 2022 High Court judgment, individuals with Pre-Settled Status will not need to make a further application for Settled Status (but are not prevented from applying should they wish to do so). A separate update confirmed that the Home Office will automatically extend the status of those with Pre-Settled Status in September 2023 for an additional two years. Further information on automatic conversion to Settled Status is to be announced.

Other changes introduced with effect from 8 August include:

  • The period of grant for General Practitioner trainees will be extended by four months, following completion of GP speciality training, to allow more time to find sponsorship for a GP job. This is aimed at helping address the shortage of GPs throughout the country and retain talented GPs in the NHS.

  • Various construction jobs, including plasterers, bricklayers, roofers, and carpenters, as well as fishing and some agricultural jobs will be added to the Shortage Occupation List. Whilst this reduces the minimum salary threshold required for sponsorship, the high Government fees will remain a barrier for many smaller businesses.

  • The Youth Mobility visa route is expanded for New Zealand nationals who can now apply up to 35 years of age and be granted three years’ stay. Those already in the UK will be able to extend their existing two year visa for a further one year. This is in line with the UK and New Zealand trade agreement, and similar preferential and reciprocal provisions have been announced for Canadian nationals.

  • A new Diplomatic Missions Interns Scheme for the Temporary Worker: Government Authorised Exchange route will be introduced.

  • The restrictions on access to public funds for Hong Kong BN(O) individuals and under the Private Life routes will be amended to be consistent with Appendix FM.

  • The Ukraine Extension Scheme will be extended to May 2024 for new applicants wishing to remain in the UK.

  • Couples will be allowed to apply for the Adult Dependent Relative route together, where only one requires the care of a settled person in the UK, in a return to the previous Appendix FM rules.


2.    Honduras, Dominica, Namibia, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu added to Visa National List

A further Statement of Changes added nationals from Dominica, Honduras, Namibia, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu to the Visa National List with immediate effect, meaning they will need to apply for a visa before travelling to the UK. There is a one month grace period in which those who already had flights booked prior to 19 July 2023, to arrive in the UK prior to 16 August 2023, will still be able to travel and be entered as Visitors at the UK border.

Since publication, further details have been given to justify why this was not presented to Parliament 21 days prior to effect, as convention dictates. The “citizenship by investment” programmes in Dominica and Vanuatu have not been diligent at identifying individuals who may present a risk from utilising the programme. With such programmes eventually leading to a passport which often allows visa-free global travel, the UK Government took steps to minimise those risks. The UK is not alone in restricting such travel for these nationals, with the EU having already taken similar steps and other nations expected to follow suit.

Increasing numbers of those arriving from Honduras and Namibia as Visitors and then claiming Asylum to remain here has caused alarm for the Government. Whilst the statistics show the numbers of such applicants are relatively low, it would be difficult for the Government to explain to its electorate how asylum applicants are arriving legally in the UK and therefore falling outside of its long-fought-for Illegal Migration Act 2023.

The Government also has concerns about Timor-Leste nationals seeking entry at the UK border as Visitors without a genuine intention to depart the UK. The Visitor visa is not intended to allow an individual to remain in the UK and live here, or ‘make home’. Therefore, the overriding principle is that an individual intends to leave. Where that is shown to be false, the individual is not a genuine Visitor.


3.    Increases to Immigration Fees

Robert Jenrick MP announced to the Delegated Legislation Committee in the House of Commons that a wide range of Government fees were to be increased. This includes:

  • Immigration Health Surcharge from £624 to £1,035 per year (£470 to £776 for the discounted rate).

  • Work and visit visa application fees, by around 15%.

  • Certificates of Sponsorship, priority services, ILR and nationality applications, by around 20%.

Some fees will be reduced or abolished altogether such as:

  • Biometrics enrolment fee (currently £19.20).

  • Transfer of conditions for ILR vignette to BRP (currently £161).

Almost every immigration and nationality fee will be amended. Everyone using these services will be affected. The exact fee changes will be announced later this year. Given it has been seven years since fees were last amended to this extent it is understandable the Government wishes to conduct a review. However, the costs to individuals and businesses are already eye-wateringly high and these increases will be a further barrier to inward investment and those who can least afford it.


4.    Expansion of eGates to children aged 10/11

From 24 July, use of the eGates at UK borders was extended to accompanied children of eligible nationalities aged 10 and 11. These passengers entering the UK will no longer need to see a Border Force Officer, unless they are unaccompanied by an adult, entering with a sole adult and a child under 10 years of age, or if they are entering to join an EEA family member permanently.

This is expected to allow smoother travel for families travelling through the UK border throughout the summer.


5.    Automatic entitlement to British nationality for EEA nationals regularised

Following the Roehrig ruling in January this year, there was cause for concern over what would happen to the British nationality entitlement for EEA nationals born in the UK between 1 January 1983 – 1 October 2000.

The previous understanding implemented by the Home Office was that such individuals born in the UK, where their parent was exercising Treaty rights of free movement, were automatically British. This was on the basis their parents were considered “settled” because they had no time limit on their permission to reside. In short, the High Court disagreed with this interpretation as free movement rights were qualified – in other words, the individual must meet “qualifying criteria”.

Fortunately, the resulting legislation introduced by the Home Office regularises this historical misinterpretation and preserves it for future applicants. Effectively, it puts into law a previous incorrect policy; such is the power of Government – in this instance, used for good.

There’s never a dull day in immigration law practice, but this July has been especially eventful! We can expect a quieter summer to follow, until Parliament returns from summer recess in September when the rollercoaster begins afresh.

This article is not intended to be used as legal advice. Should any of these updates be relevant to you, please seek expert legal advice from a regulated immigration practitioner.

Having joined Laytons as a Partner in 2023, Victoria provides pragmatic and strategic advice to a wide range of corporate clients in all sectors across all aspects of the Points Based System and business immigration. She also advises private individuals on UK visa options, often navigating complex scenarios with sensitivity and clarity. Her advice is tailored to specific client needs and circumstances, ensuring the best outcome for each client.


Written by Victoria Welsh, Immigration Partner at Laytons ETL