By Daniel Hunter

On Saturday (6th April) new immigration rules benefitting students, universities and businesses come into force. The changes will provide additional flexibility for businesses and enable top international students to pursue their careers in the UK.

To provide consistency and policy stability for employers that want to bring in skilled workers from abroad, the government will maintain the current limits for the Tier 1 exceptional talent and graduate entrepreneur and Tier 2 skilled worker routes. The Tier 2 limit will be held at 20,700 for the remainder of this Parliament.

Intra-company transferees (ICT) who are paid more than £152,100 will no longer need to take an English test if they want to extend their leave in the UK. To simplify the system even more, the government is also reducing the number of documents that need to be shown by ICTs to prove they have worked for the company for more than a year.

Skilled staff who have previously worked in the UK and are paid more than £152,100 will no longer have to wait 12 months before taking up a new post, improving businesses’ ability to recruit the very best global talent.

International MBA graduates from British universities and other higher education institutions will be able to stay in the UK for up to a year after graduating as part of the expanded graduate entrepreneur scheme.

Up to 1000 will be able to stay to develop their own business idea or work in a start up - after which they can apply to stay in the UK as a skilled worker or entrepreneur. Additionally, the changes will create greater flexibility for successful PhD students by allowing them to stay on after their studies for up to a year and work, without having to switch routes.

These changes expand the existing options for international students to stay and work after their studies. There is no limit on the number who can obtain a Tier 2 visa to stay and work, providing they can get a graduate-level job paying £20,300 or more.

"We are building an immigration system which works in the national interest – supporting the UK economy by continuing to attract the brightest and the best global talent, at the same time as protecting our public services and taking a robust approach against those who want to come to the UK simply to exploit our welfare system," Immigration Minister Mark Harper said.

The changes are the latest in a series of reforms by the Home Office to encourage the brightest and the best to come to the UK.

Previous changes include:

- raising the skills bar under Tier 2 so that only those with graduate-level jobs can work in the UK

- closing routes where work was not sponsored by an employer licensed by the UK Border Agency

- ensuring that those workers who want to settle in the UK permanently are earning a good salary or are in shortage or research occupations

- the introduction of new routes for the exceptionally talented and for graduate entrepreneurs.

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