UK Government Issues Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, March 2021; Introduces COVID-19 Declaration Form for International Travel

Morgan Lewis

Morgan Lewis

The Statement of Changes to the UK Immigration Rules open, expand, and streamline work and study routes. The declaration form for international travel requires overseas travellers to declare their reasons for travelling.


The UK government published a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules on 4 March. Most of the changes relate to the work and study routes under the Points Based Immigration System. The key changes include

  • the opening of a new graduate route on 1 July 2021;
  • an expanded shortage occupation list for skilled workers; and
  • Streamlined global talent visa access for winners of specified awards.

New Graduate Route

The new graduate route is due to launch on 1 July 2021 for international students who have successfully completed a degree at a Higher Education institution in the United Kingdom. It provides students who have completed a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in the United Kingdom a further two years in the United Kingdom and students who have completed a Ph.D. in the United Kingdom and a further three years in the United Kingdom, during which they can work or look for work at any skill level. Applications for this type of visa must be made from within the United Kingdom while the applicant has a valid Student or Tier 4 visa. International students whose Tier 4 or student visas expire prior to the launch of the graduate visa will unfortunately not be eligible to apply.

This route will not count towards a future application for indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom. However, graduate route permit holders will subsequently be able to switch to the skilled worker route from within the United Kingdom under the lower salary requirement available for “new entrants,” provided they apply within two years of holding student status. Time spent on the graduate visa will count towards the maximum four-year period which can be spent as a new entrant in the skilled worker category.

Dependent family members of international students can apply for a visa provided they are in the United Kingdom and were last granted a visa as a dependent family member of the main applicant. New dependants will not be permitted to apply, other than children born during the course of the student or graduate visas.

Expanded Shortage Occupation List for Skilled Workers

On 1 April 2021, the UK government will revise the shortage occupation list following recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee in September 2020. Some of these occupations to be added include

  • health professionals;
  • pharmacists;
  • senior care workers; and
  • ·nursing auxiliaries and assistants.

Roles that fall within the shortage occupation list benefit from a lower minimum salary requirement and reduced application fees.

Streamlined Global Talent Visa Access for Winners of Specified Awards

Changes to the global talent route from 1 April 2021 will allow applicants to bypass the endorsement requirement and instead qualify if they have received a prestigious prize. A list of eligible prizes will be set out in Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes. This category is specifically for talented and promising individuals in the fields of science, digital technology, arts, and culture who wish to work in the United Kingdom.


On the 5 March 2021, the UK government introduced a travel declaration form for those wishing to travel abroad from England for legally permitted reasons. All individuals travelling outside of the United Kingdom will need to complete the form to declare the reasons for travelling prior to departure. Some of the permitted reasons for international travel include

  • work;
  • ·volunteering;
  • education;
  • medical or compassionate grounds; and
  • weddings, funerals, and related events.

Read more about the Coronavirus (COVID-19): declaration form for international travel.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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