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Over the last year there have been more changes to immigration rules than in any previous year. Even immigration specialists and law firms have to be constantly looking out for any further changes which could affect their clients.

The sudden tightening of the rules concerning the “switching” of immigration status whilst in the UK” on 1st October 2004 is a prime example.

Basically the Home Office has closed a “window of opportunity” allowing temporary migrants (for example people here on visitors visas) from switching whilst in the UK into permanent employment, commonly known as “in country” switching. Previously, a person here as a visitor who was subsequently offered employment in the UK, could apply for a work permit and Further Leave to Remain (FLR). The whole process could be handled without the need to return home to apply for entry clearance. My own firm handled hundreds of such cases, mainly for the healthcare industry which is crying out for care staff.

The Home Office has published “Transitional Arrangements” basically stating that any FLR applications received before 1st October 2004 will be treated under the old rules.

However, the amendments were introduced so quickly that many people found themselves in receipt of a Work Permit Approval letter inviting them to apply for Further Leave to Remain (having been approved for a Work Permit after 1st October due to the Home Office backlog of work), but unable to follow though on those instructions.

Furthermore, if they want to take up that employment for which they have already been approved, they must go home and reapply for an “out of country” Work Permit (The Home Office will charge another £153.00) and apply for entry clearance at their local British Embassy.

However, the fact that you cannot switch visas whilst in the UK, does not mean you cannot return to the UK to take up employment later on. Whilst this may be inconvenient, it will actually save time, as the Home Office were previously taking over three months to process FLR applications.


The news is not all bad. On 7th December 2004, the Home Office announced:

With immediate effect, following representations from the Department of Health, all Salaried General Dental Practitioners, Salaried Assistant Dentists and Vocational Dental Practitioners employed in the healthcare sector will be considered under the shortage occupation (Tier One).

This is very encouraging news for anyone looking to come to the UK to take up employment in the above category, as employers will no longer have to prove that they cannot find a suitable person within the EU.


The Government also made the following announcement in December on new quotas for Sector Based (SBS) Workers, a category of work permits covered in a previous issued, on 1st December 2004:

“On 1 December 2004 the second half of the SBS quota will become available – 3000 permits for the food processing sector and 4,500 for the hospitality sector.

There will continue to be a 20% limit on the number of SBS work permits issued to any single nationality for each of the sectors. As a consequence no further hospitality permits will be issued to Bangladeshi nationals.”

Charles Kelly

Immigration Adviser Email:

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