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Immigration: Home Office agrees to visa freeze, but new legislation is still complex

The Government has announced that it will freeze the cap on migrant workers' visas at £20,700 until April 2014 in a move which is set to please businesses which have grown tired of the constant tweaking of immigration laws under the coalition government.

However, the Financial Times writes that despite this welcome break, businesses are still facing the prospect of wading through a raft of new immigration regulations which have been brought in by the Government this month.

The regulations are the result of a pledge by the Conservatives to reduce net migration towards the level of 'tens of thousands' by the end of this parliamentary session.

Julia Onslow-Cole is head of global immigration at PWC Legal.

"Keeping the visa cap at the same level is a really positive step, but the rules are extremely complicated and the devil is in the detail," she said.

The main proposal which is causing concern is the introduction of a cooling-off period after visa application approval. This is designed to prevent the current practice whereby non-EU workers switch between visa routes to extend their stay. The new rule will mean that anyone changing categories must wait a full 12 months before reapplying for a new visa.

Lawyers who specialise in visa applications for non-EU workers fear that this will make it much more complicated for skilled workers from abroad to remain in the UK long enough to complete a project.

Caron Pope is managing partner at Fragomen.

"What began as rumblings of discontent in the business community has turned into something much bigger," she said.

"The Home Office has responded to similar concerns in the past and we expect them to again," she added.

The new regulations will also affect non-EU workers who wish to travel away from the UK during their stay. The law will require them to travel for no more than 36 days per annum in order to keep their leave to stay.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Financial Times)

Consequences of working illegally in the UK (FindLaw)