visaA pilot scheme has been set up with the aim of making work visa applications easier for businesses and their employees.

The scheme will allow business immigrants to continue travelling while waiting for their visa to be processed (as long as their existing visas have not yet expired and they have leave to remain in the UK). And applicants re-applying for a visa under the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route will now receive their passport back within seven to 10 days, after applying for their visa but before it has been approved.

The pilot follows other changes to the ICT route, including increasing the maximum length of stay for senior staff earning over £152,100 from five to nine years and reducing the amount of paperwork needed for visas. Currently the pilot is available for Tier 2 ICT visa holders who are reapplying for their visa in the UK. If it is successful there are plans to introduce the scheme across other routes.

The Home Office took the opportunity to claim that its reforms to the immigration system had not deterred the brightest and the best from coming to the UK because visa applications for skilled immigrants increased by five per cent in the year up to March 2013.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said: “The UK is a destination for global talent and we will continue working with businesses to drive forward more improvements. Figures show we have cut out abuse while encouraging migrants who contribute to economic growth to come to the UK.”