‘Right to Rent’ scheme pilot proves unsuccessful

According to government figures, its pilot scheme implemented to force landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants in the West Midlands, or face fines of up to £3,000 per tenant, has been unsuccessful.

Under the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme, a pivotal part of the government’s attempt to counter illegal immigration, landlords are obliged to see evidence of a person’s right to remain in the UK by examining their passport or biometric residence permit.

However in the nine months since the rules were enforced, there were only seven landlords penalised, facing average fines of only £800 according to documents released to the Economist under the Freedom of Information Act. Moreover, a secondary investigation found that the scheme may also have encouraged discrimination against non-British prospective tenants.

Despite this data and growing fears that the scheme will prove unworkable, it is now set to be extended across the country. Penalties have also been stiffened as part of a new immigration bill, while landlords will also be given powers to evict people who don’t have leave to remain in the UK.

It is debatable whether the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme introduced by the government is a viable solution to tackling the problem of illegal immigration in the UK. However, as pressure mounts on the Prime Minister to act with the inexorable issues continuing in Calais, it could certainly be seen as a sign of positive intent. In addition whether the pilot proves to be representative of a country-wide implementation is yet to be seen. To stay up to date with news on the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme, and all other immigration matters, don’t hesitate to sign up to our newsletter.

UKVI’s Online Application Service expands

The UKVI Online Application Service, provided by the Immigration Platform Technologies (IPT) Programme, is helping create a far more user-friendly online application form and payment process. It is serving both customers abroad and in the UK who are applying to enter or remain in the UK respectively. The Service, which has catered for over 160,000 applications thus far, has been used principally for Tier 2 Standard and Priority Postal applications. However, a number of changes are soon to be introduced which will further improve applying under not only Tier 2, but also Tiers 1 and 5.

Over the next few weeks, the Online Application Service will be extended to include the Premium Service, which will soon be available to all Tier 2 customers and their Dependants, as well as Tier 1, 2 and 5 Dependent ‘joiners’ applying individually. Booking the premium service appointment will become part of their online application process.

Consequently Standard, Priority Postal and Premium services for all Tier 2 applicants applying separately or as a family group will be available on the Online Application Service. The Service will also become available to Tier 1, 2 and 5 dependent ‘joiners’ applying together as a group.

Both customers and legal representatives will be happy to see such changes. Not only are application forms shorter, asking questions that are in logical order and specific to the particular application, there is also no need to set up an account on the Service as an email address and password are all that is required to login. A unique hyperlink is then sent for each application. Moreover, the Service redirects to, and shares information with, the IHS portal. This therefore minimises the need to obtain an IHS reference number separately from the Online Application Service itself.

A few important points to take note of include:

  • The date of application is the date the form is submitted online. This date will be displayed in the PDF application form.
  • The Online Application Service is not yet available for Tier 1 and Tier 5 Main Applicants or family groups.

For more information on the Online Application Service and any future changes, please contact us

Government to crackdown on foreign criminals with demand for police checks

Following increased concerns over rising immigration levels and the government’s inability to deport hundreds of foreign criminals each year, often on “human rights” grounds, as of September immigrants will be forced to prove they have had police background checks or face being banned from entering the UK.

Latest government figures show net migration at 318,000, some way off Prime Minister David Cameron’s ambitious target which stands in the “tens of thousands”. The new proposal makes up a significant part of James Brokenshire’s new plans to crackdown on foreign criminals. The initial phase will apply to Tier 1 visa applicants, who are seeking entry as either investors of at least £2 million, entrepreneurs intending to set up a business in the UK or dependants of such migrants. As of September, those applying under Tier 1 will be required to show proof of criminal records checks for every county they have lived in during the previous ten years. Anyone unable to provide proof will be refused a visa, while anyone found lying about their criminal records will be banned from Britain for 10 years.

The initiative is likely to be extended to other visa routes in 2016/17. Records for minor offences, which were committed a long time ago will not necessarily lead to a refused visa application; although more serious crimes resulting in lengthy custodial sentences will not be taken so likely by the Home Office. Implementing such plans will not only help ensure more dangerous foreign criminals are kept off Britain’s streets, but will also help minimise the chance of more serious cases, such as that of Latvian builder Arnis Zalkans.

 

*Immigration Rules update* – Tier 4 changes

On 13th July the government published changes to Part 6A of the Immigration Rules, many of which will affect Tier 4 of the Points-Based System.

Despite a fear that Home Secretary Theresa May might drastically change this area of the Immigration Rules, and consequently impair the UK’s ability to employ and nurture the world’s best young talent post-university, the alterations made appear to be comparatively measured. The changes entail:

  • Allowing university students to study a new course at the same level, although only where there is a link to their previous course, or the university confirms that this supports their career aspirations. There will be credibility interviews and sanctions against universities who are not compliant (as of August)
  • Banning those who are not studying at an ‘embedded college’ from extending their Tier 4 visas in the UK, as well as banning all college students from switching to Tiers 2 or 5 in the UK. If a student wishes to study another course, whey will be required to leave and apply for a new visa from outside the UK (as of November)
  • Stopping new students at publicly funded colleges from working, bringing them in line with those at private colleges (as of August)
  • Preventing Tier 4 Dependants from taking a low or unskilled job, but allowing them to work either full or part-time in a skilled role (commences in the Autumn)
  • Reducing the time limit for study at further education level from 3 years to 2 years, the latter being the time British students generally spend in further education

Encouragingly, the Home Office seems intent on continuing to attract bright and genuine international students, whilst reducing abuse of immigration legislation. The reality is reassuringly far from the gloomy picture painted by the Daily Mail over the weekend.

For further updates and any important changes to the immigration rules, do not hesitate to get in touch with our team.

Lower salary threshold for latest Tier 2 allocations

All Tier 2 restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) applications scoring at least 45 points will be granted this July. This will come as a relief to UK businesses sponsoring non-EEA nationals and is a stark change to last month’s oversubscribed Tier 2 (General) limit.

Last month, applications scoring less than 50 points were being refused due to the sheer volume of applications exceeding the number of available certificates.

Countless businesses in the UK faced restricted CoS rejections and needed to start the recruitment process from scratch.

June’s minimum salary requirement was £46,000, considerably higher than July’s requirement of £32,000. Migrants who score at least 45 points on their restricted CoS and are being offered a minimum annual salary of £32,000, should be successful.

Managing Director Jonathan Beech said “It is important to note that just because the number of points required for restricted CoS sponsorships are lower than last month, it does not mean that they are going to be the same or lower in the next coming months”.

Britain to streamline visa procedures for Chinese tourists as of today

Applying for British and European visas at the same time often takes non-EEA tourists a long time, and potentially costs hundreds of pounds.

The UK government has made this a thing of the past for Chinese visitors and business travellers, who as of today, will be able to apply for both UK and European visas in one simple, single process.

The worry was that previously, Chinese visitors were being deterred from holidaying in the UK since this involved applying for a separate visa.

Previously, tourists were only able to apply for one single Schengen visa for most of the EU, excluding the UK, thus, this scheme will be highly beneficial.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA), claims that Britain could be losing as much as 1.2 billion pounds a year due to Chinese tourists choosing to visit cities such as Paris and Milan instead of London, which requires a separate visa.

Home Secretary Theresa May said that “This scheme will create a one-stop shop for Chinese visitors to the UK and Europe” whether it is for leisure or business.

Applicants will now be able to apply online, using the same set of documents for both visas and then finalise the process by booking an appointment for a UK visa.

 

Prime Minister to consider new measures in bid to cut demand for migrant labour

In an attempt to reduce migrant labour to the UK and give British people “the skills they need” to find jobs, Prime Minister Cameron has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to look into ways of curbing non-EEA migrant labour.

The Migration Advisory Committee will advise on ways of boosting funding for UK apprenticeships and rising minimum salary thresholds for work visa applications as well as modifying the skills shortage criteria.

The government will require the MAC to look into re-structuring visa routes where skills shortages are genuinely required and ways of limiting the time that any sector is seen as being in shortage.

Mr Cameron’s government have suggested implementing a levy on Tier 2 visas. They argue that this could be used to fund apprenticeships, thus, helping British people.

If new proposals go ahead, there could also be restrictions on the automatic right to work of Tier 2 dependants and the Intra Company Transfer route could see the introduction of the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Prime Minister Cameron claims that “in the past, it has been too easy for businesses to recruit from overseas, undermining those who want to work hard and do the right thing”.

 

Information Commissioner’s Office demands Home Office reports on detention centres

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has asked for the Home Office to release potentially detrimental reports detailing the running of Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres within a matter of weeks.

Despite government officials arguing that the confidential documents would harm both the commercial interests of contractors Serco and GEO Group and the Home Office’s power to negotiate with future contractors, the ICO stated that the public interest in transparency was vital.

Corporate Watch’s Phiil Miller, cited in The Guardian newspaper, described the ruling as landmark, sending “a strong signal to government to be far more transparent on outsource contracts. Home Office bureaucrats should not shield private security companies from public scrutiny”.

The ICO’s decision certainly reflects a widely-held view that the operation of Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) is not up to scratch. Both media coverage and prison reports carried out by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons have contributed to the decision process, with the former revealing a disturbing increase in serious self-harm.

The government has yet to confirm whether it will appeal the decision, with both contractors also declining to comment at this stage. Watch this space…

Tier 2 General limit oversubscribed

For the first time since it’s introduction, the Tier 2 General limit (under the Restricted ‘quota’ system) has been oversubscribed, which has resulted in applications scoring less than 50 points being refused.

This means that in order to be successful, requests for Certificates of Sponsorship for June 2015 would have needed the vacancy:

  • to have been at PhD Level with the worker being paid at the ‘going rate’ for the vacancy in question (minimum £20,800); or
  • to have been at Shortage Occupational level with the worker being paid at the ‘going rate’ for the vacancy in question (minimum £20,800); or
  • To have been advertised (Resident Labour Market Test) with no resident worker meeting the mandatory requirements AND the worker being paid a minimum of £46,000.

Please note this does not relate to those migrants within the UK who are switching into Tier 2 General status (non restricted route).

Should you be affected by this or require any assistance with planning a Tier 2 (General) application don’t hesitate to contact us.

Prime Minister’s Questions reveals fresh immigration proposals

Net migration has reached a 10-year high of 318,000 this year, some 200,000 more than pledged by David Cameron in 2010. Despite many arguments suggesting the positive impact, both financially and socially of migration towards the UK, during Prime Minister’s Questions this week Mr Cameron announced a number of new plans to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. These proposals included measures to raise minimum salary thresholds, limit the number of work permits and the introduction of new business levies for businesses employing migrant workers.

The government’s Migration Advisory Committee will take these proposals into consideration, which also not only aim to protect domestic workers from being undercut by migrant workers, but are also designed to boost apprenticeships. Mr Cameron, who chairs the Immigration Taskforce, has also elicited plans to rethink how long certain sectors can declare they have a skills shortage, as this enables employers in the particular sector to take on migrant workers.

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors and quoted in the Independent, has raised concerns over Mr Cameron’s proposals. Despite needing to attend to the public’s concern on immigration, Mr Walker states that employing migrant workers is purely a consequence of needing to find “people with the skills needed by employers”.

Mr Walker goes on to say that Mr Cameron is “absolutely right to focus on upskilling the domestic workforce, but there’s no quick fix.” It must nonetheless be taken into consideration that withdrawing skilled migrants from the workforce may have detrimental effects on the ever improving economy in the UK.