Comment: Cameron’s Speech on Immigration Today

Following on from Prime Minister Cameron’s election victory, today he continued to express his determination to cut net migration to below 100,000 per annum at the Queen’s speech. This has come at a time when the Office for National Statistics has revealed that contrary to David Cameron’s ambitious target, in 2014 net migration rose to 318,000, increasing 52% from 2013.

Politicians use the rhetoric of “cuts, curbing and clamping down” but are these figures really as pejorative as they are made out to be? Should the UK be forcing hard-working, educated and skilled migrants out of the United Kingdom when it has been proven that there is a direct correlation between skilled migration and prosperity?

As professor Christian Dustmann from University College London once said, “Immigration to the UK since 2000 has been of substantial net fiscal benefit” due to the fact that migrants are statistically paying more taxes than they have received in benefits.

It is understandable that Prime Minister Cameron is under pressure from the growing anti-immigration rhetoric being expressed by other politicians and the public. Furthermore, too much of anything can lead to problems and this phrase could be applied to overspending, over-cutting and even over building. Too many migrants could arguably put a strain on the National Health Service, housing and welfare. However, net migration figures are too quick to point out who came and who left in a one size fits all ambiguous fashion. These statistics are not necessarily a direct reflection of what’s happening on the ground.

Currently students, temporary workers and asylum seekers residing in the UK for over a year are included within the net migration figures. These three categories could make up hundreds of thousands of individuals contained within the migration statistics. It may therefore be realistic to remove these temporary migrants from the figures.

Recent statistics have proven that international students are imperative to the success of the UK economy and our universities. Foreign students in London alone contribute to roughly £2.3 billion to the UK economy each year and universities would struggle without these students who effectively fund the excellent new facilities that can be found all around the country.

Skilled migrants under the Points Based System often apply under the Intra-company Transfer category which means that they may reside in the UK for a maximum of 5 years and have no entitlement to settle.

One could say that it is these hard-working, tax-paying temporary migrants who are being penalised, it is these migrants that are not being mentioned in the anti-immigration rhetoric.







Passport exit checks introduced at cross-Channel borders

On the 29th of March 2015, the Home Office announced that passport exit controls will be implemented as travellers are leaving the UK. The legislation is due to be phased in as of the 8th of April 2015 with it taking full effect by mid-June through the government working closely with airports, seaports and tunnels across Britain. The exit checks will enable data to be collected on every individual leaving the UK through to the requirement for each passport to be scanned. The government claim that these exit checks will provide the Home Office with crucial information aiding both the security services and helping keep track of immigration more efficiently.

The exit checks are said to effect cross-Channel and Channel tunnel borders more than airports due to most airlines already requiring passport information prior to travel. Prior to the 8th of April, travellers leaving the UK via cross-Channel routes were not subject to passport scrutiny by border control.  The Home Office claim that this legislation will strengthen Britain’s border security, ensuring that all passports are now fully verified. The new border controls are said to cause little disruption to travellers leaving the UK, however some fear that delays will occur during peak times of travel.

By Moira Rrodhe

5 days until NHS surcharge is introduced to migrants

On the 19th of March 2015, the Home Office announced that a health surcharge for non-EEA migrants and students, will come into force as of the 6th of April 2015. This surcharge will only apply to migrants entering the UK for a period in excess of 6 months. The health surcharge is set at £200 per year and £150 for students, with the payment being accumulated by the Home Office when an immigration application is made. Dependants will be charged the same amount as their main applicant unless stated otherwise under the legislation. The health surcharge is to be paid fully upfront in relation to the visa application, for example if a non-EEA migrant is applying for a 5 year visa, the surcharge will be £1000 in addition to all the visa fees. Certain exemptions are made regarding the payment, for example Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer migrants are not required to pay the surcharge and neither are those seeking asylum.

The Home Office claim that the NHS surcharge will grant temporary non-EEA migrants and students the same level of access to the NHS as permanent UK residents. The estimated NHS cost of the temporary non-EEA migrants and students is £950 million per year, therefore the government notes that this secondary legislation, under the Immigration Act 2014, will ensure that financial contributions to the NHS are being made to cover the treatment given to the temporary migrants.

The Home Office argue that the health surcharge levels are competitive in comparison to some of the UK’s competitor nations and represent a mere 1% of the total cost required for students studying for a three year, undergraduate degree. In addition, the cost will also be lower than that of the most basic private medical insurance in the UK and countries such as the USA and Australia.

By Moira Rrodhe

UK General Election 2015 – What do the political parties have to say about Immigration?

With only 37 days left until the UK general election, swing voters remain undecided over party manifestos on the NHS and immigration. Immigration has become one of the hot topics in the run up to the general election, perhaps fuelled by the rise of anti-immigration parties such as UKIP, who won seats in Clacton, Rochester and Strood.

As a result, it seems that party leaders have increasingly become torn between remaining faithful to their party line and pragmatically swaying towards public opinion. So what do political parties have to say about immigration?

Conservative Party

As part of its immigration manifesto, the Conservative Party claims that it will cut ‘benefit tourism’ and only welcome hard-workers who contribute to British society, thus, appealing to anti-EU voters.

The Conservatives have pledged to abolish ‘bogus colleges’ and clamp down on illegal immigration by curbing access to benefits, housing and healthcare. David Cameron also wants to introduce a new citizen test.

Pro-immigration voters such as Sir James Dyson argue that curbing migration would do more damage than good to the UK since there is shortage of skilled workers in certain sectors.

Labour Party

In its manifesto, the Labour Party states that Immigration is crucial for Britain’s future since the British public should be proud of being a diverse nation where migrants contribute to the UK, whether it’s in business, healthcare or education.

Whilst the current manifesto does seem to maintain a pro-immigration undertone, it also mentions phrases such as “controlled immigration” and like the Conservatives, the Labour Party have also pledged to introduce smarter control systems, toughen border controls and only hand out ‘earned’ entitlements.

Liberal Democrat Party

Similar to the Labour Party’s tougher line on Immigration, the Liberal Democrats claim that they will introduce a fair but firm system whilst still valuing the fact that Britain is open to the social and economic benefits that Immigrations brings.

The Liberal Democrats argue that Labour has let Britain down by allowing Immigration to get out of control and that control needs to be brought back by introducing exit checks and ending the detention of innocent children.

UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Well known for its hard line anti-EU stance, UKIP pledge to leave the EU. Under UKIP’s manifesto, migrants would need to support themselves financially through private housing, healthcare and education. UKIP would introduce time limited work permits and a points based system for all future migrants.

UKIP has been criticised for focusing primarily on immigration and its original founder, Alan Sked, is dubious of the party’s morals.

 Public Opinion

It seems that the overall level of understanding regarding the scale of immigration in the UK remains low. Ipsos MORI carried out a survey in 2014 asking the public what they thought the percentage of foreign-born individuals in the UK was. The general public guessed that an average of 31% of people living in the UK were not born here. The actual estimate was more along the lines of 13%. This highlights the fact that voters don’t always vote on what they believe to be true. Voters are also swayed by their family, community and local media’s opinion.



Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules Announced

With only a few months to go until the UK general election, the government have increasingly been taking a hard-line approach towards Immigration.

Yesterday, the Home Secretary published the latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, laying emphasis on the government’s “tough” stance on immigration.

The lengthy 243 page document is longer than usual and here are just a few of the changes that will take effect within the next few months:

  • Caseworkers will be able to ask migrants present in the UK with limited leave to remain, to provide documentation and/or attend an interview in order to show that they are still complying with the Immigration Rules;
  • Minimum salary thresholds for Tier 2 migrants will be updated annually. There are already increases to the minimum required salaries under Tier 2;
  • The Tier 2 Codes of Practice that outline those jobs that meet the minimum standards for sponsorship, are being updated from April 2015;
  • In Tier 2 of the Points Based System, the Shortage Occupation list will be revised;
  • Potential Tier 1 (Investor) migrants will be required to open a regulated, UK investment account prior to making an initial application;
  • It will be obligatory for Tier 1 (Entrepreneurs) to pass a “genuine entrepreneur” test for extension and ILR applications;
  • Tier 1 (General) migrants will be restricted from switching into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category;
  • The Home Office will update the list of approved English Language tests;
  • Changes will be made in relation to family and private life;
  • Visitor routes will be reduced from 15 down to 4 categories.

Minister of State, James Brokenshire argues that “The Immigration Act continues to prove itself as a radical new tool to tackle immigration abuse”.

Visa Fee Increases Announced

The Home Office have recently declared that there will be various fee increases for visa applications as of 6th April 2015. Traditionally, the fee increases take place annually and the Home Office publish unofficial figures beforehand. This year’s indicative fees highlight an increase in the majority of applications.

Among those increases, 5 year visit visas are expected to go up from £544 to £588, Tier 2 general, ICT – long term staff, sport & MoR visas, could increase from £514 to £564, Tier 1 investor Residence Permits could cost  £1,500 as opposed to the current fee £1,093, whereas visa applications from overseas may go up from £874 to £1,500.

A Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship is expected to cost £199, as opposed to the current fee of £184.

This year’s indicative fees have not only seen increases but also fees remaining the same, such as Tier 2 Shortage Occupation applications.

In a few rare cases, there have also been decreases in fees, for example Tier 1 Exceptional Talent applications, which are likely to decrease from £1,093 to £562. This could be due to the fact that very few individuals apply for this visa.

Overall, it appears that the fee changes are somewhat selective, however, these figures are not currently official; we will be keeping a lookout for when this becomes the case.

BRPs to be introduced to overseas applicants

The Home Office recently announced that any non-EEA national applying from overseas for permission to stay in the UK (for more than six months), will be required to pick up a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) upon arrival to the United Kingdom. Once the changes have been implemented, successful applicants will be required to collect their BRP’s within ten days of their first arrival in the UK. This has come as a direct result of EU Regulations, which require member states to issues BRP’s to applicants requiring leave for more than six months.

The roll-out of this new process for overseas applicants, will be phased in from 18th March 2015, with additional countries entering the scheme in April and May. As of 31st July, the process will apply to all overseas nationals.

The visa application process remains largely unchanged, with applicants required to provide their intended date of travel, a UK address and post code. The applicant will then also have to collect their BRP from a designated Post Office on arrival in the UK. Previously, overseas applicants have simply been issued with visa endorsements in their passports.

These fresh changes will mean that successful visa applicants will receive a letter informing them of the decision, as well as a short term visa vignette in their passport, valid for 30 days from the expected date of travel, to give the migrant time to travel to the UK as well as collect their BRP.

There is no additional cost and on arrival, migrants will be required to present their specific documents – a valid passport or travel document containing the 30 day short validity vignette, the decision letter and any other information requested by a border officer.

Migrate UK Managing Director, Jonathan Beech, commented that “swift collection of the BRP is vital, especially where employers and educational establishments are required to carry out ‘Right to Work / Study’ checks on their employees & students and maintain accurate records of their continuing ability to remain in the UK. It is also important that the BRP is free from mistakes”.

The Home Office ultimately would like to be in a position where the BRP becomes the principal document for illustrating a non-EEA individual’s right to reside in the UK.

A short term vote winner or a genuine attempt to curb migration?

Recently, Home Secretary Theresa May announced further plans to curb migration, and this time students were the target.

In her latest proposal, foreign students would be required to leave the United Kingdom upon completing their studies, and reapply for UK jobs within their home country.

Ms May’s plan has come at a time when the government has failed to meet its net-migration targets, and when a general election is only months away.

In 2014, immigration was an extremely hot topic. The likes of UKIP have seemingly ‘threatened’ the major political parties with its by-election wins and Conservative MPs defecting, which has consequently catapulted immigration to the forefront of politics, leaving behind other important issues that need to be addressed.

Whilst the UK immigration system is perhaps not perfect, the government risks alienating students for short-term election gain.

Foreign students net Britain nearly £7bn each year and are required to fill skills shortage gaps, predominantly within the engineering, technology and science sectors.

Sir James Dyson recently stated that “we need those foreign graduates” because by 2020, in the engineering sector alone, an extra 640,000 highly skilled individuals will be required.

What will this mean for employers if this proposal came to pass?

If the proposal came to pass, students would need to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa under the ‘Restricted’ process.

This entails the employer advertising the vacancy to the public, and, should this not unearth any suitable local hires, they can request the Home Office to consider providing sponsorship to the potential employee via their monthly quota system.

2014, A Year in Immigration

With a General election in May 2015 just around the corner, immigration once again has become the focal point of party debate. David Cameron is undoubtedly under pressure from both a wide number of British voters, as well as the European Union. Attempts to curb EU migration will require a change of stance by the continent’s governing body, and only time will tell whether Jean Claude-Juncker will compromise with the UK and its desire to lower net migration.

Nonetheless, with the Introduction of the Immigration Act, 2014 has been both a significant and eventful year in UK immigration.

The Immigration Act 2014 introduced various changes to the field of immigration, these include:

  • Migrants who do not have settled status being required to make a financial contribution to the NHS even if they do not make national insurance contributions;
  • Regardless of nationality, landlords must now carry out immigration status checks on their tenants, to ensure that they have a right to be in the UK;
  • Those who are in the UK illegally will now be prevented from obtaining a UK driving licence or opening a bank account;
  • The right of appeal has now been removed for certain immigration decisions, this has been as a result of the Home Secretary’s plan to reduce decisions that can be appealed, arguably limiting people’s rights. The number of ways in which an individual can appeal has been reduced from 17 to just 4.

Changes were also made to Tier 1 Investor applications, where the minimum investment requirement doubled from £1 million to £2 million.

The Tier 1 (General) route will close to those wishing to extend their stay in in this category as of 6 April 2015. From 6 April 2018, the Tier 1 (General) category will be closed to all migrants who wish to settle under this visa route.

Such changes highlight the continual push by the government to curb net migration, however, these changes have not been implemented without controversy, and they fail to illustrate the positive impact that the majority of migrants have in the UK.

Latest UK Immigration Figures: July – September 2014

Latest UK Immigration Figures: July – September 2014

The latest immigration figures highlight interesting trends that have taken place throughout July- September 2014. These include, an increase in work, student and visitor visas being granted. Here are some of the current trends:

Work Visas

6% more work visas were granted between July and September, with high numbers of skilled workers making up this figure. There was a 13% increase in applications from sponsored workers. Most skilled workers were sponsored under the scientific, ICT and financial/ insurance sectors. Scientific, Professional and Technical Activities alone saw an increase of 19% in sponsorship applications. These figures show that there is an increasing demand for overseas labour

Student Visas  

Student visas which were granted, rose a total of 3%, however, the number of students sponsored by the further education sector fell by 13%. More students of Chinese, Brazilian, Saudi Arabian and Libyan citizenship were granted student visas.

Visitor Visas

From July to September 2014, a total of 1.9 million individuals were granted a visitor visa, up 1% from the previous statistics. As of 1st January 2014, United Arab Emirates, Omani and Qatari nationals have been able to visit the UK visa-free, following the introduction of a new Electronic Visa Waiver scheme. Chinese, Philippine and Saudi Arabian nationals saw the largest increase in visitor visa grants.