Halloween Friday legislation update…without the fright

Yesterday the government announced a number of new changes to the Immigration Rules, which will come into effect on or after 19th November of this year.

The Home Office have addressed various matters within Asylum, Family Life and Settlement legislation. Notably, regarding the latter, it is imperative that those relying on an English language qualification for ILR and Naturalisation take a ‘secure’ test, while the £35,000 minimum earnings threshold for Tier 2 Settlement applications is set to be introduced on 6th April 2016.

With regards to business immigration, there have been several amendments to the Points-Based System:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
    • The endorsement criteria used by Tech City UK has been modified in order to ‘better reflect the skills and experience of target applicants who are most likely to add value to the UK digital technology sector’.
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur
    • Confirmation of what supporting documents are eligible for illustrating continuous trading and demonstrating job creations when extending leave.
    • Additional eligibility criteria to test the genuineness of applications, focusing on any potential previous investments made in a UK business by applicants
  • Tiers 2 and 5
    • Four digital technology jobs and nurses have been added to the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List. Concerning the latter, there was widespread criticism of legislation preventing the recruitment of migrant nurses, at a time when the demand was outweighing the supply. Senior figures, such as NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens, were contributing factors to the Home Office fixing what was undoubtedly, a misjudgement.
    • An increase in annual allocations for places available under the Youth Mobility Scheme for 2016.

For further advice on any of the above, do not hesitate to contact the team

Students brace themselves for further changes this Winter

Back in July, we published an article citing changes to Tier 4 of the Point Based System. A number of these have already been introduced, however there are three further legislative amendments which ought to be brought to students’ and education providers’ attention. These come in force from 12th November 2015.

First of all, Tier 4 (General) students studying at colleges will not be able to extend their stay in Tier 4, neither will they be able to switch into any other category whilst in the UK. Only students at colleges that the Home Office have labelled as “embedded colleges offering pathway programmes” will be able to do so.

Second, dependants of Tier 4 migrants will be allowed to take part-time or full-time skilled work, but shall be prevented from taking a low or unskilled job. For those individuals who are in the process of preparing a Tier 4 application and have dependants they wish to bring to the UK, it is important to consider the implications of applying after 12th November. Joint income is key for many families and understanding how to ensure that eligible family members can work will be an important consideration.

Thirdly, and perhaps the change which may impact students most, there will be an increase to the maintenance requirements. Students affected include those deferring entry until 2016, or those extending their stay for varying reasons after 12th November:

  • All students will need to show they have £1,015 (previously £820) per month of study, while dependants must demonstrate they have £680 (previously £460) each month to support themselves. This must be abided by for a maximum of nine months or for the duration of study (whichever comes first).
  • Students studying in inner London will need to have £1,265 at their disposal per calendar month, with their dependants require £845.
  • Only dependants of those studying under Tier 4 (Doctorate Extension Scheme) will be able to benefit from the ‘established presence’ level of living costs, which has otherwise been made obsolete

For further information on these changes and on how to apply under Tier 4 of the Points Based System, do not hesitate to contact the team.

Leaving the EU – where would we stand?

149357543_0Over the past 12 months, there has been a large amount of speculation regarding the UK’s stance on immigration policy and whether leaving the EU is a viable and beneficial option. Recent immigration statistics published at the end of August by the Office for National Statistics illustrated that net migration to the UK had risen to 330,000 last year. Despite the Government’s target to reduce migration to the tens of thousands, this latest figure is in fact the highest on record and making up 183,000 of this figure are migrants from within the EU. Despite the Government’s target to reduce migration to the tens of thousands, this latest figure is in fact the highest on record and making up 183,000 of this figure are migrants from within the EU. Despite the Government’s target to reduce migration to the tens of thousands, this latest figure is in fact the highest on record and making up 183,000 of this figure are migrants from within the EU.

At face value therefore, it could be argued that leaving the EU and ‘free-movement’ would be a strong contributing factor to helping the Government reduce net migration and reaching its ambitious target. However face-value very rarely reflects the reality of the situation.

There is no easy solution and leaving the EU would have its own repercussions. First of all leaving the single market could have potentially detrimental consequences on business and financial services. One of the biggest advantages of the EU is free trade between member nations, making it easier and cheaper for British companies to export their goods to Europe. Second, less migrants from the EU might make for difficult policy implementation regarding asylum seekers and refugees, with the possibility of more space for this category of migrant. Third, recent data has devalued the argument that there has been a large influx of unskilled migrants entering the UK from other EU member states and in fact not having free movement would harm our chances of attracting the best talent from the continent. Finally, following Norway’s example by leaving the EU and joining the European Economic Area actually renders the UK just as susceptible to the effects of free movement as if it was still in the EU.

Combine these arguments with the fact that there is barely any significant evidence of negative impacts on jobs or average wages from EU migration, leaving the EU seems to be becoming a somewhat outdated reason for trying to lower net migration. The UK is stronger and more influential within the EU and sacrificing continent-wide and worldwide stature is not the answer. It is fair to say that the Government has its work cut out.

London School of Business and Finance has licence revoked for the second time

The London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) has once again had its sponsor licence revoked after failing to remain compliant with the Home Office’s increasingly stringent regulations regarding licence holders.

Part of Global University Systems (GUS), which had another of its institutions’ licences revoked earlier this year, the LSBF cannot sponsor any new non-European Union students or workers. The college has 20 working days to appeal, although according to a statement released by the UKVI, “existing sponsored students and workers may continue with their studies or employment until a final decision on the status of the licence is made by the Home Office.”

Since the coalition government began allowing private colleges to expand in 2010, the LSBF has grown rapidly and recruits a large number of overseas workers and students under the Tier 2 and Tier 4 sponsor routes respectively.

The LSBF are confident of being reinstated on the register of licensed sponsors once the UKVI have received “representations correcting errors in the UKVI’s initial statement” according to a spokesperson.

Having your sponsor licence revoked is a serious matter and is detrimental not just to your future opportunities for recruiting the best and brightest, but also your reputation. Implementing robust recruitment and compliance processes is imperative. For further information on our sponsor licence and compliance services, do not hesitate to contact us.

‘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.

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.