Coronavirus (COVID – 19) immigration guidance

written by Judit Adorjan

Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

If you are in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Individuals affected must contact the Coronavirus immigration Team (CIT) via: to update their records if their visa is expiring.

You should provide:

  • Full name (include any middle names)
  • Date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • Nationality
  • Previous visa reference number
  • Why you cannot go back to you home country, for example the border has closed.

The Home Office will be in contact when the request is received and when the visa has been extended.

Please note this has not been written into law and at this moment it is not clear whether the extra stay will be covered by the immigration health surcharge. A new BRP card will not be issued for this extension. Therefore, it is very important for employers to keep records of when the email was sent to the Home Office to protect against any illegal working penalties.

If you are applying to stay in the UK long-term

You will be able to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa until 31st May. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country.

You will need to meet the same visa requirements and pay the UK application fee.

This includes those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 March 2020.

The terms of your leave will remain the same until your application is decided.

Please note “long term” here does not mean indefinite leave to remain. It includes for example switching from a Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (General) or from PBS dependent to Tier 2 (ICT), which would normally require a fresh application for entry clearance to be made from abroad.

If you wish to extend your leave under the same immigration route it is important to note that providing the details requested by the Home Office will not be considered a pending application under section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 and you will therefore become an overstayer. In this case you will need to submit your extension application before the expiry of your current leave.

If you are outside the UK

Many UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) are closed or offering limited services.

For advice on visa services in your country contact:

In some areas the UK are not able to send visa vignettes across borders or routes due to border restrictions.

English testing centres are also affected. For more information visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website or contact your test centre.

UKVCAS Centre closures

As of 24 March 2020, 31 of the 57 nationwide were listed as closed, including the core centre in Manchester.

Here is a list of the closed centres.

If you are affected by the cancellation of an appointment you do not need to do anything. Sopra Steria will automatically rebook appointments at the same location in 6 weeks’ time and inform the Home Office.

Relaxation of Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 sponsor duties regarding absences due to coronavirus

Sponsors are not currently required to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus which the sponsor has authorised.

Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship for:

  • Affected students unable to attend for more than 60 days
  • Employees who have exceeded 4 weeks of absence without pay

Any decision on whether to withdraw a student from their studies, or terminate employment, are for sponsors to make. The Home Office will not take any compliance action against students or employees who are unable to attend their studies/work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or against sponsors which authorise absences and continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences for this reason.

The Home Office will keep this under review, especially if the length of absences means a potential repeat of period of studies become necessary.

Sponsoring employers will not have to report a change of location for all sponsored migrants working from home.

Should you have a query, that does not relate to immigration matters associated with coronavirus (COVID-19), please contact us.

The UK’s points-based immigration system

written by Jonathan Beech February 2020

On 19th February 2020 the government published its policy statement regarding the UK’s new points-based immigration system.
The aim of the new policy is to reduce overall levels of migration and give top priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents: scientists, engineers, academics and other highly skilled workers.

Jonathan Beech and Karen Kaur

What are the main points?

From 1st January 2021 free movement will end resulting in all EU and non-EU citizens entering the UK for this first time being treated equally. For those that wish to enter the UK for work purposes; the government is revising the current sponsor worker route and for those that do not have a job offer; expanding the ‘Global Talent’ route. Other immigration routes that allow work such as Family Life (spouses, partners & children of settled persons) plus Representatives of Overseas Businesses and UK Ancestry remain open.

How will it affect those with an offer of employment?

All applicants, both EU and non-EU citizens will need to demonstrate that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor, that the job offer is at the required skill level, the applicant earns more than the minimum salary threshold and that they speak English.

Minimum salary: For work sponsorship the general salary threshold is £25,600. Migrants will still need to be paid at least the ‘going rate’ for the vacancy they are filling. However, skilled workers will be able to trade characteristics such as their specific job offer and qualifications against a lower salary. As long as this is no less than £20,480 and they can demonstrate that they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation or they have a PhD relevant to the job.

Skill level: The Home Office will bring the skills threshold for suitable vacancies down from RQF6 to RQF3.

The MAC will be commissioned to produce and regularly review a shortage occupation list covering all jobs for the skilled worker route. Allocating extra points for occupations that the MAC determines to be in shortage in the UK will provide immediate temporary relief for shortage areas, making it easier to recruit migrants.

Are there any other changes to the sponsored worker route?

Yes, quite major ones: The cap on the number of skilled workers being allowed to enter the UK will be suspended and the resident labour market test (proof of advertising the vacancy to settled workers) will be removed.

With lower skill levels, salary & no cap on numbers, how does the government intend to reduce immigration for work purposes?

The government will be monitoring the numbers of skilled workers obtaining sponsorship carefully. The associated fees are already high for the employers and workers and we expect this to rise further. With the new policy pointing towards a lowering of the required skill, no need for a Resident Labour Market Test and the scrapping of the quota, we expect there to be measures to dissuade employers from relying on sponsorship.
Being a points-based system, the value of points in a particular criterion can be changed by the government at any time to further limit numbers.

What about lower skilled workers?

There will be no new route for lower skilled workers. The Home Office are asking employers to adapt, by using existing staff and dependants of migrant workers in other immigration categories who are permitted to work. They are committed to expanding the pilot scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture which will be quadrupled in size to 10,000 places. The Tier 5 youth mobility scheme which results in around 20,000 young people coming to the UK each year, can also be an alternative route for the lower skilled.

How about those without an offer of employment?

Aside from established work categories such as Innovator, UK Ancestry and Representatives of an Overseas Business, the Home Office will expand the freshly introduced Global Talent route to EU citizens.

This is a rebranded version of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent. Highly skilled workers will be able to enter the UK without a job offer if they are endorsed by a relevant and competent body.

This route to the UK is for talented and promising individuals in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, humanities, digital technology, arts and culture (incl. film and television, fashion design and architecture). Applicants will be leaders in their field or have the potential to be, as determined by an endorsing body. This category may lead to settlement in the UK.

What should employers do now?

Employers who currently do not hold a sponsor license should consider applying for one if they think they will want to sponsor skilled migrants from the EU in the future. We advise this is actioned prior to the Autumn as the process can take on average two to three months. The Home Office fee for a sponsor licence valid for four years is not particularly high at the moment – £536 for small organisations (which will make up the vast majority) or £1476 for medium / large organisations. The employer will then pay as they go for each sponsored employee. Please note that employers will need to protect their licence and meet Home Office compliance guidance. Young or micro businesses with genuine vacancies should not be put off applying for a licence as the scheme is available to all UK organisations. We regularly see applications being approved for businesses under 6 months old.

Which sectors will be affected the most?

Those businesses who employ what the government designate ‘lower skill’ or ‘lower pay’ workers in sectors such as healthcare, hospitality, retail, manufacturing and construction will undoubtedly need to plan. Some jobs within these sectors could qualify for sponsorship e.g. senior health workers, health coordinators, restaurant & bar managers, bakers, builders and plumbers. The sticking point is the minimum salary required. These businesses could look at ‘new entrants’ with lower starting salary criteria to meet. These include Tier 4 General students in the UK wishing to switch status and those under the age of 26. Alternatively, employers will need to be looking at other categories of the immigration rules.

What should EU citizens do?

Those in the UK now and prior to 11pm on 31st December 2020 will need to apply to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme or another immigration status as appropriate. The EU Settlement Scheme will remain open until 30th June 2021.
We highly recommend that those who only hold a national identity card apply for a passport. National ID cards are to be phased out and at some point will not be accepted for entry to the UK or as proof of right to work. Some EU citizens are currently experiencing long waiting times to obtain passports and this will only get worse. It is important to plan this as soon as you are able.

What happens next?

We wait for this points based system policy to be approved by parliament.

The Home Office will publish further details on the points-based system in due course.
This is part of a wider multi-year programme of change. A points based system provides the government with the opportunity to move the goal posts when they see fit, often at short notice. We also expect the job (SOC) codes to be revised as well as Shortage Occupational Skills.

Read the whole article here:

Global Talent visa

Written by Judit Adorjan

On the 20th February 2020 the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa route is being expanded and renamed as the Global Talent Visa.

The expansion of the route is being specifically introduced to make provisions for the science and research sector, whilst continuing to be open to talented and promising applicants within the digital technology and arts and culture (including those within film and television, fashion design and architecture) sectors.

There are two categories: Global Talent and Global Promise. ‘Talent’ applicants will already be leaders in their respective field, while ‘Promise’ applicants will be able to show the potential to become leaders in their field. The criteria for Global Promise applicants can include proof of recognition for work outside the applicant’s immediate occupation that has contributed to the advancement of the sector.

Suitable applicants from the scientific and research community will be assessed and fast-tracked by a new endorsing body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), rather than the Home Office.

Global Talent visa applications can be made from outside the UK. Tier 4 students who have completed their studies and show potential to become leaders in their field can make an out of country application if they satisfy other criteria for Global Promise.

Applicants who were last granted leave under the points-based system Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) (sponsored in the Government Authorised Exchange subcategory in an exchange scheme for sponsored researchers) or under the Start-up or Innovator categories may switch into the Global Talent category from within the UK.

So, what has changed?

Unlike its predecessor, the Global Talent Visa route will have no cap on the number of suitably qualified candidates able to come to the UK.

Applicants do not have to receive a minimum salary to be eligible and are not required to hold an offer of employment before arriving to the UK. They can move freely between organisations, locations, jobs and roles and can take on activities that are more difficult to undertake on other visas, such as collaborating with businesses.

There is an exemption from the absences rule for researchers and their dependents, who spend time outside the UK for research related purposes, ensuring they are not penalised when they apply for settlement.

Applicants can choose how much leave, in whole years, up to a maximum of 5 years they wish to be granted in a single application. This flexibility allows them to minimise their immigration health surcharge payment, where for example, they only wish to come to the UK for 2 years.

There is an accelerated path to settlement after a continuous period of 3 years in the UK if the last endorsement was given:

  • under the “exceptional talent” criteria for any endorsing body
  • under the “exceptional promise” criteria for the endorsing bodies for science, engineering and medicine
  • under the UKRI “endorsed funder” fast track criteria

Those applying to enter or extend their stay under the Global Talent category do not need to satisfy an English language requirement, although having sufficient knowledge of the English language may be a requirement of the organisation that hosts or employs them.

Applicants do not need to satisfy a maintenance fund requirement.

What hasn’t changed?

Although the word ‘exceptional’ has been dropped, the visa route continues to be for ‘highly-skilled’ entrepreneurs and employees. Just as previously, the Global Talent visa should not be considered for general employment.

According to the Labour’s spokesperson for industrial strategy the new measures “suggest a lack of understanding of innovation, which depends on scientists, researchers, engineers and technicians at all levels and not just a few ‘top talent’.

The Migration Advisory Committee report: Recommendations for a Points-Based System for sponsored workers from January 2021

written by Judit Adorjan

Recommendations for a Points-Based System and review of salary levels for sponsored workers from 2021

On 28th January 2020 the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its recommendations for the UK government regarding the new immigration system.

The overall feeling is that the MAC has been frustrated with the lack of data on the evaluation of specific visa routes provided by the government in order to make recommendations for a new points-based system.

Despite this, key recommendations are to:

  • Maintain the current Tier 2 General work visa system;
  • Turn the existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent category into a points-based route for skilled workers without a job offer and;
  • Re-evaluate the rules for settlement in the UK.

What are the main points?

  • Lower the overall qualifying salary threshold for sponsored workers under Tier 2 General (which should be retained but perhaps renamed) from £30,000 to £25,600. Migrants would still need to be offered at least the ‘going rate’ for the vacancy they are employed for and the appropriate salary threshold should continue to be the higher of the occupation specific and general threshold – either £25,600 or the going rate. There will be no regional variation unless a pilot scheme is introduced for specific areas;
  • Maintain the plan to lower the skill level to include medium skill occupations at RQF Level 3 and above. Currently, in the majority of cases the minimum is RQF Level 6 and above;
  • Add the following RQF3+ occupations to those that qualify for work sponsorship: air-conditioning and refrigeration engineers; rail and rolling stock builders and repairers; skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors; carpenters and joiners; glaziers, window fabricators and fitters; plasterers, floorers and wall tilers; painters and decorators; construction and building trades supervisors; childminders and related occupations; teaching assistants and educational support assistants. Remove the following occupations from RQF Level 3 for sponsorship purposes: fishing and other elementary agriculture occupations; waiters and waitresses.
  • Abolition of the cap on the number of skilled workers and the Resident Labour Market Test;
  • Use of national pay scales as the relevant salary threshold in 24 occupations in health and education instead of occupation specific and general thresholds;
  • More flexibility for existing visa holders to switch to part-time work after becoming a parent – no pro-rated salary thresholds for part-time work;
  • Not lower salary thresholds for shortage occupations. Review whether jobs on the Shortage Occupation list are still needed for medium and high skill levels under the new system;
  • Introduce the actual Points Based System as a variation of the current Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route but with major changes:
    • There should be an overall annual cap on those admitted;
    • The route should operate on an expression of interest basis creating a pool of migrants interested in coming to the UK;
    • There should be a monthly draw from this pool with those selected invited to submit a full application;
    • The selection of those invited to apply should be based on those who have the highest number of points in the pool using a points-based system with tradeable points;
    • There should also be an absolute minimum number of points;
    • Points should be given for characteristics that the government wants to attract through this route and for whom other routes are not suitable;
    • Characteristics that the government may want to consider in assigning points could be:
      • Qualifications with a rigorous process to assess the quality of qualifications and not just the level;
      • Age;
      • Extra points for having studied in the UK;
      • Priority areas such as STEM and creative skills.
      • Changes should only be made if data is collected on the outcomes of migrants on this route, with monitoring and evaluation of the route.
  • Look into the rules for settling in the UK. Freeze the current yearly increase in required earnings to qualify for settlement.

What are the pros and cons?

The committee’s recommendations would reduce levels of immigration, the size of the UK population and total GDP, and increase pressure on social care. But it would probably reduce pressures on the NHS, schools and on social housing.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) welcomes the MAC recommendations and urges the Government to accept them. According to Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB the recommendations are a step in the right direction as these changes will reduce pressure on the skills crisis, provide more certainty for the construction sector and avoid devastating consequences for many industries.

Will the report make any difference?

Too early to say. Shortly after the publication of the report Home Secretary Priti Patel stressed that the MAC proposals were merely advisory, and that the government is not backing away from a points system.

The report also revealed that Professor Manning is not continuing as the Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, despite his desire for a second term.

What are the implications for EU citizens?

The report is expected to be influential in the design of the UK’s post Brexit immigration system, under which EU citizens will come under the same visa rules as non-EU citizens, but those rules will be made more liberal overall.

EU nationals will also be subject to sponsorship. Therefore, employers are advised to approximately forecast how many vacancies the organisation will have for the next financial year, including EU Nationals as well as any non-EEA RQF Level 3 vacancies. When requesting an allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship, this forecast should be included in the justification for number requested.

It is important to note that the RQF job codes could be changed again prior to implementation of the rules in 2021.

What are the implications in terms of immigration control?

Although, the cut in the salary threshold was largely welcomed by business, campaign group Migration Watch warned it was a dangerous move as the abolition of caps reduced Government control over migration.

Options that could be considered to limit reliance on overseas workers could be:

  • An increase in the NHS surcharge for each worker and family member (it currently stands at £400 per year of sponsorship; and /or
  • An increase in the skills charge placed on some skilled workers (currently £1000 per year per worker for medium / large organisations and £364 per year per worker for small organisations)

In conclusion this is advisory, and the government are due to release the planned rules and framework in March 2020.

What to expect from the new immigration White Paper?

Written by Judit Adorjan

Former Home Office Secretary Sajid Javid set out the plans for a new single, skills-based immigration system replacing free movement in a white paper published on the 19th of December 2018.

The aim of the future system is to have full control of migration and enable skilled, innovative and highly productive personnel to come to the UK to make a positive contribution to the economy and society.

The White Paper was based on independent evidence from the Migration Advisory Committee and frank conversations with individuals and businesses across the UK.

Since then multiple Brexit deadlines have been passed and many leading economists, financial experts and large businesses are warning that a no-deal Brexit could have a damaging impact on the UK. In addition, the cabinet, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have changed and they have a new focus on an Australian points-based system, which could make the 2018 Immigration White Paper redundant.

On the 22nd of January 2020 the EU Withdrawal Agreement went through its last stage, the ‘Consideration of Amendments’ and is now awaiting Royal Assent.

The following Lords amendments were turned down by the House of Commons: the right of settled and pre-settled EU citizens, eligible citizens under the EEA EFTA separation agreement and eligible citizens under the Swiss citizens’ rights agreement to receive a physical document to prove their right of residence in the UK; the implementation of a declaratory registration system for EU citizens whereby their rights will not be forfeit as a result of not meeting an arbitrary deadline for registration under the EU Settlement Scheme; the removal of ministers’ power to decide which European Court of Justice rulings can be disregarded by judges in their interpretation of the UK’s legislation and referred to the Supreme Court or the High Court of Justiciary.

The European Parliament will meet on the 29 January to debate the agreement, which sets out the terms of the UK leaving the EU, the rights of EU nationals’ resident in the UK and British expats on the continent as well as arrangements for Northern Ireland.

From 1 February 2020, the UK will enter into an 11-month transition period in which it will continue to follow EU rules. The transition period will come to an end on 1 January 2021, by which point negotiations on the future economic and security partnership will have hopefully been concluded.

The 2018 white paper sets out the new immigration arrangements in the event the EU leaders do not sign the Withdrawal Agreement.

At present the UK Immigration system admits only highly skilled workers from outside the EU and workers of all skill levels from the EU. This will be replaced with a single route giving access to highly skilled and skilled workers from all countries.

Although the Conservatives are proposing an Australian-style immigration system, if migrants score certain points for their qualifications, the Prime Minister has said the migrant will still need a job offer to enter the UK. If they meet the requirements, they will be able bring dependants, extend their stay and switch into other immigration categories. In some cases, settle permanently. There will be a wider skills threshold for the first time. This means anyone with the equivalent of A levels will be eligible under the new system. We are wondering if there will be any other route for those wishing to set up a business or will the current Innovator and Start-Up categories remain?

In last year’s report the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended not to impose a cap on the number of skilled workers, to ensure employers have access to the skills that add most value to the UK economy. Plans include abolition of the resident labour market test as a condition of sponsoring a worker and more recently, the Prime Minister mentioned scrapping the £30,000 minimum salary threshold. Instead, the migrant’s earnings, English language skills, occupation and qualification will be taken into account.

Nationals of the lowest risk countries will be able to apply for a work visa in the UK. The new skilled route will include workers with intermediate level skills, at RQF 3-5 level (A level or equivalent) as well as graduate and post-graduate.

The MAC did not recommend a route specifically for low skilled workers. Therefore, the government proposes as a transitional measure, a time limited route for temporary short-term workers. They will be able to come for a maximum of 12 months with a cooling-off period of a further 12 months with no rights to extend their stay, switch to other routes, bring dependants or settle. Workers will be able to move between employers with no sponsorship requirement.

As this route is only a transitional arrangement to allow employers to implement changes, the government reserves the right to tighten the criteria, impose numerical caps if necessary or close the route if the economic conditions in the UK warrant that.

On 7th of December 2019 Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he is planning to prevent lower-skilled workers moving to the UK unless there is a “specific shortage” of staff in their sector such as construction.

There is no intention to significantly change the rules for family migration and permanent settlement.

Free movement as it currently stands under EU Law will end. However, much of the free movement framework will remain in place under the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 until Parliament passes primary legislation to repeal it.

The new White Paper is due from the Migration Advisory Committee next week.

Immigration arrangements do not apply to EU citizens resident here before 11pm on 31 January 2020 and their family members. These citizens have until the 31 December 2020 to regularise their status by applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Irish citizens are also exempt from these changes.

Law Commission recommends complete redrafting of immigration rules

According to the Law Commission’s report Simplification of the Immigration Rules, published on the 14th of January 2020, improvements to the way immigration rules are written and presented would make it easier for applicants to follow and save the government almost £70 million over ten years.

written by Judit Adorjan

The report calls for a total rewrite of the rules with the aim of creating simplified and more easily accessible rules that offer increased legal certainty and transparency for applicants. The last such exercise took place in 1994, over 25 years ago, and the current version of the rules has grown hugely and somewhat chaotically since then.

Why is change needed?

In recent years, a policy requiring the rules to be more prescriptive had been implemented, which made the rules longer and more complicated. Introduced in 1973 with 40 pages, by 2019 this had grown to over 1,100 pages. The structure is confusing, and the numbering system inconsistent. There is duplication and unnecessary repetition, all of which make it difficult for applicants.

What are the recommended changes?

The report’s 41 recommendations include improvements to the structure, drafting and maintenance as well as a twice-yearly limit to updates. These also extend to how the rules interact with supporting guidance and application forms.

Consultation on the simplification project launched this time last year and set out two possible approaches to the structure of the rules. The first was to put “common provisions” up front, followed by particular rules for each route. The second was the “booklet” approach i.e. to put all rules applying to a given route under one heading, even if that means a lot of repetition. The Law Commission has not indicated a choice between these two options in the final report.

The recommendations do not extend to changing any of the policies expressed in the rules. However, the report does recommend that “suitability for the non-expert user” be among the priorities when redrafting the rules. The Law Commission also suggests reducing the level of “prescription” in the rules, thus allowing caseworkers more flexibility to accept evidence required in support of the application.

The report also looks at how to stop this situation reoccurring and suggests that consultation with an informal review committee. The committee members could include Home Office civil servants, immigration practitioners and organisations representative of non-expert and vulnerable users of the rules and “could play an important role in controlling complexity and promoting consistency and certainty”.

The report goes on to say that “the publication of changes solely as a list of amendments and additions contributes to making the effect of changes difficult to understand”. Therefore, the remedy is for the future statements of changes to include a “Keeling schedule”.

What happens next?

Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd initiated the review by the Law Commission. It is unclear whether the current Home Secretary Priti Patel will implement the recommended changes. There has not been a formal response from the Home Office at this time.

90% of initial decisions reviewed under the EU Settlement Scheme overturned

As of 31 October 2019, more than 1.9 million applications to the EU Settlement Scheme that have been determined. Of these, 60% were granted settled status, 40% were granted pre-settled status and four applications were refused on suitability grounds. An incorrect decision could impact the terms by which EU nationals and their family members are able to reside and access services in the UK after Brexit.

written by Judit Adorjan

If a decision grants pre-settled status instead of settled status due to a caseworker error or an application is refused on eligibility grounds, the initial decision can be reviewed by a different official, but within the same department. This administrative review is the primary form of redress available for EU Settlement Scheme applicants if they believe they have received an incorrect decision.

An administrative review is not available against a decision where an application is refused on suitability grounds. In this case an application can be refused due to serious or persistent offending, non-exercise or misuse of rights in the Citizens Directive (Directive 2004/38) or where the applicant has provided false or misleading information in the application.

As opposed to other administrative review systems run by the Home Office, an administrative review allows individuals to submit further evidence, which will then be considered alongside their original application.

Statistics on administrative reviews for the EU Settlement Scheme show that 451 requests have been received as of 12 September 2019. This figure does appear to be relatively low in relation to the 885,000 decisions which may be eligible for challenge.

The statistics published reveal that 89.5% of decisions reviewed were overturned. Whilst this does imply that the automated data checks and initial decision makers are frequently making mistakes, the high success rate could suggest that the administrative reviews are working efficiently. However, the reconsidered decision could be attributed to the opportunity to introduce new evidence for the reviewer to consider. Therefore, it is possible the Home Office was accurate in the initial decision, but new evidence has led to that decision being overturned on review. This raises the concern that the initial application process does not inform applicants of the facility to submit supplementary evidence and the types of evidence required for the scheme.

The impact of the political parties manifestos on the immigration system

With a general election coming up on the 12th of December 2019, voters must decide which political party’s manifesto serves their country’s best interest.

As reiterated for months by Boris Johnson and the Tories, the key policy aim of a future Conservative government is to introduce a ‘firmer and fairer’ Australian-style points-based immigration system, which will prioritise people who:

  • have a good command of English
  • have no criminal convictions
  • are highly qualified
written by Judit Adorjan

The manifesto also confirms that, under this system, most people will still need a job offer to come to the UK. This indicates that the new points-based system will not replace the existing Tier 2 employer sponsorship system, but it will be an additional system to this.

The proposals feature new immigration routes to fill skills shortages, such as the post study work visa for graduates, the NHS visa, the science and technology visa and the Start-up visa.

Despite wanting to move away from specific net migration targets, the manifesto states that overall ‘numbers will come down’ and promises fewer low-skilled workers in the UK. Hence, there is unlikely to be much improvement on the visa options provided in the immigration white paper.

The new immigration system is meant to be ‘fairer and more compassionate’, although the manifesto states that the immigration health surcharge will increase to as high as £800 per person per year, implying further increases from the £625 announced previously.

EU nationals’ access to benefits and housing will also be limited in line with non-EU migrants.

The manifesto ignores criticism of the EU Settlement Scheme and states that the scheme fulfils its promise to European residents of “guaranteeing their existing rights”.

What does this mean for the UK’s immigration system?

The EU Settlement Scheme has been created by secondary legislation, which unlike an Act of Parliament, can be easily changed over time. The application system will turn legally residing EU citizens into “illegal immigrants” if they do not apply successfully by the deadline, leading to scenarios similar to those seen with the Windrush scandal.  EU Citizens would have no right to reside, to work, to rent, to get benefits or access free healthcare.

The solution is to introduce a declaratory registration system through an Act of Parliament which would confer automatic rights to EU citizens currently residing in the UK to continue to live and work in the UK after Brexit.

The Conservative immigration policy seems to be a promise to bring back a number of old visa routes, some of which were closed by the party as they were considered flawed and did not fulfil the aim of ‘attracting the brightest and the best’ to the UK. The fact that these have been presented as new ideas makes one hope that the criteria are different to avoid past mistakes.

Once free movement ends immigration from non-EU countries will have to significantly increase to ensure public services and industries can still be adequately staffed.

The Labour Party launched its election manifesto with a promise to maintain freedom of movement, whether the UK leaves the EU or not.

The leader of the party, Jeremy Corbyn says they will seek to securea sensible deal’ to leave the EU within three months of coming to power and then put that deal to a public vote with the option of a legally binding referendum on remaining in the EU.

EU nationals in the UK would be granted an automatic right to continue living and working in the country without having to apply under the government’s EU Settlement Scheme.

The promise for non-EU migration is to introduce a ‘human’ migration system that meets the skills and labour needs of the UK economy. It would extend family reunion rights to non-EU citizens and close two major immigration removal centres.

What does this mean for the UK’s immigration system?

Labour’s promise to maintain and extend free movement rights has been diluted and the end result is no clear vision of what a future immigration system under a Labour government will look like.

The manifesto criticises the Conservative net migration target and suggests a regulated labour market where “all workers have full and equal rights from day one”. But there is a lack of concrete proposals for what a future immigration system post-Brexit would look like and how industries in particular can continue to source the work they need.

The statement “our work visa system must fill any skills or labour shortages that arise” is not particularly illuminating. It seems to suggest that Labour have adopted the Conservative’s idea of an Australian points-based system and have potentially missed an opportunity to seize and reframe the immigration debate at a critical time.

The Liberal Democrats want to stop Brexit and save EU freedom of movement.

They are pledging to scrap right to rent checks, banking checks and upfront charging in the NHS.

It has also been said that they will get rid of “immigration checks” in the NHS, although it’s unclear if that means there will be no charging at all. Under a Liberal Democrat government illegal working will no longer be a criminal offence. But the party is silent on the employer right to work checks that came in under Labour.

Their plan is to invest in officers, training and technology to prevent illegal entry at Britain’s borders, assist seekers of sanctuary, combat human trafficking and the smuggling of people, weapons, drugs and wildlife.

The party wants to create a “firewall” to prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement and repeal the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act 2018. They also plan to introduce a 28-day time limit for detention and close all but two detention centres. The fee for registering a child as a British Citizen is to be reduced from £1,012 to the cost of administration and there is to be a new route to regularisation for people who came to the UK as children.

Asylum seekers will have the right to work after three months and receive free English lessons. There will be no 16-hour rule around financial support for those with poor English and the party will provide more money for integration work in the community. The move on period for newly recognised refugees having to leave asylum accommodation is to be increased from 28 to 60 days.

The Liberal Democrats will fund community sponsorship schemes for refugees and aim to resettle 10,000 vulnerable adults and 10,000 child refugees from elsewhere in Europe over ten years.

They propose moving policymaking on work permits and student visas out of the Home Office and into the Departments for Business and Education. Their promise is to create a “flexible merit-based system” instead of Tier 2 and have committed to a 2-year post study visa.

The minimum income requirement for spouse and partner visas is to be scrapped.

What is missing from the Liberal Democrat manifesto?

You can’t prevent public agencies from sharing personal data with the Home Office, stop exploitation and hostility without decriminalising migration. In order to address racism and exclusion built into the system all fees for child applicants should be removed.

The resettlement commitment of refugees does not engage with the reality of the UK’s obligations.

Overall, while all parties are lacking vision for the future, there is a clear commitment from the Liberal Democrats to substantially reform the immigration system we have now.

Conservative Party plan US-style visas to enter the UK after Brexit

On the 1st of December 2019 Home Secretary Priti Patel announced her plan to introduce a new Electronic Travel Authorisation system (ETA). EU and Commonwealth visitors will need to apply for new US-style visas to enter the UK after Brexit.

The aim is to make it easier for border officials to screen arrivals based on pre-arrival data provided; count visitors into and out of the UK and to block potential threats from entering the UK. The Home Office will know how many people are in the country and who is overstaying their visa.

Reported by Judit Adorjan

EU citizens will no longer be permitted to use ID cards to enter the UK after a no deal Brexit, preventing criminals and illegal immigrants using fake documents. The EU ID cards, as travel documents, will be phased out by the end of 2020, requiring passports to be presented at UK borders. According to the EU border agency, Frontex, more than 7,000 people were detected trying to enter the bloc using fraudulent documents in 2016 – with most found trying to get into the UK.

After 31 December 2020 EU citizens will be able to evidence their right to work (or rent) in the UK using their passport or their digital status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme or under the European Temporary Leave to Remain Scheme.

In the light of the new proposals, EU citizens planning to travel to the UK who do not currently hold a passport are advised to apply for one as soon as possible.

Conservative Party plans include bringing in new powers to stop EU criminals at the border once the UK is no longer subject to freedom of movement rules. At present, under EU law, previous criminal convictions do not in themselves count as a reason to deny entry to or deport someone.

In regard to customs and border controls, future plans include risk-based, largely automated analysis of consignments entering the UK. There will be a mandatory collection of information on goods before they cross the border.

International students permitted to stay after graduation

After the announcement that the government will allow international students to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to find a job,
Online magazine Recruiter contacted Migrate UK for their comments.

Karendeep Kaur, Migrate’s senior immigration consultant, thinks that while the proposal is welcome news for recruiters and international students, some areas of the proposal still require clarification.

She asks, would this two-year, post study work style visa, be automatically added to a student’s visa from 2020, as with the original proposed plans from MAC [Migration Advisory Committee] from 2021 or will students need to apply for these two years upon completion of their course?

It has been suggested that there will be no cap on the numbers who can apply (unlike the current quota for restricted certificates of sponsorship), allowing the student to switch in country to a work visa. In addition, there has been no indication as to whether this is a ‘free for all’ or whether it will be limited to science, technology, engineering or mathematics degrees.

Read the full article here:

Shortage of occupation list expanded to include more jobs

With effect from 6th October 2019, the Home Office will include more jobs in the UK that qualify as a shortage occupation. The full list of eligible occupations will be published in Appendix K of the Immigration Rules.

The changes will be very welcome by employers who need to sponsor overseas workers under Tier 2 General of the Points Based System. Those vacancies that meet the shortage of occupation criteria will not need to undergo a Resident Labour Market test. Furthermore, qualifying jobs are awarded a high number of points under the monthly quota system which means that applicants have a very good chance of being awarded a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Jobs to be published on the forthcoming list include:

  • Engineering roles (SOC codes 2121, 2122, 2123, 2124, 2126, 2127, 2129, 2461)
  • IT business analysts and designers (2135)
  • Programmers and software development professionals (2136)
  • Web designers (2137)
  • Cyber security specialists (2139)
  • Medical practitioners (2211)
  • Veterinarians (2216)
  • Architects (2431)
  • Quantity Surveyors (2433)
  • Occupational Therapists (2222)
  • Graphic Designers (3421)

People Management – Number of firms registered as visa sponsors peak as EU immigration hits 15-year low

Published 28 February 2020 by Siobhan Palmer

Investigating the number of UK businesses registered as sponsors for Tier 2 work visas on the Home Office register, People Management have noted at 28,734, this is the highest number of sponsors ever registered, indicating that UK employers are beginning to understand what is required to avoid future skills shortages.

Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK, was asked for his opinion and he agreed Brexit was undoubtedly the cause of an increase in sponsorship registrations. “The increase in the number of UK businesses applying for a sponsor licence in the UK started before the [new points-based system] policy announcement, as it became clearer that Brexit was finally going to happen,” he said.

Employers intending to hire EEA citizens into medium and high skilled jobs should consider applying for a sponsor licence, Beech advised, noting “employers need to make themselves attractive to new EEA employees by having a licence in place”.

Read the whole article here:

People Management report visa sponsorship costs unrealistic for small firms

Published 24 February 2020 by Elizabeth Howlett

The Federation of Small Business (FSB) have undertaken a survey to assess the impact of immigration fees that would be levied on employers sponsoring workers. Of the 1083 firms surveyed, 48 per cent have said they would be unable to meet the fees.

Under the current system, the cost of a Tier 2 visa sponsorship to a small employer exceeds £3,000.

The Home Office said last week it planned to move the UK economy away from a reliance on the immigration system. Outlining details of its points-based immigration system, which will apply to both EU and non-EU citizens. The government has told employers they needed to adjust to tighter immigration controls by focusing on improving retention and boosting productivity through technology investment.

People Management spoke to Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK. He said the number of UK organisations holding a Tier 2 sponsor licence had already increased to 31,000 and he expected this to continue to rise considerably. He also predicted the cost of employing foreign workers would continue to increase as the government attempted to keep migration in check. 

“With the new policy pointing towards a lowering of the required skill level, no need for a Resident Labour Market Test and the scrapping of the quota, we expect there to be measures to dissuade employers from relying on sponsorship,” he said. “We expect to see many updates to the points-based system in the coming years.” 

He added that this could lead to employers experiencing “difficulty in forecasting and planning – especially when it comes to finances for small businesses”.

Read the whole article here:

Points-based immigration: five things employers can do now

Personnel Today – published 19 February 2020

Employers have been advised not to panic in reaction to the newly published details on the proposed points-based immigration system that will take effect from 1 January 2021.

The policy is still to be approved by parliament but it is expected to be incorporated into immigration legislation for January 2021.

Personnel Today spoke to immigration law specialists Migrate UK who described the announcement as the first stage of an evolving system, but warned that preparations for the new regime would mean rising costs and increased bureaucracy for employers hoping to recruit overseas staff.

“What employers must note is that the Home Office plans to open key routes from Autumn 2020 so that migrants can start to apply ahead of the system taking effect,” explains Jonathan Beech, Migrate UK’s managing director.

In preparation, Personnel Today suggests:

1. Check sponsor status and settled status

Employers without a Home Office-approved sponsor licence need to first consider whether they will want to sponsor skilled migrants in the future, and begin the process to secure a licence. Employers will need a Tier 2 sponsor licence if they wish to hire both EU and non-EU nationals from 1 January 2021.

2. Understand how the points system works

The Home Office already operates a points-based visa system for workers coming from outside the EU – like the new regime, points are awarded based on factors such as English language skills, sponsorship and meeting a certain salary threshold.

Under the new system, anyone from outside the UK will have to gain at least 70 points to qualify for a visa and the right to work in the UK. So an offer of a job by an approved sponsor would be worth 20 points, for example, and a job at an appropriate level also 20.

3. Start planning access to low-skilled workers

A scheme for seasonal agricultural workers will be extended, however this is unlikely to help care homes and hotel chains, who have noticed a drop in EU migrant workers.

4. Consider self-employed workers

Another source of labour that may possibly be curtailed by the points-based system is the freelance workforce, which received no mention at all in the government policy document, other than to confirm there will be no dedicated route for self-employed people.

5. Plan the budget

Employers will need to significantly increase their use of Tier 2 sponsorship or apply for a Tier 2 sponsor licence if they do not already have one. This will require more HR reporting and record keeping duties as more employees come within the sponsorship system.

Read the whole article here:

Recruiters urged to familiarise themselves with new immigration points-based system to navigate the talent sourcing challenges that lie ahead.

Recruiter magazine 19 February 2020 – Graham Simons

The Home Office announced that the points based scheme, effective from 1 January 2021, will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions, and visas will only be awarded to those who gain enough points.

Migrate UK was asked for their advice for recruiters.

Karendeep Kaur, senior immigration consultant at Migrate UK, told Recruiter the proposals present recruiters and employers with two options:

  • To continue recruiting from overseas into the UK before 31 December 2020. This includes the lower skilled workforce however this approach is not so easy for seasonal workers;
  • Plan ahead and obtain a sponsor licence before the year ends. 

“From 1 January 2021, employing an EU national to the UK will require sponsorship, and this is only possible with a sponsor licence in place. Alternatively, employers can invest in their current staff members and move towards automated technology. There is an issue as to whether the wages offered to the lower-skilled workforce will be attractive to the resident labour market. The government hopes to steer employers towards utilising the available workforce in the UK; this is not only British workers, but those dependants of skilled migrants in the UK who could be available to fill lower-skilled jobs.”

Read the whole article here:

Global Payroll Association – Call for lower visa salary threshold after Brexit welcomed by employers

Published 6 February 2020

In response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendations at the end of January, Global Payroll Association spoke to their members for their reactions.

Global Payroll Association found that the report and it’s recommendations were broadly welcomed by employer groups.

Jonathan Beech – managing director of Migrate UK – said some sectors would definitely fare better under the recommendations than others. He said the construction sector would benefit from including a number of job roles in a proposal to lower the skill level necessary to apply for vacancies: including carpenters, joiners and window fitters. Hospitality would reportedly be unlikely to benefit, the salary threshold of £25,600 is still high for the sector.

Read the full article here:

Employers welcome call to lower post-Brexit visa salary threshold.

People Management asks Jonathan Beech for his comments

Published 29 January 2020 reported by Francis Churchill

Seeking employers reactions to the report published yesterday (28 January), by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) after their recommendation that the salary threshold be reduced from the current level of £30,000 (to £25,600), experts warned the changes will only provide ‘mild, temporary relief’ and some sectors will fare better than others.

Migrate’s MD Jonathan Beech provided these comments:

“Some sectors would definitely fare better under the recommendations than others. The construction sector, he said, would benefit from a number of job roles being included in a proposal to lower the skill level necessary to apply for vacancies. Hospitality, on the other hand, would be unlikely to benefit, with the salary threshold of £25,600 still high for the sector.”

“It’s important to note that migrants still need to be offered at least the ‘going rate’ for the vacancy they’re taking and the figure should be the higher of these two parameters – either £25,600 or the going rate.”

Read the full article here: