5 major UK Immigration news for 2016

In 2016, the UK will is rolling out important major change in the immigration system that will affect workers, businesses, family life and study for migrants.

Here we have compiled a useful guide of our 5 major picks from the new law that will be put in place as well as what to look out for in immigration news being discussed by government in 2016

1. The Immigration Bill

The Immigration Bill has reached the committee stage in the House of Lords and will likely become law this year. It includes a range of policy changes, particularly targeting illegal workers and businesses.

Those found working illegally in England and Wales could face up to six months in jail with wages being seized as ‘proceeds of crime’ and employers could face a maximum criminal penalty which has changed from 2 to 5 years. Additionally, with new laws allowing banks, police, DVLA and landlords to be given new powers to check immigration status, families could easily find various aspects of their daily life surveilled.

Employers under Tier 2 or Tier 5 sponsors employing recent graduates and Non-EEA migrants will have to follow a new immigration skills charge (visa levy) to businesses who preferentially employ skilled migrants from abroad which is currently being assessed by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The visa levy on businesses was created to further enforce the Labour Resident Market Test and the extent of the charge is not currently known.

Find out more about what the Immigration Bill is and how it will affect you with our guides.

2. Residence in the UK

Migrants with UK work visas will have to earn at least £35,000 or more to be able to apply to stay in the UK as permanent resident (apply for indefinite leave to remain) after April 6, 2016.

Read more about the changes to permanent residency for Tier 2 general holders.

3. Right to Rent

From the 1st of February 2016, the ‘right to rent’ scheme is being rolled out UK wide. Private landlords will be compelled by law to check the immigration status of all their tenants.

Landlords will need to take copies of all adult passports or residence permits. Failure to do so could result in them being fined up to £3000 per tenant, for each tenant who has no right to rent in the UK, including undocumented migrants.

Research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has found that the scheme can be discriminatory towards ethnic minorities, including Asians.

Read how the Right to Rent law may affect you.

4. An Online Visa Application System

The government will invest more than £250 million to overhaul the passport and immigration system. This investment was made to enable migrants to apply and pay for their passport and visa applications entirely online.

This online visa system is aimed to improve information, convenience and flexibility. Though it is not currently known when it will be implemented, it may be news worth looking out for.

You can read more about what was discussed in immigration in the spending review on the Gov.UK website.

5. Increased Fees

The UK government are introducing and looking into a few new fee changes this coming year:

The government recently announced that fees for settlement, residence and nationality will increase by 25% in 2016–17 and visit, study and work visa fees will increase by around 2%. There will also be targeted increases to premium services, such as the priority visa service. The specific fee changes for 2016–17 will apply after further legislation is laid in Parliament by April this year.

You can read more on the new fees on the Gov.UK website.

The government have also indicated that they are looking to extend charges for Non-EU overseas visitors and migrants to access various departments of the NHS. They are looking to extend beyond the health surcharge to Accidents and Emergency (A&E), ambulance care as well as some general practitioner (GP) services such as blood tests, lung function tests, prescriptions, dental treatment and physiotherapy.

They seek relevant views on these proposals to further extend these charges. It closes on Sunday 6 March 2016 and can be accessed on the Gov.UK website.

Happy Migrants Day

Today is International Migrant’s Day! The day celebrates our human history, the story of hundreds of millions of courageous individuals who chose to overcome adversity and work at creating a better life for themselves in a foreign country.

Migration is a powerful expression of will and courage. Today, it is estimated that 250 million people have migrated to another country – making this population some sort of fifth continent.

The factors fuelling migration are 80% of the time economic reasons but one cannot confuse this consideration, for the spark by which the migration journeys started: poverty, war and environmental disasters.

Today, long-term and short-term migration is also an expression of our advancement in technology, globalisation and the reduction of costs of transports. The recent refugee crisis has highlighted how these elements have to play – mobile phones are acting as a lifeline and Facebook groups a source of information – but also stresses the need to rethink the dichotomy between economic migrants and refugees.

Many genuine asylum seekers are now trapped in a bureaucratic system that prevents them with going on with their lives: putting them in legal limbo and preventing them from starting any paid working activity. Many migrants are destitute of rights as extreme rights parties gain followers and blame foreigners for the economic crisis.

There is hope. Since the picture of the little Aylan Kurdi on the beach, civil society has woken up to the issue and responded with empathy – the spread of a Welcome Refugees movement across Europe – and with determination to help solve the problem – the coming together of tech entrepreneurs and engineers to create apps for refugees (Techfugees).

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Refugees & migrants arriving in Europe this year will define a lot of the future of Europe.

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This blog post is dedicated to Migreat staff, each of them amazing individuals (migrants themselves!) working everyday at producing information in 12 languages to migrants around the world heading to Europe.

Thank you to each one of you – for a fun and successful year of high quality and trust worthy content and events.

Tuition-Free Online degrees Offered To 500 Syrian Refugees

University of the People (UoPeople) offers tuition-free, accredited online degrees in Computer Science & Business Administration to Syrian refugees.

Free online accredited online degrees for Syrian Refugees
Generously donated in-part by the Fondation Hoffmann, this scholarship is available to all students who identify as a refugee or asylum seeker from Syria only.

The special scholarship will cover the costs of examination fees for up to 10 exams. Upon completion of the funds awarded, students may apply for another scholarship, and thus potentially cover the entire cost of a 2-year Associate or 4-year Bachelor’s degree.

Students only need to prove they have a qualified level of English, completed high school and have access to computers with internet. 

A special policy, approved by the DEAC (University’s US accrediting agency), has been established in order to admit refugees and asylum seekers even if official transcripts and documents of previous degrees cannot be obtained.

How to register for the online degree
To apply for the scholarship, refugee students from Syria must simply start their online application. The online application is divided in four steps.

Before you complete Step 4, you will receive an email from your personal Admissions Advisor.

You will need to reply to him/her and mention that you are a refugee from Syria and you are interested in the scholarship. They will be happy to help you from there onwards.

UoPeople is an accredited online university. Refugee students in camps, moving to a new country or returning home will be able to pursue higher education wherever they are.

Latin Americans moving to the UK: How did cuts and migration policy reforms affect them?

Latin Americans that moved to the UK from EU countries with high unemployment rates are living in increasingly precarious circumstances – usually under financial hardship and even in debt.

These are the findings from a new report by Leeds University which illustrates the negative impact that cuts and immigration policy reforms have had on Latin American migrants that remigrated to the UK from EU countries.

According to the last census (2011), a third of Latin Americans living in the UK have lived before in another country of the European Union, the majority of them in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and have then remigrated to the UK after gaining EU citizenship.

Despite having EU passport, these newly arrived Latin Americans face a situation of “practical exclusion” from the public services, due to the lack of understanding of how the system works, the language barrier and the reduced number of outreach, interpreting and translating services in the public services after the recent cuts.

Furthermore, the reduction of public funding to the third sector has limited the capability of Latin American organisations to attend and cover the increase in the demand from new migrants.

The report also suggests that the lack of services tailored to the Latin American diaspora – who too often don’t understand the system and aren’t fully competent in the English language – leads to situations where:

The report, published by Leeds University in collaboration with the Latin American Women’s Right Service (LAWRS), also focuses on the impact that new migration policies have had on migrants’ access to public services, mostly by limiting the entitlement of the new arrivals to work benefits and access the healthcare system.

This shortage of resources has lead to vulnerable situations and a reliance on exploitative systems, worsening the financial hardship and the psychological impact that migration has in this particular group of the Latin American community, undermining their chances to secure a stable economic situation and better opportunities for future generations.

Finally, the report highlights how Latin American women suffer these difficulties especially, as they are often the main carers for children and family.

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This guest blog post was written by Beatriz Martinez, Deputy Editor and Community Manager for Latin Americans at Migreat.  

Read more on life and experiences of Latin American migrants living in the UK by joining the Migreat Latin American community!

[VIDEO] How to Successfully Apply for the UK Entrepreneur Visa

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa is the main legal door for entrepreneurs from around the world to start a business to the UK.

It aims to offer a red carpet for global entrepreneurs to build a business and spark innovation and growth in the British economy.

Although the scheme has seen a great take up, the UK home Office has recently started tightening the screws due to alleged abuses. This situation translated into an increase in applicant scrutiny leading to a refusal rate growing up to 50% – (Home Office, Immigration statistics quarterly release 2013).

In addition to a more stringent scrutiny, the Home Office requires from applicant to present a business plan as well as take a genuine entrepreneur test.

But how can an entrepreneur prove that his enterprise is genuine? How is the credibility of a business plan assessed? What are documents should be presented? In other words, what is a successful application according to the Home Office?

These are few of the questions we asked our immigration expert during our last webinar:

French Tech Ticket: A Financial incentive to foreign Entrepreneurs

France wants to attract foreign entrepreneurs and startups.

Foreign entrepreneurs granted the new French Entrepreneur visa (also called French Tech Ticket) will be provided with a grant of12,500Euros which will be exempted of income tax and social taxation (CSG-CRDS) – as agreed by the French Parliament in the amendment of a law on international investment.

The French Gov and the city of Paris launched the French Tech Ticket visa this year to promote its startup eco-system worldwide. This financial incentive aims to attract and support foreign entrepreneurs starting innovative companies in France.

The French Tech Ticket acts as a comprehensive  “Welcome Pack” for foreign entrepreneurs. Successful applicants will benefit from a fast track visa process to obtain a work visa and receive  – on top of a grant of 12,500Euros per founder (maximum 3 people) –  an office space in a partner startup incubator, support on settling down and discounts on Air France flights.

The grant of 12.500Euros is renewable after 6 months if the project shows traction. Next year, the French Tech Ticket should be extended to the whole country incubators. For now, the French Tech Ticket works only with foreign entrepreneurs wanting to relocate in Paris.

Making Economic Sense

This measure to exempt the grant of taxes comes as natural as the 12,500Euros are granted by the French Government through the BPI. Indeed, a taxation on a government subsidy would not make much sense.

The successful applicants to the French Tech Ticket will be announced next January. In total, 722 startup business proposals were submitted last September by 1,372 entrepreneurial candidats. Only 50 of them will be granted the visa.

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Interested in Startup Visa Schemes? Download Migreat Report on Startup Visas programmes or read our latest blog post on the countries accepting entrepreneurs in 2015.

After English, which other languages should you learn?

There are several reasons why you should (or would want to) learn a foreign language. Some people want to connect to their origins, others are inspired by their past or future travels. But what motivates most people are the potential job prospects.

Due to growing globalization, the competition is fierce and speaking two or more languages is a very sought-after skill in the professional market. As English has become a lingua franca around the world, people now turn to other languages to stand out from the crowd, especially in sectors such as tourism, journalism, gaming and business (just to name a few).

But which one should you choose? Which one could turn out to be your biggest asset?

According to this infographic on The World of Languages, the top 10 most spoken native languages in the world are Chinese (which include different languages like Mandarin), Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese and Lahnda.

This is not necessary relevant, because although several of these languages are spoken by a vast population, they are constrained to narrow areas and spread to only a few countries.

And according to a British Council report, the top 10 languages for the future are predicted as being:

1. Spanish
2. Arabic
3. French
4. Mandarin Chinese
5. German
6. Portuguese
7. Italian
8. Russian
9. Turkish
10. Japanese.

So here are the ones we suggest you should start learning or perfecting.

French and Spanish, among the most widely spoken

Because of the imperial and colonial past of their nations of origin, French and Spanish are among the world’s most widespread languages.

French if spoken in 51 different countries, from Canada to Switzerland and Belgium, as well as in a big part of Africa. It is also the official language of NATO, the United Nations the Olympics and several international organizations such as the Red Cross.

There are an estimated 470 million Spanish native speakers worldwide, in different countries including most of South America, the United States and Spain.

“Spanish enables you to speak to half of the World”, said Kseniya Yasinska, General Representative of the organization Unosel.

And did you know that The United States is now the world’s second largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico (and in front of Spain!), according to a new study published by the Instituto Cervantes? There are around 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US plus a further 11.6 million who are bilingual.

The Index of Human Development ranks Spanish as the second most important language on earth, behind English. It is also the third most widely used language on the Internet: second on Twitter in London and New York and second on Facebook, a long way behind English, according to the report.

Arabic and Mandarin, languages of the future?

Research led by the British Council rated Arabic as the second most important language for workers of the future, taking into account Britain’s export links, government trade, diplomatic and security priorities and the most popular holiday destinations.

“There are more than 300 million Arabic speakers across the world – in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Faraan Sayed, who worked on a school programme for the British Council. This makes it one of the most spoken languages, in about 60 different countries. Most Arab countries provide vital resources (such as oil) to the rest of the world, and the events of the past few years require a better knowledge of the Arab World.

Speaking Arabic is particularly sought-after in the luxury goods industry, government and charity jobs, journalism and tourism.

Mandarin Chinese not only has the most native speakers of any languages in the world, it is also the language of the fastest growing economy (China).

Although it is difficult to learn for most Westerners, speaking it could give you the edge when competing for an important position, in all sorts of areas.

Mandarin is one of the official languages of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, and it is spoken in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and by the main communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Mongolia.

To start learning these languages, you can download and use apps such as Duolingo, Babbel, Memrise, Busuu, MindSnacks and Brainscape.

Read more information about language tests for international students to the UK, France, Germany and Italy and student visas on migreat.com

Photo Credit: iStock/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

Colombians achieve Schengen Visa exemption, as Peruvians wait and Bolivians start negotiations

Colombians no longer need to apply for a visa to enter the Schengen Area as visitors. The measure went into effect on the 3rd of December and put an end to months of negotiations between the European Union and the Colombian Government.

Colombians “reclaim their dignity” with the visa exemption

After the visa lift went in effect, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that “Colombia’s dignity” has been reclaimed and thanked his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy for having lobbied for the visa exemption.

Colombians will be able to travel to the Schengen Zone as visitors for up to 90 days to 22 of the 28 EU states – except for Ireland and the United Kingdom – and to Non-EU countries within the Schengen area, such as Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland.  

Despite the exemption, Colombians will still be required to meet financial standards and show specific documents to prove that their journey is solely for short visit purposes and that they have no intention to overstay or carry out paid activities during their time in the Schengen Area.

According to the Colombian Association of Travel and Tourism (ANATO), the air traffic between Colombia and the EU it’s expected to grow by 15% to 20%, boosting the economy of European countries still in recession – such as Spain or Italy – and promoting the travel industry in Colombia.

Peruvian’s visa exemption stopped due to delays in biometric passports

Although Peruvians started the process alongside Colombians, their visa exemption has been stopped due to administrative issues, mostly related to the Peruvian government fail to issue biometric passports to their citizens on time – a vital requirement to ensure the highest levels of security.

However, the Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, reassured Peruvians that the visa exemption will be a reality for their country soon and that they will get the green light early next year.

Bolivians start promising negotiations with the European Union

Seeing the success of Peru and Colombia in achieving the visa exemption, the government of Evo Morales has started a process of diplomatic negotiations with the European Union to secure a similar agreement.

Although according to Ronald Schäfer, Director of the Department for the Americas of the European External Action Service, the exemption is “on its way”, sources involved in the process admit that it will take time to reach an agreement, considering that it depends on complex administrative procedures.

Applying for a Schengen visa? Get your free checklist of documents to apply online with Migreat

Ask the latino community in Europe for more information on the 7 most common motives of rejection of a schengen visa.

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Riki Risnandar

EU Immigration Authorities Can Only Refuse a Student Visa if a Person is a Risk to National Security

International students wishing to study in the European Union should not be denied a student visa by local authorities if they satisfy European entry requirements says the European Court of Justice (ECJ). This ruling comes with major implications for foreign students hoping to study at European universities.

The ruling
The ruling, published in September 2014 by the ECJ, concerns Mohamed Ali Ben Alaya, a Tunisian student who had been accepted to study mathematics at the Technical University of Dortmund and applied to the German authorities for a student visa.

The German immigration authorities refused his visa, saying that his grades weren’t high enough and he wouldn’t have time to learn German to an adequate standard before the course began.

Ben Alaya brought his case to the administrative court in Berlin, which in turn consulted the ECJ on the validity of the refusal. The Berlin court wanted to know if the German Immigration authorities were allowed to refuse his visa even though Mohamed Ali Ben Alaya fulfilled all the minimum requirements laid out by a 2004 European Commission directive on students from outside the EU.

Basically, the Berlin Court wanted to know if the Directive set up an exhaustive list of minimum requirements to meet or if national governments could add more requirements on top.

The applicant claimed to have proven that he met all the requirements, including the availability of financial resources; as for his proficiency in German, he claimed that he had mastered the language well enough to study mathematics, and that the entry level course was sufficient to bridge any gaps.

The ECJ concluded that the German authorities should have accepted the student visa, since the applicant appeared to meet the requirements of the EU’s current directive on non-EU students and did not pose a threat to public policy, security or health.

The Directive
The Directive was set out to promote the European Union as a “world centre of excellence for studies and vocational training.”

Requirements for non-EU students set out by the Directive are:

  • holding a valid passport or ID;
  • subscribing to an EU recognised health insurance programme;
  • to not be regarded as a threat to public policy, public security or public health;
  • have been accepted by an establishment of higher education to follow a course of study;
  • provide the evidence that during his/her stay he/she will have sufficient resources to cover his/her subsistence (amount determined by each country), study and return travel costs (i.e a paid flight/train ticket back to the country of origin);

and if the member state requires, provide evidence of

  • sufficient knowledge of the language of the course to be followed by him/her;
  • the applicant has paid the fee for processing the application;
  • the applicant has paid the fees charged by the establishment.

Implications for future foreign students
The ruling has significant implications for non-EU students looking to study in Europe.

First, it states that requirements to apply to study in Europe have been established exhaustively by the Directive, so that national government cannot add further requirements. Indeed, the aim of the directive was to harmonise access to EU Universities for non-EU students.

Secondly, the EU court confirms national authorities can only refuse a student visa if a person is a risk or a threat to public security and the rest falls into the hands of higher education establishments. So when it comes to a student’s language skills, which under the directive must be adequate before admission can be granted, it is the university’s opinion that counts.

While the right to come study in Europe is not too controversial, it is possible that EU countries will try regain more control by setting up quotas of student visa or restrain access to the local labour market. The UK, Ireland and Denmark are not concerned by the Directive.

Source: http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2014-09/cp140120en.pdf

EU Asylum Seeker Policies, Country by Country

In the past weeks and months, some EU countries have decided to change the way they accept and process asylum seekers’ applications depending on the person’s nationality and how they reached their destination country. A lot of contradictory information is being shared on social media.

Migreat, the trusted platform for information on immigration, will list (and keep updated) the actual asylum policies for most EU countries and highlight the ones with fair policies towards refugees (as well as pointing out the countries with rules that are not ideal).

We will be updating this article every month [Last update: 25th November 2015]

Germany
Germany has re-implemented checks at its border and is now sending back asylum seekers to the first EU country where they were registered. This policy went into affect on October 21st.

During the first week of November, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière declared that refugees arriving on the German border will be deported back to the first European Union country they entered. It means that Germany is now treating asylum seekers’ applications according to the Dublin Agreement. It is a reversal of the policies that were in place beginning at the end of August, 2015.

In addition, refugees from Syria are not being provided protection in accordance with the Geneva Conventions on refugees. The vast majority of Syrian refugees, who traveled through Turkey or other allegedly “safe countries of origin” during their journey, will only receive subsidiary protection. They will receive the right to reside for just one year rather than three years, and they cannot bring their family members to Germany.

The German government is striving to implement this closure, even though an interior ministry spokesman stated that there would be “no turning back at the borders,” only regulated deportations.

Sweden
Sweden has re-introduced border control checks too. Swedish police are now monitoring trains and ferries arriving from mainland Europe and stopping anyone without valid travel documents.

Anyone seeking to apply for asylum will not be turned back. This measure is implemented to create a more orderly process of arrival for refugees. The intention is to deter those hoping to cross Sweden to reach other Scandinavian countries.

Read more on Swedish reformed asylum seeking process for Syrians – dated: September, 2015.

France
France has re-introduced border control checks as a result of the Paris Terrorist Attacks of November 13th. The policy of welcoming refugees will not be changed and applicants for refugee status in France are expected to undergo tight security checks.

France will respect its commitment to helping 30,000 asylum seekers over the next several years.

Read more on France recent reform of Asylum Law and Refugee Immigration System.

Austria
Austria plans to construct barriers along its border with Slovenia to control the flow of refugees more effectively rather than stop everyone entering the country.

Austria wants to be able to carry out controls on the movement of people and it will not be a razor-wire barrier like the one in Hungary.

Hungary & Slovenia
These countries have begun building a border fence aimed at stopping refugees from both entering and using their countries to transit to more western countries in the EU.

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At Migreat, we regret that only Greece, Italy and Hungary are legally being held responsible for the vast majority of migrants due to the refugee seekers first being registered in those countries. Here the five things you can do to help refugees.

Keep up to date with the European Union’s Refugee crisis on Migreat blog by following us.