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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.

UK Work visa for Indian students being proposed by London’s Mayor Boris Johnson

London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, is proposing a UK visa for Indian students so that they can work for up to two years after graduating from a UK university. His proposed work visa would first be rolled out to Indian students, and possibility later to other citizens of the Commonwealth, also potentially allowing them to work for two years in the UK after finishing their degree.

Johnson is also proposing a work visa for graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for up to two years to meet the critical skills shortage in the UK.

While Indian press is reporting that the proposal has been proposed to the UK Government, our official sources have said that so far it has not. Also, it is important to clarify that London’s Mayor has no formal power over immigration policy, and currently, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is still on a target to reduce the number of Non-EU migrants settling in the UK.

As such, it is unlikely that the proposal will be accepted and implemented in the near future. However, the French Government did implement a two year post-study work visa for Indian nationals, to enable them to stay and look for work in France.

The number of Indian students traveling to the UK to study as international students has fallen by 50% over the last three years. Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, during his last visit to London, raised the issue of student visas to British Prime Minister David Cameron; reminding him that Indian students are among the best and the brightest in the world.

For the latest visa and immigration advice visit Migreat’s immigration platform

* Source: Financial Times

A version of this article was first published on Migreat London South Asian Community 

Immigration Bill 2015: Who will be affected

The Immigration bill has passed it’s second reading in the House of Commons and is now being sent to a Public Bill Committee. It received 323 votes to 274 with considerable opposition from Labour, Lib Dem and SNP MPs.

Speaking of the large number of immigration changes that have been made since Theresa May has become Home Secretary they argued that it will not reduce illegal immigration and will damage social cohesion.

Who it will affect and why

  • Workers

Those who are found working illegally in England and Wales could face up to six months in jail. The police would be able to seize wages as ‘proceeds of crime’.

Public sector jobs will require fluent English language or else will be barred by public authorities.

  • Businesses

The jail sentence for employers found guilty will be raised from 2 years to 5 years in addition to fines in place.

In addition, the UK will introduce an immigration skills charge for employers who preferentially employ skilled migrants from abroad. This visa levy on businesses was created to further enforce the British Labour Resident Market Test. This test ensures that any migrant hired in the UK is not taking the job of a UK resident by imposing the business to advertise the job position for 28 days in the UK on listed local websites before being able to offer the job to a non-EU migrant.

  • Families

All immigration appeals and judicial reviews are subject to deport first, appeal later measures with the right to private and family life appeals included. This means migrants can face removal from the UK despite an outstanding appeal to their case. This process is likely to be practically difficult and will separate families.

With banks, police, DVLA and landlords given the task and responsibility to check immigration status, families could easily find various aspects of their life surveilled. With many legally staying in the UK but unable to prove a ‘right to rent’, families also risk being mistakenly evicted.

  • Students

May in her speech at the Conservative Party Conference argued ‘Students, yes; over-stayers, no. universities must make this happen.’

Those students found working when a person ‘has no leave’ or when work or a specific type of work is not allowed will be liable to imprisonment and/or a fine as well as in many cases, immigration sanctions.

UK Immigration Bill 2015: Everything you need to know

The Immigration Bill 2015 being proposed by Government and presented to Parliament is now available to view.

It lays out the expansion of powers to a large number of immigration officials and makes it easier to remove people. It includes a crackdown on illegal immigration, removing protections of migrant workers and affects UK bank accounts, driving licences and rental accommodations.

There is a a second reading of the bill scheduled for the 13th of October where it will be debated in the House of Commons. Here are the main ways in which the bill may affect you:

Charges on Tier 2 Sponsorship
This would allow the Home Office to impose an immigration skills charge on sponsors of Tier 2 non-EEA nationals. This visa levy on businesses using foreign labour is being considered during the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) review of Tier 2 visas. Until the MAC has fully advised government, the amount of the charge is not known, however it is believed a charge will be added in some form.

Language Requirements
Public sector workers will be required to speak, read and write fluent English or will be barred from public sector jobs. This includes migrant workers that have roles in local authorities, health and education. Details of how these skills will be tested are currently unknown, but a code of practice for employers will also be published.

Deport First Appeal Later
The ‘deport first, appeal later’ provision will be extended to all immigration appeals and judicial reviews. This means not only non-human rights cases, but human rights cases as well.

Bank Accounts
The bill forces banks to check current accounts against migrant databases. Banks will have to notify the Home Office if checks confirm the account holder no longer has permission to remain in the UK. This could lead to the freezing or closure of accounts. This is particularly worrying as many cannot produce satisfactory evidence of their right to remain in the UK which could lead to many being closed mistakenly.

Residency and Renting
The immigration bill introduces a criminal charge of imprisonment for up to five years and a fine for landlords letting out property to a migrant without a ‘right to rent’. This policy can sometimes encourage discrimination for those with foreign sounding names or appearance.

Driving Licences
Under the bill, it will be a criminal offence to ‘drive whilst an illegal immigrant’. This includes a criminal sentence of up to 51 weeks and/or a fine. When investigating illegal migration, police are able to seize driving licences. This means it is even more likely, as an ethnic minority, that you will be stopped by the police whilst driving.

Illegal Workers and Employment
Immigration officials can close down businesses, seize earnings and have right to enter and search properties and seize them too. The focus would be on small businesses such as the ability to close off-licences and takeaways. These small businesses and employers are often unable to keep abreast of changes to complex immigration rules and processes. If found to be employing illegal migrants, employers can receive a maximum criminal penalty which will be changed from two to five years. Illegal migrants could get a sentence of up to 51 weeks including a fine.

For the latest immigration, visa and migration news, follow @migreat on twitter.

This article was first published on Migreat South Asian Community in the UK.

UK Immigration Rule Changes – Hackney Migrant Centre Public Meeting

The Hackney Migrant Centre hosted a public meeting this week on the impact of the Immigration Act and other immigration policy changes such as cuts to legal aid and access to services. Speakers included Roopa Tanna, Immigration Solicitor at Islington Law Centre, Anita Hurrell, Policy Advisor at Coram Children’s Legal Centre and Chrisann Jarrett and Emmanuel Opoku from the Let Us Learn Campaign and Just for Kids Law.

Here are the top 3 immigration effects discussed in the public meeting that may have an impact on you:

  • Your immigration status is key to unlocking access to services

Temporary visa status affects your rights and entitlements to benefits in the UK.  Your limited status can be challenge. This is particularly resonant with changes in healthcare. You could be denied leave to remain if in debt with the NHS. Under the new health surcharge, you could pay over £6000 if on a 10 year route to settlement with dependents.

Immigration status will now impact certain aspects of your day to day life: with your passport being checked more often.  For example, civil penalties could be given to employers if they do not carry out relevant checks. In addition landlords have begun checks of legal status in a pilot scheme being launched in the Midlands and the DVLA can check your immigration status and can turn you in if overstayed and revoke your license.

  • Your route to settlement may now be even longer

If you are already in the UK and applying for Leave to Remain, you may find you have a longer route to settlement since the July 2012 overhaul . For example if you are a student and get married to British citizen it used to be 2 year route to settlement but now it is 5 years. If you are an overstayer married to a British citizen it used to be 6 year route to settlement but now it is 10 years.

In addition, a proposal to fix a minimum annual salary for migrants having stayed 6 years in the UK could make it difficult for you to stay. The proposal of a new immigration policy for 2016 states that migrants from outside the EU will have to earn £35,000 to settle in the UK after residing more than six years in the country. Under the rule, if you do not comply, you will be asked to leave the country.

  • New immigration law may seem like it may be targeting ‘others’ but ends up targeting our communities

Changes in the immigration process (no funding of legal aid anymore, the number of changes to Home Office policy and in statutory services) in the last two years has meant a demand has risen for immigration services and support. The government do explain that migrants can enforce their right to stay but in many cases, especially amongst families, fees for citizenship is something that not all can afford.

With regards to healthcare, whilst any migrant can access primary care and access to a GP, there are secondary health care charges (when needing hospital care) for any migrant with Limited Leave to Remain in the UK, or no immigration permission. Unless you fall under a certain exemption you will be charged but often can’t prove your position to be in the UK and there is a fear that debt to the NHS amongst many migrants in the community could affect their status.

In Higher Education too, if you have Limited Leave to Remain or are a dependent under Right to Family Life, as Chrisann Jarrett and Emmanuel Opoku are, you will get classed as an international student and have to pay international fees, losing access to being classed as a home student and gaining access to a student loan. Chrisann came to UK when she was 8. As she said “as an 8 year old, you don’t ask your parents ‘am I British?!’”. Many of those who want to join her Let us Learn Campaign to raise awareness and campaign for access to education are scared to speak out because they fear it will affect their status.

Nurse putting a headband

Hackney Migrant Centre are hoping to launch a new campaign about the immigration changes affecting migrants. If you are interested in getting involved or learning more, contact them at info@hackneymigrantcentre.org.uk