Category Archives: Visa & Immigration News

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.

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

Migreat’s Recommendations for Improving the UK’s Entrepreneur Visa Route Taken on board by the MAC

Migreat welcomes the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) latest recommendations to the UK government regarding changes to the UK Entrepreneur visa route for individuals seeking to set up businesses in the UK.

In the report published on Thursday the 29th of October, the government’s immigration experts have called for an overhaul of the visa system for entrepreneurs after finding substantial evidence of low-quality businesses established by applicants previously granted the visa.

The MAC advised that there should be a more thought-out process for the immigration of foreign entrepreneurs and suggested two main reforms 

  • The selection process should involve industry experts rather than case workers. It could be done by appointing a panel of experts with expertise in early-stage entrepreneurship, such as angel investors or venture capitalists; recruiting specialist immigration officers qualified to review business plans; working with other government departments such as UKTI or BIS; or outsourcing the assessment of business plans to a professional services firm.
  • The minimum amount and source of money should include business angels. In particular, the Home Office could work with UKTI and the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA) to explore the feasibility of approving selected angel investor networks or syndicates (like accelerator programmes) to provide third party endorsement.

Lastly, the MAC suggested to introduce a specific visa route for talented entrepreneurs looking to establish start-up businesses in the UK similar to a startup visa scheme in order to attract more innovative entrepreneurs.

These recommendations are the exact same suggestions Migreat made last March 2014 to the UK Government in its report on the UK Entrepreneur visa.

Migreat is delighted to see its recommendations reflected in the MAC report and strongly believes that these recommendations will make a difference for many talented applicants who have been rejected for issues as minor as improperly filling out forms. It is great news in particular for foreign entrepreneurs with limited access to capital and for early stage startups.

UK Immigration Rules Changes for October 2015

Recently, we have been reporting on UK Immigration policy changes regarding international students. This time we list the changes in immigration rules that will affect other visa categories (work, highly skilled and family) and requirements for applicants to those categories.

Most of the following changes affect applications made on or after 19 November 2015.

Asylum

  • EU nationals will not be able to make asylum claims, unless exceptional circumstances apply.
  • Clarifying the circumstances in which refugee status will be withdrawn.

Settlement

Family/Private Life

  • Child’s application for entry clearance will be refused where the Secretary of State considers that the sponsor or the sponsor’s partner poses a risk to the child.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) of the Points Based System

  • Criteria through which Tech City UK endorses Exceptional Talent applicants has been amended to better reflect the skills and experience of target applicants who are most likely to add value to the UK digital technology sector.

Tiers 2 and 5 of the Points Based System

  • Four jobs in the digital technology sector (product manager, data scientist, senior developer and cyber security specialist) are being added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), alongside nursing
  • Clarification of the charity worker rules for sponsors and applicants.
  • Setting the annual allocation of places available under the Youth Mobility Scheme for 2016.
  • Minor amendments to the list of Government Authorised Exchange Schemes.

For information visit www.gov.uk/government/collections/immigration-rules-statement-of-changes

If you need to speak to an immigration expert, do connect with Migreat online visa assistant or directly contact us via @Migreat on Twitter.

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.

Germany drops Dublin agreement to allow in Syrian refugees

[This article was published on August 25th 2015 – it is no longer valid as Germany has decided to review its decision on how to handle asylum seekers applications]

While a majority of Western Europeans would be in favour of ending the free movement of people across borders, according to a new IFOP poll, Germany announced yesterday it is dropping EU rules to allow in Syrian refugees.

Dublin agreement

A young boy has boarded a bus with his family. Credit: Phil Le Gal, The new continent.
A young boy has boarded a bus with his family. Credit: Phil Le Gal, The new continent.

Under the Dublin agreement rules, asylum seekers in the EU can only apply for refugee status in the first EU member state they enter, and face deportation if they try to apply in another – some exemptions exists for family members only.

However, Germany decided to stop enforcing this rule for Syrian asylum seekers.

From now on, Syrian refugee applications will be channelled into the regular asylum procedure and will not be given the Dublin questionnaires usually provided to applicants.

A humanitarian or migrant crisis?
Thousands more people crossed the Balkans towards Western Europe on Monday. Countries like Macedonia and Greece are being overwhelmed by the numbers, and lack current capacity to deal with the current flow.

Germany is preparing to welcome 750.000 asylum seeking applications this year. France just reformed its asylum seeking procedures.

Road sign showing the limit of the Calais municipality. Photo credit: Phil Le Gal for The new continent Project
Road sign showing the limit of the Calais municipality. Photo credit: Phil Le Gal for The new continent Project

UK media has been focused to report on the “migrant crisis” in Calais where an approximate 2,000 asylum seekers/undocumented migrants are trying to cross the border illegally.

Since 2014, Britain has accepted 187 refugees under its vulnerable persons relocation scheme. The scheme was set up after the UK declined to participate in the UNHCR resettlement programme for Syria, arguing that “it would be tokenistic given the huge numbers of refugees and that the best approach to the crisis was the provision of humanitarian aid.” This summer David Cameron says Britain will accept ‘a few hundred’ more Syrian refugees from the 4 million displaced by the war.

Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian foreign minister, said yesterday that “This is a humanitarian disaster. (…) The Dublin agreement no longer works” after visiting Macedonia. The Balkans are “overrun and overwhelmed”, he said. “The Dublin system doesn’t only work terribly, it actually doesn’t work at all any more”

 

Photo credit: Phil Le Gal, The new continent project.

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UK Work Visa Route Reviewed by the Migration Advisory Committee

The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) is reviewing the work visa route (Tier 2) of the UK immigration system to assess if making immigration rules stricter for work migrants would economically benefit the UK.

In 2014, there was 151,659 main applicants and dependent family members entering the UK under all of the Tier 2 categories. In an effort to curb immigration, the government has asked the MAC to research which changes could be implemented to reduce net migration to 100,000 people annually.

Two Main Reports
The MAC is filing two reports called “little MAC” and “big MAC.”

The little MAC consultation has now closed. It focused on recommendations regarding increasing minimum salary levels across all work visas. In its report of August 18th, the MAC strongly advised the government not to make any hasty decisions and exercise caution with regard to any concrete early decisions.

The big MAC report will form the basis of any changes to the immigration rules in April 2016 that might restrict employers’ abilities to employ non-EU migrants in the UK. This report is due by mid-December 2015, however the deadline for giving evidence to the MAC is 25 September 2015.

Already, Coadec, the non-profit trade body for UK start-ups, has warned that further restrictions will damage outside perceptions of the UK as a start-up nation. Coadec launched a petition to fight back against it. Follow the hashtag #SaveSkilledMigration for more information on the campaign and its petition.

What is expected to happen
The changes could include:

  • Restricting Tier 2 (G) to roles deemed to be in shortage and highly specialist experts only
  • Applying a skills levy to fund apprenticeships
  • Preventing dependents of Tier 2 migrants from working in the UK
  • Tightening the rules for Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visas
  • Applying the NHS Immigration Surcharge to Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visas
  • Increasing the minimum salary across Tier 2
  • Placing tighter restrictions on particular sectors, especially the IT sector

For a detailed overview on the call for evidence issued by MAC, the full document can be accessed on the Government website.

Sources of this blog post
Hudson Mckenzie Law Firm; Migration Advisory Committee; Coadec.

UK Sponsorship Licence Holders to Keep High Standards When Employing Migrant Workers

According to the London based Legal 500 law firm, Hudson McKenzie, the vast majority of audit visits by the Home Office are now being carried out unannounced.

Visits by the Home Office
Employers that employ migrants under a sponsorship licence are normally subjected to visits by the Home Office to assess that the companies are correctly keeping track of their migrant employees’ details and statuses.

The Home office checks for HR systems/ processes, record keeping activities and files for the migrant employees. These visits happen before and after being granted a sponsorship licence and were usually announced. You can read more advice from the Home Office workshop on keeping track of migrants status and details for startups.

Recently employers have been caught off-guard by unannounced visits by the Home Office.

If you are an employer holding a Sponsor Licence, you need to ensure you maintain your HR systems/processes at all times and keep the information on Sponsor Management System (SMS) up to date for all of their migrant employees.

You need to be able to demonstrate that you have methods for appropriately monitoring and recording the activities of your migrant workers or you will be subject to fines and can even have your Sponsor License revoked.

Upon revocation, all migrant employees would have to leave the UK, irrespective of their seniority within the organisation or find another suitable employment with an appropriate visa within 60 days.

Compliance
Sponsor Licence holders need to show compliance in the following areas:

  • 2: Maintaining migrant contact details:
    Home address needs to be at all times correct.
  • 3: Record keeping duties:
    Any change in the company address or in the person who is in charge of HR needs to be reported on the SMS system.
  • 4: Migrant tracking and monitoring:
    Each employer needs to have a system to track vacations or sick days for your migrant workers.As a reminder, Tier 4 students either have 20 hour work rights, 10 hour work rights or no work rights during their visa period. Students who do have work rights are restricted to the number of hours listed above during term time, but are free to work full-time throughout their vacation period. As such you need to have copies of the details of each student’s academic term and vacation times covering the duration of their period of study in the UK for which they will be employed in that person’s file.Also – weekly hours undertaken cannot be averaged out over a longer period of time. For example: if a student has a right to work 20 hours per week, they can only work up to 20 hours in any given week. Students cannot work 15 hours one week and 25 hours the next.
  • 5: Recruitment practices and professional registrations and accreditation:
    Make sure to keep records and proof that you have executed the Labour Market Test on hand as it may be needed to justify the employment of a migrant.

Recommendation and advice
Rahul Batra, Managing Partner at Hudson McKenzie Solicitors, strongly recommends having a mock audit carried out regardless of the level of confidence you have in your HR systems, visa tracking procedures and maintenance of work and contact details for migrant employees.

A mock audit involves carrying out an in-depth assessment of your current HR processes and migrant employee files and how your current systems can be utilised in order to demonstrate full compliance with the Home Office’s regulations along with any recommendations on how you can improve.

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Need help with your sponsorship licence? Ask your questions to Migreat online experts.

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