The Home Office recently released its statement of changes setting out proposed changes to UK immigration rules. The statement contains the long-awaited details of changes to the Tier 1 (Investor) visa, which were announced in December 2018 shortly after the Home Office backtracked from its announcement that the visa was about to be suspended. The proposed changes are significant and clarity is needed with regard to the application of the transitional rules.
The government and UK businesses want the United Kingdom to have maximum access to the single market following Brexit, but the European Union has stated that single market membership is conditional on allowing free movement of persons. There are a number of possible compromises that could enable the United Kingdom to continue to participate in the single market while retaining at least some control over migration.
Employers in the health, education and social services sectors should notify their overseas employees of the new criminal record certificates requirement. From April 6 2017, Tier 2 applicants applying for entry clearance under specified Standard Occupational Classification codes and their adult dependants will be required to obtain a criminal record certificate from each country in which they have been resident for 12 months or more in the past 10 years.
Employers are urged to act now to minimise the immediate impact of the impending increase in UK immigration costs when the immigration skills levy (ISL) is introduced in April 2017. Under the ISL, the cost of a five-year Tier 2 sponsorship is set to increase by £5,000. Essentially, the ISL is designed to reduce demand on the scheme and result in additional opportunities for resident workers.
The Tier 2 and Tier 5 guidance is now over 200 pages long, following the changes introduced in November 2016. The common theme in the changes is a renewed focus on genuineness and the removal of untrustworthy sponsors from the register. One change that will have an immediate effect on employers is the work start date used in the certificate of sponsorship – this can no longer be delayed by more than four weeks.
Tier 1 of the points-based system has been stripped of a number of sub-categories in recent years and tough restrictions continue to be imposed on the remaining sub-categories, especially the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category. The most recent changes in the Immigration Rules introduced predominantly technical amendments to the guidance and clarified provisions that previously caused confusion for applicants.
The Home Office recently introduced two changes to the English language requirement, applicable across the Immigration Rules. The requirements will affect those applying for entry clearance under the points-based system, as well as those who are in the United Kingdom (or will enter the United Kingdom) as a spouse or partner of a British national or settled person who extend their stay on or after May 1 2017.
In November 2016 the proposed autumn changes to Tier 2 of the points-based system were finally introduced, pursuant to the latest statement of changes in the Immigration Rules. This followed the government's announcement in March 2016 that it would implement some of the recommendations proposed by the Migration Advisory Committee in its report published in January 2016.
In her major speech on Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that immigration control will be a government priority in the forthcoming negotiations following the invocation of Article 50 before the end of March 2017. The speech also covered freedom of movement and the rights of EU and UK nationals. The scope and architecture of the new immigration schemes are unlikely to be fully identified until progress has been made in the negotiations.
The Home Office has announced that it will offer a new passport return service for European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals applying for either a registration certificate or permanent residence. The service has been introduced to create a more streamlined application process and ease the burden on UK Visas and Immigration's EEA casework department.
The Home Office has been increasingly slow in managing sponsor management system requests, to the extent that requests for additional certificates of sponsorship can take months to be considered. This can have detrimental effects on businesses that urgently need to hire a migrant worker, as it can cause unnecessary delays to the application process. To deal with this, the Home Office will be introducing a new premium service system for sponsor management system requests.
The evidential requirements for job creation – including the requirement to provide the Real Time Information full payment submission – were recently clarified by changes in the Immigration Rules. The most recent changes in the Immigration Rules introduced predominantly technical amendments to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) guidance and clarified provisions that previously caused issues for applicants.
When hiring a non-European Economic Area national for a permanent role, employers must demonstrate that they have conducted a search of the resident labour market and have not found anyone successful to take on the role. However, there appears to be no effective control mechanism to prevent employers from using advertised soft skills to hire their desired overseas candidate at the expense of suitable settled workers.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) introduced the Real Time Information full payment submission (RTI) requirement for Tier 1 entrepreneur extension applications in 2013. RTI affects the way companies store and communicate data to HMRC and involves submitting payroll data electronically to HMRC whenever employers pay their employees. The introduction of RTI also simplifies year-end procedures.
Mistakes on biometric residence permits (BRPs) are becoming a regular occurrence. Migrants are required by law to have a BRP that accurately records their personal details and, consequently, mistakes must be corrected. However, rectifying errors can be complicated and time consuming, and Home Office policy is unclear as to which department within the Home Office should be contacted and what steps should be followed.
Following the 2015 amendment to the law requiring European nationals and their families to obtain confirmation that they have acquired permanent residence before they can apply for British citizenship, attempts have been made to speed up the process by making combined applications for a document certifying permanent residence and citizenship. However, the Home Office recently confirmed that it is not possible to combine the permanent residence and citizenship applications.
Different visas are required for non-European Economic Area interns and graduates, and businesses must ensure that the correct documentation is retained for each individual. Further, they should ensure that all records are compliant, and that both migrants and managers are aware of any necessary next steps, which will vary depending on the type of visa held by the individual.
Major delays in issuing biometric residence permits are causing undue stress for new arrivals to the United Kingdom. UK Visas and Immigration has advised that the delays are due to technical issues and they seem to be occurring with greater frequency following the recent changes to the way UK national insurance numbers are generated. While Tier 2 migrants are experiencing the brunt of the delays, they are affecting individuals across all visa categories.
As campaigning continues for the forthcoming referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union, immigration (and its apparent links with national security) has become a central topic of the debate. Aside from the headline-grabbing national security concerns, particular focus has been on UK immigration policy, the consequences of high net migration and the impact of the EU freedom of movement provision.
Australian and New Zealand nationals submitting an application under the Immigration Rules are now subject to the immigration health surcharge. Australian and New Zealand nationals were previously exempt from the surcharge under reciprocal healthcare agreements between the United Kingdom and both countries. The surcharge is calculated at £200 per person per year, with a discounted rate of £150 in certain cases.