Category: New Government Policies

New In-country Application process for UK Visas to be introduced from November 2018

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is set to launch a new visa application system within the UK. The new system will include an Online Application and further process at new Visa and Citizenship Application Service Centres operated by outsourcing firm Sopra Steria.

The Key dates are as follows.

  • 2nd November: UKVI partner Sopra Steria will have their appointment booking tool live;
  • 9th November: The new UK VCAS centres will start to open around the country and all locations will be open by 30th November.
  • During the period of 5th November – 29th November, the majority of customers can choose whether to enrol their biometrics and submit their documents via these new centres or use the existing processes via Premium Service Centres.
  • 29th November: Premium Service Centres will close
  • January 2019: Service and Support Centres will open, for use by a small number of customers who
    require more support with their application. These customers will continue to use the current process
    until January; we will issue more information on this process shortly.

The current process for UK visa and citizenship applications, including submitting biometrics, will remain in place until 29 November; so from 05 November – 29 November, customers have the choice of using the existing process, or the new process. The The full published guidance and location of the new centers can be downloaded here. Sopra Steria information sheet can be accessed here.

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Statement of changes HC 1534, 11 October 2018

On 11 October 2018, the Home Office has published the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules (HC 1534) which the Home Secretary laid down before the Parliament for approval. The statement is around 50 pages long and with changes taking effect from 1 November 2018. It can be accessed here.

The Statement of Changes has three main purposes. Firstly, it introduces Changes in Appendix EU and implementation of a second pilot phase of the EU Settlement Scheme for resident EU citizens and their family members to obtain UK immigration status, to run from 1 November to 31 December 2018. This phase will test the full end-to-end online application process, will significantly scale up the testing, including, on a voluntary basis and with the agreement of the Devolved Administrations, staff in the higher education, health and social care sectors across the UK. This phase will also include some vulnerable individuals as them being supported by a small number of local authorities and civil society organisations in order to enable testing of the operation of the scheme for those with support needs.

Secondly, the Statement of Changes further introduces the “Calais leave”, a form of leave to remain for children transferred to the UK as part of the Calais camp clearance to reunite with their family between 17 October 2016 and 13 July 2017 and who do not qualify for international protection (i.e. refugee status or humanitarian protection). As it would not be in interest of those children to separate them from their families but rather to reunite with their families and integrate in the UK, this support from the UK authorities is perceived as a significant positive change to Immigration Rules.

Thirdly, there are changes to the general visa application process, including the requirements to post passports and original documents, in order to support the operation of the new application process in UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). By amending the Rules on the requirements for a valid application, the majority of those applying in the UK to extend their stay or apply for citizenship will be able to submit key documents and personal information in a more secure way while retaining their passport and supporting evidence which will make an application process more flexible and accessible.

However, there is one controversial major change introduced in the Statement. The immigration health surcharge will double from £200 to £400 in December 2018 for non-EU nationals. This has been explained as a necessary and fair contribution from long-term migrants to long-term sustainability of NHS service. These changes affect neither permanent residency holders nor certain vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers and modern slavery victims.

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Immigration rules to be eased to allow NHS to recruit more staff

The removal of medical staff from the cap will create more space for other skilled migrants to work in the UK, such as engineers and teachers.Immigration rules capping the number of foreign doctors and nurses working in the UK are set to be relaxed to allow the NHS to recruit more staff, Downing Street has confirmed.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, has set out plans to remove overseas medical staff from the annual cap on skilled workers coming to the UK from Friday, currently limited to 20,700 “tier 2” visas per year. The removal of medical staff from the cap will create more space for other skilled migrants to work in the UK, such as engineers and teachers.The move adds to growing pressure on Theresa May to ditch her party’s goal of limiting annual net migration to the “tens of thousands”. It also shows the gap between Mr Javid and the prime minister, who was known for her tough stance on immigration when she headed up the Home Office. The Home Office will lay the regulations before parliament soon, which will come into force immediately.

More than 1,500 doctors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) had visa applications refused between December 2017 and March 2018, according to the British Medical Journal. Earlier this month, Mr Javid signalled there could be a softer approach to immigration policy under his leadership at the Home Office, including looking again at the cap on “tier 2 visas”.

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Immigration Health Surcharge paid by migrants to double

Charges paid by temporary migrants in the UK to use the NHS are to double, the government has announced. Ministers said the move would raise around £220m a year for the health service while ensuring that migrants made a “fair contribution” towards its costs.

The increase to the immigration health surcharge – payable by people from outside the European Economic Area staying in the UK for six months or longer – means the main rate will rise from £200 to £400 a year. The discounted rate for students and those on the youth mobility scheme will go up from £150 to £300.

A surcharge was brought in by the government in 2015 in a clampdown on so-called “health tourism”. It has been questioned by some doctors, who have voiced concern that the policy could be discriminatory and result in racial profiling to identify chargeable patients.

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Banks begin immigration checks on millions of accounts

The new scheme, which will be rolled out this month, requires banks and building societies to check all current account holders against a list of people liable for deportation or wanted by immigration enforcement. If an account holder is found to be in the UK illegally the bank must inform the Home Office, which will instruct on action that may include closing the account.

“These new measures are part of our commitment to make it more difficult for people with no right to live or work in the UK to remain here.  Banks and building societies have been required to check a person’s immigration status before they open a current account since 2014, and a 2016 investigation found 10% of those denied an account after such checks had been refused wrongly.

In a statement, the Home Office said only the details of people who were “liable for removal” or who had “absconded from immigration control” would be shared, and that asylum seekers and others whose applications were being processed would not be affected.

Money will be returned to the account holders unless evidence of criminality is found, in which case an account could be frozen, the Home Office said. Current measures against illegal migrants includes preventing people from working, renting accommodation or getting driving licences, and have seen demands for immigration checks implemented in hospitals and schools.

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Immigration Act puts further obligations on banks to check the Immigration status of customers.

The Immigration Act 2014 prohibited firms from opening current accounts for people who don’t have leave to remain in or enter into the UK. The Immigration Act 2014 has been amended by the Immigration Act 2016 and these amendments come into force on 30 October 2017.

There will be a number of additional requirements on firms including a requirement to carry out periodic checks of the immigration status of existing current account customers. This will include accounts opened before the 2014 Act prohibition came into force and will encompass situations where accounts may have been opened during a period of lawful stay but where the migrant has remained in the UK after their leave has expired.

The first immigration check is required to be carried out for the quarter beginning on 1 January 2018. Firms will be checking for accounts operated by a disqualified person (i.e. a person who is in the UK but who does not have the required leave to enter or remain in the UK).

The firm must then inform the Home Office if any account is identified and the Home Office will then carry out a check. The Home Office will have a range of options including requiring firms to close the account as soon as possible and power to apply to the Court to freeze an account until the individual leaves the UK.

The Immigration Act 2014 (Bank Accounts) Regulations will be amended to extend the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) duty to monitor and enforce compliance with the new requirements. The FCA is currently consulting on its approach to the amended Immigration Act and regulations including reporting, monitoring and enforcement.

What do you need to know?

New accounts

Where the check identifies that the applicant is a disqualified person, firms must refuse to open the account. This prohibition includes:

  • opening joint current accounts for any disqualified persons
  • opening a current account where the disqualified person is a signatory or is identified as a beneficiary
  • adding any disqualified person as a current account holder, signatory or identified beneficiary in relation to an existing current account

Where firms refuse to open a current account due to concerns the person is a disqualified person, the firm must tell that person the reason for the refusal (as long as doing so does not conflict with obligations under other legislation e.g. Anti-Money Laundering legislation). Particular wording has been prepared by the Home Office which can be used where firms have refused an account.

Existing accounts

In terms of existing accounts, from 1 January 2018, firms will also be required to carry out quarterly immigration checks and any accounts found to be operated by a disqualified person must likewise be reported to the Home Office.

What do firms need to do?

  • make arrangements to comply with the Immigration Act 2016 and ensure that the relevant checks are put in place and employees are aware of the obligations and receive the necessary training;
  • put in place record-keeping procedures so that they can demonstrate compliance with the Immigration Act 2016 to the FCA. Firms will need to keep these records for at least 5 years. Firms will also need to confirm to the FCA each year that they are complying with their obligations under the Immigration Act;
  • terms and conditions will need to be updated in order to take account of the new quarterly checks; and
  • any issues with compliance will need to be reported to the FCA in the usual way.

Implications of the Immigration Act

This will place yet a further obligation on firms to monitor account activity. Appropriate systems and checks will need to be put in place to ensure compliance with this new obligation. Industry experts have expressed concerns that these requirements will make it harder for legitimate customers to open bank accounts.

Questions have also been raised about where liability will lie if things go wrong. In circumstances where a search brings up a number of names this may lead to the incorrect bank accounts being frozen or closed which could lead to claims being issued against firms. Appropriate records will need to be maintained to show why decisions have been made in order to evidence a firms compliance with the act.

Firms will also need to ensure its policies and procedures are clear and comply with other legislative requirements.

Who is affected?

You have been refused a current account

Banks and building societies are required to carry out immigration status checks on people applying for current accounts. Under the Immigration Act 2014 they must refuse your application for a new current account (or an application to add you as a signatory or identified beneficiary to a new or existing current account) if you are a disqualified person.

You may be disqualified if you are in the UK and need leave to enter or remain (under the Immigration Act 1971) and don’t have leave to be here. This could be because you:

  • never had leave to enter or remain (because you entered the UK illegally)
  • had leave but stayed after it expired or was revoked
  • are an European Economic Area (EEA) national subject to deportation action who has exhausted all rights of appeal

Your account has been closed

Banks and building societies are required to carry out immigration status checks on people who hold current accounts. If you are identified as being disqualified from holding an account, then, under the Immigration Act 2014 the bank or building society must close your accounts (or restrict access where you are a signatory or identified beneficiary, or the account is jointly held with a non-disqualified person). You may be disqualified if you are in the UK and need leave to enter or remain (under the Immigration Act 1971) and don’t have leave to be here. This could be because you:

  • never had leave to enter or remain (because you entered the UK illegally)
  • had leave, but stayed after it expired or was revoked
  • are an European Economic Area national subject to deportation action who has exhausted all rights of appeal.

The Home Office has the power under the Immigration Act 2014 to apply for a freezing order in relation to current accounts for disqualified person.

Query the decision

If a bank or building society refuses your application for a current account or closes your current account under the Immigration Act 2014, it will normally tell you why. If you believe there’s been a mistake, you should contact the Home Office with evidence of your lawful immigration status. If you have a right to be in the UK, the Home Office will change your details so you can re-apply to open a current account or re-open your existing account.

If you have any further questions or require any assistance relating issues with your bank account give us a call on 020 3695 4626 or email us on [email protected]

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UK-EU freedom of movement to end in March 2019

Freedom of movement will end as soon as Britain leaves the EU, the immigration minister has said, as the government prepares a survey on the benefits of migration from the bloc.

Brandon Lewis also confirmed that the government intended to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands – a promise the Conservatives have failed to keep since taking office in 2010 – though he refused to say it would be achieved within this parliament.“Free movement of labour ends when we leave the European Union in the spring of 2019. I’ll be very clear about that,” Lewis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.

“Obviously, there’s a period of negotiation we’re going through with the European Union at the moment. But we’re very clear that free movement ends. It’s part of the four key principles of the European Union. When we leave, that, by definition, ends,” Lewis said.His comments appear to run counter to recent reports that the government is willing to allow freedom of movement to continue during a transitional period lasting three or four years.

The remarks are likely to alarm businesses, which would have less than two years to prepare for an end to free movement of labour with the EU. However, it could be that while freedom of movement technically ends with Brexit, the arrangements are still replicated during an implementation phase.

In a sign this may be the case, Lewis reiterated the Conservatives’ commitment to reducing net immigration to a less than 100,000 people a year, but he refused to say it would be met by the end of the parliament, claiming that it was impossible to do so while freedom of movement remained.

 

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Wrong Brexit immigration policy could leave north-east industries without a workforce

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said he had grave concerns for the north-east’s fish processing, soft fruit and seasonal farming sectors, which rely heavily on EU nationals.

Lord Duncan said there needed to be more focus on how to allow EU nationals to continue to work in the north-east of Scotland after Brexit. He said: “The area I have most concern about is the EU nationals question, particularly on the fish processing side, where upwards of 90% of workers are EU nationals. These are challenging but very well-paying jobs but they are not attractive jobs and so they are filled with migrants in places like Peterhead.

“How do we create a system that allows EU migrants to continue to fill these processing jobs as well as those in farming and seasonal work?”

Lord Duncan said he did not think rural affairs minister Michael Gove’s preferred points-based system was workable. He said: “It needs to be a non points-based system.”

Full story can be read here

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Theresa May under pressure to drop migration target after warning over Brexit recruitment crisis.

Theresa May has come under new pressure to drop her target to reduce migration after a report warned that Brexit is already causing recruitment problems for UK companies.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body for the recruitment industry, said the Government’s failure to outline a post-Brexit immigration policy was adding to uncertainty for both business and EU workers in the UK. REC’s survey of 607 employers found evidence that a growing number are taking on temporary workers to plug gaps caused by skill shortages. Some 87 per cent intend to maintain or increase their use of temporary staff in the next three months.

Kevin Green, REC’s chief executive, said: “Brexit is making the situation more challenging. In London for example, a third of people working in construction are from the EU and it’s difficult to see how firms will manage if their workforce aren’t encouraged to stay in the UK and continue to contribute to our economy.”

Mr Green added: “Decisions about the future immigration system are too important to be subject to political whim – we need policy to be built on sound evidence and data. Businesses need access to people to deliver growth, and that the current UK workforce alone cannot meet demand.” The REC’s “jobs outlook” report said the engineering, construction and education sectors could face unfilled vacancies in September or October.

Full story can be read here

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Brexit talks must not lose sight of immigration issue.

We hear masses about a Brexit “Bill” and about the future role of European Court of Justice. But what has happened to the issue of free movement? Wasn’t this supposed to be one of the Government’s fabled “red lines”?

While Theresa May  in her manifesto renewed David Cameron’s vow to bring net migration down to 100,000 a year we have scarcely heard a thing on the subject since the election. There has to be a suspicion that the Goverment is preparing for a climbdown, that it is opening the way for a deal in which Britain would remain partially in the single market with EU citizens free to travel to Britain, to look for work here and to claim benefits here much as before. In fact the Government began to change tone subtly on free movement as early as the first week in April even before Theresa May made her decision to call a general election.

Speaking on a trip to Jordan, about as far from the political fray of Westminster as she has been in recent months, the Prime Minister started to talk of an “implementation period” in which free movement could continue to operate for an unspecified time. There has been a similar shifting of position in the Government’s promise to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already resident in Britain. There is widespread agreement that people settled in Britain should have the right to stay in return for UK citizens resident abroad having the right to remain there.

But there is the issue of a cut-off date: since when should an EU citizen have had to be living in Britain to qualify for the automatic right to stay? At first it was suggested that it should be the date of the referendum: June 23 last year. But the date keeps slipping forward. It now could be any date between when Article 50 was triggered – in March this year – to the date on which Britain officially leaves the EU, expected to be March 2019.

Full story can be read here

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