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.

70-day deadline to verify and confirm the identity of individuals alleged by the UK to be illegal migrants

India will commit itself to a 70-day deadline to verify and confirm the identity of individuals alleged by Britain to be illegal migrants, according to a memorandum of understanding to be signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit here in April. The text of the MoU was finalised and initialled by minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju and UK minister for immigration Caroline Nokes in London last week. The sensitive issue is linked to Britain improving its visa offer for Indian nationals, expected to be announced during Modi’s visit.

The issue of repatriating illegal Indians is one of key elements in the bilateral relationship. The returns have so far been plagued by delays in confirming the Indian nationality of suspects, though the 70-day deadline is expected to speed up the process. As Prime Minister Theresa May said during her November 2016 visit to India:  “(The) UK will consider further improvements to our visa offer if at the same time we can step up the speed and volume of returns of Indians with no right to remain in the UK.”

The MoU divides Indian citizens without a legal basis to be in the UK into two categories – those whose passports and other details are available from their applications for British visas, and those whose documents are not available but acknowledge being Indians. The verification process of the first group – after Britain submits documents to India – is to be completed within 15 days, while the identity of individuals in the second group – a more complicated process – will need to be confirmed within 70 days.

No figures for suspected illegal Indians are released but the Home Office assesses that Indian citizens are among the top nationalities remaining in the UK Illegally. A Home Office official said: “A major barrier for removal is the current process for obtaining travel documentation for those without a current passport.” In the past, the verification process in India, after documents are sent from London, took months, but Indian officials hope the speedier timeline in the MoU will enable Britain to consider better visa conditions for legal migration.

Since address verification for Indian passports is usually completed in 21 days, officials believe the 70-day deadline will be sufficient for police authorities to complete the process. “Illegal migration should not be a barrier to legal migration,” said India’s deputy high commissioner Dinesh Patnaik. May had unveiled plans to roll out the “registered traveller scheme” for Indian business leaders during her India visit, but it has not been announced so far. It will enable business travellers expedited clearance at Heathrow and other ports.

There is also a demand that Britain extend to India an ongoing pilot scheme in China offering cheaper and longer duration visas, and Indian representatives hope British authorities will have three months to consider such plans before Modi’s visit in April.

France has vowed not to allow another migrant ‘jungle’ camp to be set up in Calais

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed not to allow another migrant “Jungle” camp to be set up in Calais. The pledge came as he visited the Channel port ahead of Thursday’s UK-France summit where he is expected to try and shake-up Britain’s role in dealing with migrants bidding to come to the UK.

Hundreds of asylum seekers hoping to cross the Channel remain in the area, more than a year after authorities dismantled the town’s sprawling Jungle camp. Mr Macron said Calais had become “a dead end for thousands of women and men who have spent years on the road”. All those arriving in France deserved “dignified and humane” treatment, he said, promising to provide more accommodation and speed up processing of asylum claims.

Paris reportedly wants Britain to boost the amount of cash it pumps into dealing with the Calais migrant camps, where an estimated 700 people are living. Campaigners and senior French politicians are also said to be pressing the UK to receive more refugees from the region, especially lone children.

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.

Caroline Nokes appointed as the new Immigration Minister

The Queen approved the appointment of Caroline Nokes MP as Minister of State for Immigration at the Home Office yesterday.

The new Immigration Minister will be tasked with the responsibility of forthcoming Immigration Bill and separate White Paper, the work on settled status for EU citizens and the implementation of new hostile environment measures.

Responding to her appointment, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said:

‘I am honoured to join the Home Office and excited about gripping the challenges ahead in this crucial period as we prepare to leave the European Union.  As Immigration Minister, I am fully committed to ensuring the UK’s borders remain secure and developing an immigration system that works in the national interest, while continuing to attract those who benefit the country. I will also build on the positive work this government has already delivered, resettling thousands of the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.’

We wish her all the best in her new role.

Universities pilot plan for easier foreign student visas

Twenty-three universities have joined an extended pilot scheme that aims to make it easier for foreign students to apply for and be granted UK visas or work permits. The scheme is designed to streamline the process of UK visa applications for international students who want to study for courses of 13 months or less.

The Scheme is designed to provide foreign students with greater levels of support if they decide to move from a student visa to a UK work permit, which will allow them to remain in Britain for at least six months following the conclusion of their course.

Other universities added to the extended pilot scheme include Cardiff University, Queen’s University Belfast, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and the University of Edinburgh. Students from countries within the European Union and European Economic Area do not need visas to study in the UK although it is still not clear what position they will be in after Brexit.

The universities taking part are given responsibility for eligibility checks which means that students can submit fewer documents than required in the current process alongside their visa applications. Full list of the new Universities added can be viewed here.

There are also other schemes in place that allows international students to remain in the UK further to their studies to undertake work experience like the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange Programme. More details on the scheme can be viewed here.

 

 

Sharia divorce not covered under EU Laws

The European Court of Justice recently considered a case relating to a couple in Germany who divorced in a Sharia court in Syria. The court found that they cannot have their divorce validated under EU law. ECJ said ‘member states must decide for themselves whether to recognise “private divorces”, such as those performed in Sharia courts’.

Islamic law allows a man to divorce his wife instantly by saying “talaq” (divorce) three times.This case is ECJ’s first ruling on the subject.The ECJ said the regulation “does not apply, by itself, to the recognition of a divorce decision delivered in a third country”.It added that a unilateral declaration of divorce before a religious court does not fall under the scope of the regulation.

The Impact of this and UK’s stand on the matter is yet to be seen. However, any previous relationships being ended this way could face issues when making an immigration application for a new spouse.

Visa conditions do not count unless notified in writing by the Home Office

Court of Appeals Decision in  the case of Anwar v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWCA Civ 2134 confirms that if the Home Office wishes to impose visa conditions, it must give people written notice of those conditions. If the Home Office fails to do this, or is unable to produce evidence that the notice was sent, it will be unable to rely on any purported breach of a visa condition to justify a decision to refuse a subsequent application, curtail a person’s leave, or remove a person from the UK.

Anwar, from Pakistan, had been studying at two institutions simultaneously, but only one was named on his Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS). This is a document which must be issued by a university or college before leave to remain as a student can be granted. Immigration Rules indicates that leave to remain as a student will be granted subject to a condition prohibiting study except at the institution providing the CAS. However Court of Appeal agreed that Immigration Rules themselves are not sufficient to impose conditions; the condition must be applied to the individual case by issuing a written notice.

This decision could have wide-reaching ramifications, given that it is not currently Home Office practice to outline any conditions imposed when granting a visa application. As the Home Office amends its practice, there may still be cases in which it is unable to demonstrate that it has complied with the requirement to give written notice of any visa conditions.

Changes to the UK Immigration Rules from 11 January 2018

New Statement of changes was passed to the Parliament on the 7th of December 2017. These changes will come into force from 11th of January 2018.

Summary of Changes:

  • The introduction of an electronic entry clearance visa to replace a physical vignette in the passport;
  • Flexibility for Tier 4 students switching to Tier 2 sponsorship; and
  • A new requirement for PBS dependants to not spend more than 180 days in any 12-month period outside the United Kingdom in order to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Changes in Detail:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent).

The number of available endorsements will double from 1,000 to 2,000 places per year. There will be a pool of not allocated places distributed to five Designated Competent Bodies (DCBs),which can be drawn on by any of the five bodies on a first-come-first-serve basis.Furthermore, Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa holders who are classed as “world leaders” in their field may be able to qualify for accelerated settlement after three years of continuous residence, instead of five years. As a result of the changes, this category, while relatively limited in its application, could potentially offer another immigration option for very highly-skilled migrants working in specific industries.

  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).

The applicants will no longer be able to rely on funds or investment that have been provided by another Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrant, or that migrant’s business or close family member. The interpretation of a “close family member” will depend on the facts of the case.This to prevent misuse of the route by recycling of funds.Changes to the job creation rules for extension and settlement applications will be implemented to enable applicants to apply even if their current leave was granted less than 12 months ago. However, in such cases, the jobs must have existed for at least 12 months before the date of the current application.

Applicants relying on investment from a venture capital firm will now be required to also provide a letter from the firm confirming the date(s) the funds were transferred to the applicant or invested in their business and that the firm was registered with the Financial Conduct Authority at the time. This requirement is added to counter ongoing abuse relating to venture capital funding.

  • Tier 2 (General).

The UK government is welcoming researchers into the United Kingdom. Exemption from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) will be applied to researchers who are recipients of supernumerary research awards and fellowships and for established research team members sponsored by either a Higher Education Institution or a Research Council.

  • Tier 4 Students switching to Tier 2.

Tier 4 students who have successfully passed their course in the United Kingdom are typically able to switch to Tier 2 sponsorship without the Sponsor being required to undertake the RLMT. From January 11, 2018, United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will apply some welcome flexibility, in that Tier 4 students will no longer be required to pass their course before being able to switch to Tier 2. Instead, the requirement will be that they have completed their course and are able to evidence this.This in theory should allow students to apply for their Tier 2 visas much more quickly, without having to wait for their exam results.

  • Tier 4 students studying part-time.

Tier 4 (General) Students can now apply to study a part-time course under their Tier 4 visa as long as the course is studied at an academic level over Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Level 11 or Regulated Qualifications Framework level 7. Part-time students will not, however, be able to:

  • Extend their leave in the United Kingdom under the new Tier 4 rules;
  • Bring family members into the United Kingdom as a dependant under their visa;
  • Work during their studies; or
  • Switch visa categories in country.
  • Tier 5.

The annual quota of places available under the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) has been updated.There is a slight reduction in the number places available for Australia Nationals from 35,500 to 34,000.There is an increase of 1,000 places from 13,000 to 14,000 for New Zealand.There is also a small increase from 5,500 places for Canada to 6,000.

  • PBS Dependants.

Dependants of PBS migrants (including Tier 2) have not historically been subject to the absences requirement (i.e. spending no more than 180 days per year outside of the United Kingdom) when applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain. The new Immigration Rules confirm, however, that dependants of PBS migrants who make any visa application (including an extension application) on or after January 11, 2018 will need to ensure they are not away from the United Kingdom more than 180 days during any 12-month period from that point onwards. This is a significant departure from the existing provisions. Businesses may wish to establish whether this could affect its PBS population whose family members do not regularly reside in the United Kingdom.

PBS dependants submitting an application on or after January 11, 2018 will have to prove to the UKVI that their relationship to the main applicant is both subsisting and genuine. Previously, there was no requirement to evidence that the relationship was genuine.

  • Visitors 

From 11 January 2018, visitors who hold a standard or marriage/civil partnership visit visa will be allowed to transit the UK without the need to obtain a separate transit visa.There is also clarification that visitors are not permitted to study at an academy or a school maintained by a Local Authority.

  • Electronic entry clearance 

A new electronic entry clearance system is being rolled out from 2018. Individuals with electronic clearance will only have to present their passport or identity documents at the UK border for the Immigration Officer to check electronically for entry clearance. Electronic entry clearance will be trialled initially with a pilot group, ahead of wider implementation.

If you have a question about how the changes affect you or your organisation, please contact us. Our team of UK immigration law experts are on hand to answer your queries.

The full statement of changes in Immigration Rules can be found at HC309

Court of Appeal says No special rules for children of Gurkhas

The legal arguments on family life between adult children and parents are notoriously tricky. The guise in which the issue arose in Pun & Anr (Nepal) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] EWCA Civ 2106 was whether non-dependent adult children could qualify under the Gurkha policy. The court ultimately held that the absence of dependency was fatal to the family’s case.

In this case, the appellants were the son and daughter-in-law of Mr Ril Pun. The wife had arrived in the UK on a Tier 4 (General) Student visa. The husband had joined her shortly afterwards. Both then applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain as adult dependent relatives of Mr Ril Pun. The application was refused primarily on the basis that neither was actually dependent and that their private life in the UK was insufficient to bring them within the scope of the Gurkha policy.

Whilst the position with adult children has always been difficult, this case highlights just how important demonstrating dependency is. Even the historic injustice to Gurkhas could only be given limited weight, in the interests of maintaining immigration control. In the general run of cases, there is unlikely to be any Gurkha policy argument to make. Such cases start on the back foot.