NHS frontline workers visas extended automatically by the Home Office

Home Office announced on 31st March 2020 that NHS front line worker visas will be extended automatically as part of the national effort to combat corona virus.

Doctor, Nurses. Paramedics and their family members will benefit visa extension of one year, if their current leave is due to expire before 1st October 2020. Such extension will be automatic and free of charge. The same individuals will also be exempt from Immigration Health Surcharge and will not need to make an application, as the Home Office will directly contact those who are eligible for the extension.

In addition to this, Tier 4 students, Tier 2 workers, Visiting Academic Researchers as well as those who hold a short-term visa and are permitted to volunteer, are no longer subject to a limit on the number of hours they can work or volunteer each week. This also applies to those who work for NHS as a second job. In addition, the Occupational Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) has been extended to 31st December 2020.

The Coronavirus Immigration Helpline continues to be available over the phone on 0800 678 1767or by email on CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk. For further information, you can contact our offices at 0330 058 3929 Monday to Friday 9 AM to 5 PM; or by emailing enquiries@citylegalservices.co.uk.

 

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Guidance for migrants who are unable to return to China due to Coronavirus

In view of the extreme results of the Coronavirus outbreak, the Home Office has recently issued new guidance on immigration provisions for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to China.

On 17th February 2020, the Home Office published instructions for Chinese nationals currently in the UK, who have been compliant with the conditions of their visa prior to the coronavirus outburst, will be subject to an automatic extension of their leave until 31st March 2020. This will only apply if the leave has an expiry date between 24th January 2020 and 30th March 2020.

No action is required by the individuals in subject and No Biometric Residence Permit cards will be renewed. The status of the visas will be automatically updated on the UK Visas and Immigration’s systems.

Non-Chinese and non-EEA nationals in the UK, who are resident in China, will also be able to obtain an extension of their leave if they are able to demonstrate that they are usually resident in China; however, those individuals are required to contact the coronavirus immigration helpline on 0800 678 1767, which is available Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM

Chinese nationals in the UK on a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa who want to switch to a Tier 2 General visa can now (exceptionally) apply to switch from within the UK. This is only applicable if the current visa has an expiry date between 24th January 2020 and 30th March 2020. Relevant fees will still apply and requirements of a Tier 2 General visa will still need to be met, with the exception that application should be made from China.

For more information, please visit gov.uk.

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Global Talent Visa to replace Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route

The Exceptional Talent visa route will be replaced with the “Global Talent” route from 20th February 2020 according to a recent government press release.  On a close look, there are no significant changes from the previous route. The new Global Talent visa will have no cap as opposed its predecessor and the designated competent bodies are now called endorsing bodies.

Individuals when applying previously, may show to endorsing bodies that they are active researchers by having PhD etc and then obtain an endorsement prior to the stage 2 immigration application process. The accelerated process is also maintained under which an automatic endorsement may be obtained if individuals held a specific fellowship award or were appointed to an eligible academic or research positions at UK higher education institutions or research institutes. It is anticipated that, under the new global talent visa, there will be no requirement for an individual to hold an offer of employment before arriving and the visa holders will not be tied to one specific job.

There is also a new fast track route introduced for academics, researchers, scientists, research engineers or other skilled research technology/methodology specialists who have a grant or award worth £30,000 or more, covering a minimum period of two years. Under the new route, individuals endorsed in the fields of science and medicine, engineering and humanities can apply for settlement after three years, immaterial of whether they were granted leave under the Exceptional Promise criteria or the Exceptional Talent criteria.

Furthermore, the absence criteria for Indefinite Leave to Remain has also been relaxed for those applicants endorsed in the fields of science and medicine, engineering and humanities (and their family).  If they are undertaking research overseas, they may still be eligible even if they have absence of more than 180 days in any 12 months as the research element of the absence may be discounted. UK Research and Innovation has further details on the scheme and can be viewed here.

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Appeal Rights Introduced for EU Settlement Scheme

The government has introduced a new legislation with effect from 31st January 2020 that allows a right of appeal to the immigration tribunal for people refused Pre-settled or Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

The Immigration (Citizens’ Rights Appeals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 will only apply to any applications made on or after the exit day of 31st January 2020. The legislation will permit appeals for both Pre-settled and Settled status in most scenarios including if there is a cancellation or revocation of the status. The appeal will follow the normal Immigration appeal procedures unless the matter is certified as a national security issue, which will be heard by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

It also appears that the existing administrative review regime is maintained alongside the new appeals regime. It is worth noting that if an administrative review is unsuccessful and the applicant has not already appealed, the time limit for appealing the original decision will start again from the date the decision on the administrative review is sent if in the UK or received if outside the UK.

 

 

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Home Office publishes new guidance on false representations further to Balajigari case

The Home Office has issued new policy guidance on 09th October 2019 on false representation refusals; the full document can be accessed here.

The Home Office have always taken a very strict course of action when it came to applications made under false representations. However following a landmark case it has now resulted in the new guidance on how false representation refusals will be decided on. In the case of Balajigari v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWCA Civ 673 it was held by the Court of Appeal, that the Home Office had in fact unlawfully refused many applications; on the basis that the applicants were not given the opportunity to defend the claim of deception and dishonestly put forward by the Home Office.

The key details are outlined below.

Applicants will normally have the burden of proof to show that they meet all requirements of the rules, but in the event of a false representation being suspected, the burden of proof is then on the Home Office to show not only that the applicant’s representations was false but will also need to show that the applicant was dishonest.

Therefore refusals cannot be made where there are only doubts, concerns or where there is not sufficient information. It must be confirmed that there was either dishonesty or deception involved. If an application is likely to be refused, then a ‘Minded to Refuse notification’ letter will need to be sent to the applicant. This is where the applicant will be given the opportunity to explain and clear up the inconsistencies found in the application. Usually 14 calendar days is given to allow for the applicant to gather the necessary documents needed as evidence.Two conditions which must be fulfilled before issuing a Minded to Refuse notification:

  • The applicant may not necessarily know about the information you have considered or its significance, for example information obtained directly from another Government Department.
  • The implications for an applicant of a finding of dishonesty are significant.

According to the current Immigration rules, if in a previous application it was found that a false representation was made, then the Home Office can refuse new entry clearance, leave to remain, visitors, family members (Appendix FM) and armed forces applications. However it is to note that applications made under Appendix V and FM, do have separate provisions that apply.

When false representations are made because of benefit fraud or tax evasion, then a refusal will be made under public policy grounds, as these representations would not be sufficiently serious to meet the threshold to refuse. In  Balajigari, the Court of Appeal ruled that this practice is lawful, or at least it can be if done the right way. Please read the full document on the link outlined in the beginning of this article to understand the new guidance in full.

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Government publishes fact sheet providing clarifications on new Graduate Immigration Route

The UK Government on 14th October 2019 published a new graduate immigration route for international students to remain in the UK for two years following the completion of their studies; the Home Office blog can be accessed here.

The key details are outlined below.

This new graduate immigration route is available for international students who have completed their undergraduate or above higher education. To be eligible students must have complied with immigration rules throughout their time in the UK and must have a valid Tier 4 visa when making the application. Successful applicants will be allowed to stay and work at any skill level (or look for work) in the UK for two years.

Students will not need to have a sponsor or Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Tier 4 sponsors will not be required to fulfil sponsorship duties for their students if they switch to the graduate immigration route, however they will still be responsible for the students. Graduates will also be able to switch into skilled work once they have secured suitable employment. The route will open in the summer of 2021 for graduates (who will graduate on or after summer 2021) to apply for. Students whose Tier 4 visa expires before summer 2021 and students who will graduate before summer 2021, will not be able to make use of this route. They can however switch into skilled work route instead. The graduate immigration route does not count towards settlement and it is non-extendable. However graduates who switch in skilled work can then apply for settlements once they fulfil the requirements.

A new application will need to be made and will require payment for visa fees and Immigration Health Surcharge – currently the fees have not been released. This new graduate immigration route for international students has been created by the UK government to help increase education exports to £35 billion and the number of international higher education students to 600,000 by 2030. Please read the full blog on the link outlined in the beginning of this article for more information.

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Immigration Rule Changes published on 09 September 2019

The Immigration rule changes were announced by the UK Government on 09th September 2019 as Statement of Changes HC 2631; the full document can be accessed here. 

The Key changes are outlined below.

Tier 2

The announcement has seen a number of positive changes made under the Tier 2 route both helping migrants and sponsoring organisations.

  • There has been some additions to the Shortage Occupation List  such as web designers, engineers, health/ medical, biological scientists, psychologists, veterinarians, architects and IT specialists. The advantage of these positions now classified as shortage occupation is that, those businesses employing migrants under these positions are no longer required to meet the Resident Labour Market Test requirements (RLMT). The applicants will also be exempted from the higher earnings threshold required for settlement as well. The key changes are for those who run IT businesses and Restaurants. All positions under SOC Codes 2135 IT business analysts, architects and systems designers, 2136 Programmers and software development professionals and 2137 Web design and development professionals are now classified under shortage skilled occupation. These positions contribute a large workforce in IT  and is definitely expected to make significant improvements to the industry.  The other key change is that restaurants who offer take away service can now employ skilled chefs and this is expected to help a lot of small and medium restaurants struggling to find chef from within the UK.
  • Schools will be pleased that advertising roles on the gov.uk “Teaching Vacancies” platform will now meet the requirements of an acceptable RLMT advertising method.
  • The rules on migrant salaries in the run-up to those applying for indefinite leave to remain where there has been a temporary reduction in earnings will be extended to cover a wider group – the rules will extend to those absent from work due to sickness, statutory parental leave, assisting in a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis and engaging in legal strike action – this is in addition to those on maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave.
  • Some salary rates have been modified and will apply to certificates of sponsorship assigned on or after 6 October 2019. PhD level occupations will be exempt from the (20,700) annual limit on visas for skilled non-EU workers from 6 October 2019.
  • Employees sponsored in Ph.D. level SOC codes with UK absences for research purposes and relating to their visa sponsorship, will no longer have these absences counted within the indefinite leave to remain (settlement) absence rules. By way of reminder, migrants granted leave since 11 January 2018 must not exceed 180 days’ absence in any rolling 12-month period.

Students

Changes have been made so that students on Tier 4 (General) visas will be able to start working for Tier 2 sponsors within 3 months of the completion of their degree. Students who have been supported by an endorsing body can also start their business activities whilst their application for a start-up application is pending.Another change is being made to allow Tier 4 students studying at masters’ and PhD level to start a different course of study with their current sponsor while they have leave, without having to make an application from overseas.

Other changes:

  • English language tests and Life in the UK certificates – applicants will be able to rely on their unique reference number, no longer requiring their paper test certificate.Appendix O will no longer exist, and details of acceptable English tests will be on the main gov.uk page.

  • Many technical changes have been made to the EU Settlement Scheme rules (known as EUSS) – particularly for the family members of UK nationals returning from a European Economic Area (EEA) Member State or Switzerland. Most of the changes appear to provide clarity. There have also been some big changes to the “suitability” EUSS rules covering circumstances where applications may or must be refused.

  • Administrative reviews (a mechanism to challenge decisions) must now be submitted online unless the original application was made on a valid paper form.

  • Changes will also be made to the deadlines for applying for administrative review under the EUSS rules, and a discretionary rule to allow late applications will be removed – this change is not likely to be welcomed, particularly for applicants granted pre-settled status when they believe they qualify for settled status.

  • Tech Nation, one of the endorsing bodies for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) applicants, will now require three, rather than two, letters of support by established organisations in the digital technology sector for endorsement.

  • Any organisations applying to become an endorsing body may be refused on the grounds of ‘criminality or other actions or behaviour which are non-conducive to the public goo’ or due to conflicts of interest. On the positive side, under the start-up and innovator scheme, there will be an exemption for students on doctorate extension scheme from the requirement to apply as innovators if they have previously established business in the UK.

Please read the full changes on the link outlined in the beginning of this article to understand all changes implemented.

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Government announces Post Study Work Visa for International Students

The UK government announced its plans to offer extended post study work visas for international graduates for two years after graduating, compared with four months currently. The decision reverses one of the most contentious policies from Theresa May’s time being in charge of Immigration.

It is not entirely clear when the rules will be implemented, but the announcement appears to suggest that that new route will be opened to students from next academic year. There is no further information at present that suggests that the scheme will benefit current students already enrolled on courses in the UK.

There has been a push from the business and education sectors to relax the rules for international students for a long time. This was supported by several former and current cabinet members, including the former home secretary Sajid Javid.

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Home Secretary to lift post-study restrictions for International students

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called for a lifting of post-study work restrictions for International students in the UK. It was announced on 7 June that he had accepted Jo Johnson’s (former University Minister) clause for students at recognised universities to have an automatic right to stay on to work for two years on their Tier 4 student visa.

The earlier Post Study Scheme was replaced with a 4 month stay in 2012 by then Home Secretary Theresa May in an attempt to lower net migration figures. However, recently the government acknowledged that this causes issues and announced it would raise this to 6 months. Mr. Javid wrote on Financial Times: “It makes no sense to send some of the brightest and most enterprising people in the world straight home after their time here.”

Sajid Javid is a contender for the Conservative party leadership and his announcement was welcomed by UK universities and student community. Sajid Javid has received a huge boost to his Conservative party leadership campaign after securing the support of Ruth Davidson in the battle for Downing Street. It is not yet clear when this will be implemented and we will update this article as and when more news on the topic arise.

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Stateless child

Immigration Rule Changes for Stateless Applicants

The Stateless applicants are considered under Part 14 of the immigration rules paragraph 401 to 416 which sets put the rules and requirements in detail.

The key change that is being introduced,  increase the initial period of leave for those who qualify from 30 months to five years’ limited leave, after which they can apply for settlement. It is also now required that, in order to qualify for stateless leave, the applicant must show that they cannot acquire a nationality or a right to permanent residence in another country to which they may be entitled. This may be problematic in most cases to prove the negative.  It is also worth noting that applications for stateless leave will be refused where a person does not provide sufficient evidence that they have taken such steps, even if they are technically ‘stateless’ because they do not hold a nationality at the time of their application. There are also other minor changes in respect of family members.

The rules are made stricter to avoid abuse and to prevent applications from those  who can acquire the nationality of another country but choose not to. The changes are unlikely to impact the registering for British citizenship under nationality act.

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