UK Government must revise immigration policy to keep talented overseas arts students in the UK

 

Some of the most acclaimed individuals from the arts – spanning film, fashion, fine art, design, drama, dance and music – have studied in the UK. Not only that, but we have also allowed them to stay on and work after their studies, enriching the cultural life of the UK. However, this is at risk as a result of the UK government’s approach to immigration.

International students currently have to earn a minimum salary of £20,800 (considerably more in some professions) to qualify for a work visa after their studies. They must also be employed by a single employer. These requirements do not reflect the reality of the creative and cultural industries, and we support the former universities minister David Willetts and the all-party parliamentary group on migration, who both say that greater flexibility is needed.

Whatever the makeup of the next government, it must think again about the UK’s immigration policy. The rethink should begin with the removal of students from any immigration target set for the next parliament and an increase in opportunities for qualified international graduates to remain in the UK once they finish their degree. Otherwise, if we do not act, we risk losing a generation of talented individuals to our competitors.


 

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Britain’s FinTech industry would suffer on tighter immigration controls

Britain’s financial technology industry could face a dearth of suitable employees to fill job positions if the next government tightens controls over immigration, says recruitment firm Morgan McKinley.

According to the Morgan McKinley London Employment Monitor, banks and financial services are the industries that are the most prolific in looking for suitable workers in tech. Morgan McKinley say that they usually buoy up hires from the international market.

“Immigration is becoming a theme in the UK elections and any regulatory tightening on immigration could have a negative effect on the burgeoning UK fintech sector and is a cause for concern to companies in the London,” said Hakan Enver, Operations Director, Morgan McKinley Financial Services. “Whilst there is much dialogue about the lack of roles available for home grown talent, the volume of opportunities doesn’t necessarily indicate that this is the case.

“With these regulatory demands and ever evolving change programmes, there is a continual need to source talent from international markets, simply because demand outweighs supply.”

Immigration is a hot topic for Britain’s biggest political parties as migrant inflows reached a “statistically significant” level last year.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 624,000 people immigrated to Britain,in the year ending September 2014. This is an increase on the 530,000 in the previous 12 months.

All political parties have said they’d try to more tightly control the number of migrants coming into the UK but the methods and measurements pledged, depend on the party.

Meanwhile, Morgan McKinley’s report showed that there was a 19% overall increase in professional services jobs in March, compared with the previous month.

However, only 1% of workers are looking to move. Over the last year, professionals seeking new roles decreased by 4%.

Morgan McKinley said that the recent CBI/PwC Financial Services Survey supports its own employment market assessment as there was a significant increase in optimism in the financial sector, with 59% of financial services firms saying they were more positive than three months ago.

“UK banks are reporting growing confidence, steep revenue growth and increasing profitability, despite an unexpected stagnation in business volumes. Banks are more positive about credit risk, as the value of non-performing loans are expected to remain low in the next quarter. Additionally, industry commentators do not expect interest rates to rise in the near future” said Kevin Burrowes, UK financial services leader at PwC.

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Immigration Health Surcharge for Non EEA Applicants

You may need to pay a healthcare surcharge (called the ‘immigration health surcharge’) as part of your immigration application.

For visa applications made outside the UK, you’ll have to pay if:

  • you’re a national of a country outside the European Economic Area
  • you’re applying for a visa to work, study or join your family in the UK for more than 6 months (but you’re not applying to permanently remain in the UK)
  • you’ve applied and paid your visa fee on or after 6 April 2015

For immigration applications made from within the UK, you’ll have to pay if:

  • you’re a national of a country outside the EEA
  • you’re making an immigration application for any length of time (but you’re not applying to permanently remain in the UK)
  • you’ve applied and paid your application fee on or after 6 April 2015

When you’ll need an IHS reference number

You still need to use the service to get an immigration health surcharge (IHS) reference number but you won’t need to pay if:

  • you’re applying for a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa (or you’re their dependant)
  • you’re a child under 18 who has been taken into care by a local authority
  • you’re a national of Australia or New Zealand
  • you’re the dependant of a member of the UK’s armed forces
  • you’re the dependant of a member of another country’s forces who is exempt from immigration control
  • you’re a relevant civilian employee employed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) or the Australian Department of Defence in the UK (or you’re their dependant)

The service will tell you that you don’t have to pay anything and will give you your healthcare surcharge reference number for your application.

You’ll be able to use the National Health Service (NHS) even if you’re exempt from paying.

When you don’t have to pay or get an IHS reference number

You don’t need to get an IHS reference number or pay the healthcare surcharge if:

  • you’re applying for a visitor visa
  • you’re applying for indefinite leave to remain
  • you’re a diplomat or a member of a visiting armed forces and not subject to immigration control
  • you’re a family member of a European national with European Union treaty rights
  • you’re applying for a visa for the Isle of Man or Channel Islands
  • you’re a British Overseas Territory citizen resident in the Falkland Islands
  • you’re an asylum seeker or applying for humanitarian protection (or you’re their dependant)
  • you’ve been identified as a victim of human trafficking (or you’re their dependant)
  • the Home Office’s domestic violence concession applies to you (or you’re their dependant))
  • being made to leave the UK would be against your rights under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (or you’re their dependant)

You’ll be able to use the National Health Service (NHS) if you’re exempt from paying – except if you’re on a visitor visa (you’ll have to pay for care you get through the NHS at the point you use it).

You’ll have to pay:

  • £150 per year as a student
  • £200 per year for all other visa and immigration applications

If you have any dependants, they will usually need to pay the same amount as you.

The exact amount you have to pay depends on how much leave you’re granted. You can calculate how much you’ll have to pay before you apply.

You’ll pay half of the yearly amount if your application includes part of a year that is less than 6 months.

You’ll pay for a whole year if you’re application includes part of a year that is more than 6 months.

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Changes to visa process for applicants travelling from India to UK for more than 6 months

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From 15 April 2015 Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) for non-EEA nationals travelling to live in the UK for more than six months will begin to be issued to visa applicants in India. The changes will affect those applying to join family in the UK, as well as students and workers applying for a longer stay visa.

From this date, applicants will receive a 30 day sticker in their passport instead of a ‘vignette’ with the full grant of leave. The 30 day vignette will be dated from an applicant’s intended date of travel.

Applicants will be required to collect their BRP from a designated post office within ten days of arrival in the UK. The BRP card can then be used as proof of the right to work, study and access public services in the UK. The card will also need to be presented when travelling in and out of the UK, along with a valid travel document.

BRPs will be introduced globally throughout 2015, in line with European Council regulations.

Applicants will receive a letter, at the same time as they receive their visa, which provides detailed information about how to collect their BRP on arrival. See here for further information for overseas visa applicants.

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Good week for our clients….. Tier 2 General Visas Granted

This week seems to really good for our clients with 2 Positive Tier 2 General outcomes in the last few days.The Client was mislead by a lot of Advisers/Solicitors Before and coming to us and was about to head back home as he exhausted all appeal rights and deadlines for applications. With our detailed representations to the employer ( Leading High Street Bank ) and to the home office, we have managed to obtain an approval today for a Tier 2 General Visa

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New immigration rules for visitors to the United Kingdom

American Visa (XL)

A new set of rules for visitors to the United Kingdom has been introduced to take effect on all applications made on or after 24 April 2015. The changes are brought about by Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules HC 1025. The changes were billed in advance as a simplification of the old rules. Closer inspection reveals a reduction in the number of categories of visitor but a great deal of added complexity to the way the rules are drafted and a new set of sub-appendices to the appendices. The Home Office is unique in the universe for its immunity to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, it seems.

First of all, the definitions of the different categories of visitor at paragraph 6 to the Immigration Rules are all scrapped, as are paragraphs 40 to 56Z of the Immigration Rules. Some transitional arrangements are inserted here instead, including the following:

From 24 April 2015 the following provisions of these rules will not apply to visitors, except where specifically provided for in Appendix V: Immigration Rules for Visitors:

a. Paragraph 6;
b. Part 1;
c. Part 9;
d. Appendix 1;
e. Appendix R.

The definitions, application formality, general grounds and visa national requirements of the Immigration Rules are disapplied to visitors? Whoa, there! But not all is at it seems.

Ominously, a new Appendix V is inserted. This is not, as far as I can see, a sign of imminent invasion by cunningly disguised and scientifically advanced lizards. Although it would explain a lot about Theresa May. Nor is it a reference to any sort ofmasked anarchist revolutionary out to free us from our fascist overlords. Unfortunately. It is… Appendix V: Immigration Rules for Visitors.

Appendix V itself begins at page 183 of the Statement of Changes. It is broken into parts and Part V1 opens with a pithy and plain language definition of what a visitor is considered to be:

A visitor is a person who is coming to the UK, usually for up to six months, for a temporary purpose, for example as a tourist, to visit friends or family or to carry out a business activity.

The plain language continues with an explanation of the need to obtain permission to enter the UK with either a visit visa or leave to enter, that visa nationals must apply for a visit visa before travelling and that non visa nationals may apply before travelling but do not need to. Words which have specific legal definitions are in italics and the reader is told that the definitions are set out in “Appendix 1″. Further reading reveals this to be intended to refer to a new “Visitors Appendix 1″, which is very different to “Appendix 1″, which I initially thought must have been scrapped.

Experienced immigration lawyers will start to think the requirements sound eerily familiar. It gradually dawns on the expert reader that the plain language is an explanation of the effects of other parts of the Immigration Rules, namely the disapplied Part 1. This attempt at explaining things in plain language is admirable, although having to cross reference different sub appendices to appendices to the rules is somewhat less than convenient or simple. Hyperlinking or “mouse over” definitions would be marvellous for this internet age but seems unlikely given gov.uk is stuck using pdf documents. I confess I have not combed through to see whether all of the requirements at part 1 have been translated or not. Leave a comment if you spot anything missing or additional.

Next we learn that there are to be four categories of visitor, with frankly alarmingly varied use of capitalisation and parentheses:

  • visit (standard)
  • marriage / civil partnership visit
  • Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) visit and
  • Transit visit.

A table tells us for how long each type of visit visa might be granted. Here, the simplicity of the new categories breaks down. Standard visits will be granted 6 months leave, unless they are for private medical treatment in which case up to 11 months can be granted, or are by an academic as defined, who can be granted up to 12 months as may family members, or a visitor under the Approved Destination Status Agreement can be granted a measly 30 days. Marriage and civil partnership visitors get 6 months, PPE-ists only a month and transit visas 48 hours.

Part V2 tells us about how to make a visit visa application (apply online, pay the fee, etc.), that the date of application will usually be considered to be the date the fee is paid and that withdrawal of the application will not result in return of the fee. This all replaces Part 1 of the rules again.

Part V3 is entitled “suitability requirements for all visitors”. Jane Austen would weep. In fact this part reintroduces the otherwise disapplied general grounds for refusal from paragraph 320 of the Immigration Rules but in plain English, re-entry bans and all. Glancing through it, it looks like a faithful transposition, but I would not be surprised if something had gone astray in this translation exercise. Skipping ahead, Part V9 does the same for grounds for cancelling or curtailing a visit visa.

The Austen theme continues into Part V4, entitled “eligibility requirements for visitors (standard)”. Once again the attempt to simplify the old categories breaks down, with different eligibility criteria for visitors who are children, seeking private medical treatment, donating an organ, ADS agreement visitors and academics seeking a 12 month visit visa. Moving on, though, the next sections seem to me to be a genuine improvement on the old rules, grouping together the old requirements in a more sensible way.

Firstly, we have the “genuine intention to visit” requirement:

V 4.2 The applicant must satisfy the decision maker that they are a genuine visitor. This means that the applicant:

(a) will leave the UK at the end of their visit; and

(b) will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home; and

(c) is genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes (these are listed in Appendices 3, 4 and 5); and

(d) will not undertake any prohibited activities set out in V 4.5 – V 4.10; and

(e) must have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit without working or accessing public funds. This includes the cost of the return or onward journey, any costs relating to dependants, and the cost of planned activities such as private medical treatment.

As far as I can see there are no new requirements, but this rewriting of the rules makes things clearer to the non lawyer than hitherto.

The next section is on maintenance, and this once again seems to me to be an improvement:

V 4.3 A visitor’s travel, maintenance and accommodation may be provided by a third party where the decision maker is satisfied that they:

(a) have a genuine professional or personal relationship with the visitor; and

(b) are legally present in the UK, or will be at the time of the visitor’s entry to theUK; and

(c) can and will provide support to the visitor for the intended duration of their stay.

V 4.4 The third party may be asked to give an undertaking in writing to be responsible for the applicant’s maintenance and accommodation. In this case paragraph 35 of Part 1 of these Rules applies also to Visitors. An applicant will normally be refused where, having been requested to do so, the applicant fails to provide a valid written undertaking from a third party to be responsible for their maintenance and accommodation for the period of any visit.

A number of prohibited activities are then set out in the next paragraphs, which again seems an improvement on the old version of the rules. It looks like there have been some tweaks to the old rules here to facilitate business visits.

Part V5 sets out the eligibility requirements for PPE-ists, Part V6 those for marriage or civil partnership visitors and Part V7 those for transit visitors.

Rules on extensions of visit visas (and the maximum duration to which they can be extended) are set out in Part V8.

Reading on (and on) we reach page 200 of the Statement of Changes and the start of “Visitors Appendix 1″, the one with the definitions. These are all useful, although whether any ordinary human or indeed visitor would ever get this far is rather open to question. “Appendix 2″ (with no “reference to visits this time) sets out the visa nationals list that used to be and indeed still is set out at the main “Appendix 1″ to the Immigration Rules.

“Visitors Appendix 3″ (the reference to visits is back for this one) sets out permitted activities for all visitors except for transit visitors. This is very much NOT a simple list of permitted activities for all visitors. ADS visitors are limited to activities listed at paragraph 3 only: “A visitor may visit friends and family and / or come to the UK for a holiday.” Other activities seem to be tied to the visitor possessing certain attributes, such as being a scientist (does “freelance scientist” count?), being a prospective entrepreneur, being an academic, being an expert witness and so on. And on.

“Visitors Appendix 4″ sets out what reads as an exhaustive list of permitted paid engagements and “Visitors Appendix 5″ sets out the list of permit free festivals at which an artist, entertainer or musician visiting the UK may receive payment at which to perform. Appropriately, the V Festival is listed.

And there we have it. A new dawn of simplified rules is upon us.

In related news, student visitors are rebranded as “Persons seeking to enter the UK for short-term study” and moved to new paragraph A57A to A57H of the rules. The “parent of a child at school” route is rebranded as “parent of a Tier 4 (child) student” and placed into Part 7 of the Immigration Rules.

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Home Office publishes new directions on investigation of marriages involving non EEA national partners

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The Home Office has today published new guidance for its decision makers and investigation officers covering:

  • the factors to be considered when deciding to investigate a proposed marriage or civil partnership which has been referred to the Secretary of State on the grounds that one or both or the partners is neither a citizen of the UK or another EEC country or Switzerland and who might be considered to be gaining an immigration advantage from such a marriage or civil partnership;
  • the conduct of an investigation in these circumstances; and
  • in deciding whether or not each of the parties to a proposed marriage or civil partnership subject to an investigation under the scheme has complied with that investigation (“the compliance decision”).

The guidance arises from provisions of the Immigration Act 2014 which, from 2 March 2015 have extended the marriage and civil partnership notice period from 15 days to 28 days for all couples in marrying following civil preliminaries or forming a civil partnership, and required all couples involving a non-European Economic Area (non-EEA)/non-Swiss national who wish to marry in the Anglican Church in England and Wales to complete civil preliminaries and give notice at a register office and be subject to the 28-day notice period.

The Act also provides the basis for the introduction of “a referral and investigation scheme for proposed marriages and civil partnerships across the UK involving a non-EEA national who could benefit in immigration terms”

This scheme requires that “All proposed marriages and civil partnerships in the UK involving a non-EEA national with limited or no immigration status in the UK, or who does not provide specified evidence that they are exempt from the scheme , are to be referred to the Secretary of State by the registration official.”

The guidance explains that “The Secretary of State will assess all referrals against intelligence- and evidence-.based risk profiles and other information to identify suspect proposed marriages and civil partnerships, and then consider in these cases whether there are reasonable grounds to suspect a sham marriage or civil partnership. Where the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to suspect a sham and at least one of the parties is not exempt from the scheme, she may decide to investigate whether the marriage or civil partnership is a sham.”

In the event that suspicion does arise the official responsible for registering the marriage or civil partnership will service a direction on the couple which has the effect of notice period from 28 days to 70 days in order to  allow the Home Office “to investigate and take appropriate enforcement or casework action where a sham is established.”  During this time the couple will be unable to get married or enter into a civil partnership on the basis of that notice if they do not comply with an investigation under the scheme.

The guidance directs that an investigation will be carried out whenever:

A) One of the parties stands to benefit in immigration terms from the marriage/civil partnership; and

B) Where there is suspicion that “there is no genuine relationship between the parties”, and the proposed marriage/civil partnership is therefore a “sham”.

The factors to be taken into consideration to decide whether the proposed marriage might be a sham include assessment against risk factors which arise from reports by marriage registration officials on activities concerning these matters in their local areas with an additional review of the immigration record of the parties and any additional information concerning their criminal activity.

Where these facts are present and it is otherwise considered warranted the parties may be subject to additional scrutiny to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the proposed marriage or civil partnership is a sham.The guidance goes on to provide further directions on the conduct of investigations, including, the purpose of investigation; the means by which it shall be conducted; the provision of information, evidence or photographs; and the interviewing of the parties.

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User Pays Visa Application Centre fee frozen and changes to the network

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Visas and Immigration announces that it will hold fee at £59 for User Pays Visa Application Centres.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) today announced changes to the User Pays Visa Application Centre (VAC) Network which will see the global fee stay at £59 across all locations. The fee was previously due to rise on 6 April to £70.

This change is possible because of the decision to convert a small number of currently free to use application points into User Pay centres in early May. In all these locations (Ikeja, Mirpur, Sylhet) applicants will continue to have access to at least one other free to use application centre in that country. Applicants at these centres will also benefit from service enhancements, including longer opening hours (where there is demand) and a courier return service saving customers the time and cost of returning to the VAC to collect their documents.

The changes we are making now are part of longer term strategy to increase the number and range of different ways that people overseas can apply for visas to the UK over the next couple of years.

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Temporary passport extension stamp ends for British citizens living abroad

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Provisional measure to help British passport holders abroad ends as turnaround times improve

British citizens living abroad will need to apply to renew their passports online or at local offices as usual, as one of the contingency measures brought in to cope with the exceptional demand last year comes to an end.

The Home Secretary announced the introduction of the 12 month extension stamp for overseas customers in June last year. More than 20,000 customers benefited from the contingency measure, which was brought in to prevent the disruption of travel plans.

With passport demand returning to expected levels, the Home Secretary has reviewed the provision and from 10 April all British passport holders overseas will need to make their renewal applications online or in a local passport office, following the guidance for their country of residence on GOV.UK.

Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) will be contacting all of those who hold a passport with an extension stamp, at least two months before the expiry of their stamp, to encourage them to renew their passports.

Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said:

Following the significant demand for passports last year, the Home Secretary introduced 12-month extension stamps so that those British passport holders abroad whose passports were about to expire could travel.

This was a temporary measure to ensure that international customers were still able to travel during what was an exceptional period of demand.

Overseas turnaround times have improved significantly and are now well within service standards. But we still encourage all overseas passport holders to apply in good time to avoid disruption to their travel plans.

HMPO will provide a seven working day service for those customers with an extension stamp if they submit all the correct documentation to HMPO in the UK within a specified period of six weeks of being contacted.

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Labour vows to ban indefinite detention of asylum and immigration applicants

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Labour has promised to introduce new time limits on the detention of people trapped in the asylum and immigration system in a move that would bring Britain into line with most other western countries by banning indefinite detention.

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, described the current system as inefficient and “deeply scarring” for those trapped in detention centres such as Yarl’s Wood.

The proposal is bound to be controversial, with critics claiming it would allow asylum and immigration applicants to abscond into the community once they are released. But the idea of a time limit has the broad support of the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick.

Cooper’s announcement is a response to growing delays in immigration and asylum processes over the past five years, with more people being detained for longer than three months, fewer decisions being made and fewer people being removed from the country. The number of people being held for three to six months has risen from 1,757 in 2010 to 2,385 last year. In 2014, 700 people were held for up to a year. A recent home affairs select committee inquiry found that two people had been detained for more than four years.

The chief inspector of prisons has said that “at least a third, and getting on for half, of all detainees are released back into the community” anyway. Cooper said Labour would launch a consultation on the appropriate limits to detention length and the appropriate safeguards for detention decision-making.

An all-party parliamentary inquiry has proposed 28 days and others less time. Many are detained for a few days and Labour does not want to put perverse incentives into the system so the new maximum time turns into the norm.

One option would be to increase reporting requirements for asylum applicants awaiting a decision. Labour has already announced that it will end indefinite detention for pregnant women and those who have suffered sexual violence.

In a bid to reassure voters that Labour would not leave thousands of asylum applicants to disappear into the community, she said her party would also recruit 1,000 additional border and immigration enforcement staff – paid for by levying a charge on non-visa visitors to the UK – to help speed up the process of decision-making, identifying breaches in the immigration rules, and enforcing removals.

Labour officials stressed that people with no right to be in the UK – through breaching the immigration rules or as a result of a failed asylum claim – should depart or be removed, with the minimum necessary detention and a fair, speedy decision-making process. It is widely accepted that the current system of removals is not working – leading to political gimmicks such as the Home Office’s “go home” vans touring the streets of Londonin a bid to persuade illegal immigrants to leave the country.

They also stressed that those who have committed criminal offences and were being deported because of their criminal behaviour, or those who posed a threat to UK national security or public safety, would not have recourse to the time limit.

Announcing the plans at an event in Birmingham on Thursday, Cooper will say: “The immigration detention system isn’t working.

“Immigration and asylum rules need to be enforced, but they must also be humane. Over the last few years we have seen growing numbers of people being detained for longer as a result of delays in deciding their case.

“Indefinite detention of people who have committed no crime – and without even any independent review – is wrong. It can be deeply scarring – especially for asylum seekers who have already suffered abuse. And it is extremely expensive for taxpayers. No other western nation does it. We don’t need to either.”

Zrinka Bralo, a Citizens UK campaign leader, expressed her delight, saying: “Indefinite detention is a stain on the character of Britain. Detaining people indefinitely in prison-like conditions without judicial oversight is unfair, unjust, ineffective and inhumane. It destroys lives and breaks up families. The current system has a high human cost, but it also has huge financial implications for the taxpayer, who have to fund holding people in expensive, prison-like conditions.

“This isn’t about an open-door immigration policy; it’s about establishing a time limit to help ensure that refugees and migrants are treated with dignity while they are here, on their way in and on their way out.”

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