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Is it the beginning of the end for UK immigration?

View profile for Louis Harman
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The Government has made a number of important proposals in recent weeks and months relating to the overhaul of immigration in the UK. This article aims to round up and summarise some of the key immigration changes that have taken place so far in 2016, along with a forecast of what is on the horizon.

 

Brexit result

On 24 June 2016 it was confirmed that the UK had voted to leave the European Union. The Government recently announced that the legal procedure for leaving the EU (Article 50) will be triggered by no later than March 2017.

For now, at least, the rights for European Citizens to enter and reside in the UK remains unchanged. There is some debate as to whether post-Brexit these Citizens will be granted some form of concession under the UK Immigration Law or whether they will fall into the pool of regular ‘visa nationals’ and be subject to the full rules and regulations of immigration control.

For European Citizens currently in the UK, it is generally advised that individuals consider applying for their ‘document certifying permanent residence’ or take advice on when / how they can apply for such a document. 

 

Visa application fee uplift

The Government has already begun a process of uplifting visa application fees in order to reduce the amount of taxpayer funds which go towards supporting the current immigration and citizenship system. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the immigration system is entirely funded by application fees.

Shorter term work, study and visit visas have only been affected by around 2% so far, but settlement, residence and nationality applications have been increased by around 25%.

This is a taste of what is yet to come, as application fees will continue to increase over the next 3-4 years as UKVI moves closer to achieving the objective of being self-funded.

 

Tier 2 work visa reforms

Tier 2 is the visa route available that allows employers to recruit skilled international workers. It also shifts many of the ‘immigration control’ duties of UKVI onto employers directly.

Following a comprehensive report from the Migration Advisory Committee, the Home Office is introducing a series of reforms to Tier 2 which includes an increase in minimum salary thresholds, a change of focus away from skilled workers and towards graduate recruitment, and also the introduction of a ‘skills surcharge’ which aims to encourage firms to recruit and train UK national workers.

For existing Tier 2 employers there are a lot of changes to prepare for. Employers need to be ready to hit the ground running to ensure that they do not fall foul of the penalties imposed for non-compliance, which can include fines and the revocation of the business’s sponsor license.

 

Right to Rent checks

Following a trial period in the West Midlands, from the 1 February 2016, residential landlords in England are required to carry out Right to Rent checks on all persons being granted a right to occupy residential premises. Just like with the Tier 2 system, this is yet another area where ‘immigration control’ duties are being delegated out to people who are not trained in matters of Immigration law.

These provisions are a minefield for both Landlords and Agents, as there are fines involved with non-compliance. Compliance is fairly simple where non-UK/EU tenants have all their documents in order, but where immigration applications or appeals are being processed it can put landlords in dangerous territory.

To complicate matters further, Amber Rudd has recently announced that she will be putting into force the provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 which create criminal offences for non-compliance with the Right to Rent check legislation. It is therefore of paramount importance that landlord get up to speed on this area of law and ensure they know what is coming in the near future. 

 

Tribunal fee uplift

For some people the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal represents the last hope for applying to remain in the UK in circumstances where an Immigration application is rejected. For international families, refugees and those who fall victim to serious procedurally errors in the Immigration system, the fees are expected to increase by around 500%.

This means that a paper decision will increase from £80 to £490 and an oral hearing from £140 to £800. Additional fees will also be introduced for appeals.

The overall forecast for immigration is therefore turbulent. We are entering into a period of great uncertainty in the European perspective whilst general UK immigration systems are set to undergo a serious of harsh and strict reforms. The upshot appears to be that we are moving towards a system of tighter controls, particularly in terms of financial control.

If you believe any of the above will effect you, your family or your business, or you would like to discuss any of these matters in more detail, please contact Louis Harman at louis.harman@chattertons.com

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