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2018 has been an eventful year for immigration - here is our news round up. We also look ahead to 2019.
There have been several changes affecting Tier 2 Sponsors. The most significant change came with the announcement in June 2018 by the Home Secretary that all NHS nurses and doctors would be removed from the Tier 2 visa cap, thus freeing up these Tier 2 visas for use by employers in other sectors. Prior to this, the Tier 2 cap had been exceeded each month from December 2017 to July 2018, which meant that many employers could not secure visas for individuals they were seeking to hire from overseas. Further information about this is set out in our alert below.
In September this year, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its long awaited recommendations for work migration post Brexit, following which an Immigration Bill is awaited. The Bill is expected to include some of the MAC’s recommendations, but at this point it is still uncertain as to whether or not the government will follow the MAC’s recommendation to reduce low skilled migration from the EU, given the likely impact this will have on certain sectors in the UK.
Earlier this year the government announced that the Immigration Health Surcharge would double from £200 to £400 per annum for all non EEA migrants, including Tier 2 migrants (students and Tier 5 youth mobility migrants will see an increase from £150 to £300 per annum). This is due to be introduced at some point after 19 December.
Another significant event over the past year for UK employers has been the protracted negotiations with the EU over the draft UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement, particularly in relation to citizens’ rights. Under this Agreement, a draft of which was published in March, the UK Government has introduced an EU Settlement Scheme to enable EU nationals living in the UK to apply for settled status or limited leave to remain under the Immigration Rules. The Government has recently confirmed that it will unilaterally allow EU nationals living in the UK on 29 March 2019 (Brexit day) to apply under the Scheme. In the event that the Agreement is finally approved, then all EU nationals arriving in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 will be able to apply under the Scheme. If there is no deal, the position remains uncertain for EU national arrivals after Brexit day, until new Immigration Rules are introduced in January 2021.
In May, the Immigration Minister announced the roll-out of a new process for dealing with visa applications submitted within the UK, as part of the Government’s digitalisation programme. Under the new process, all visa applications will be submitted online, supporting documents can be uploaded as part of the application process and the biometric enrolment process will be completely outsourced to a new provider, Sopra Steria. Under the new process, called the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service, the Home Office is offering standard processing times of between 8 weeks and 6 months, priority processing within 5 days for Tier 2 and investor applications and super priority for next day processing of Tier 2 applications and some other application types. The new priority and super priority visa processing service replaces the former priority postal service and premium 24 hour service respectively. This new system was rolled out in November and a number of new biometric enrolment centres have opened in London and around the country. Although six core biometric enrolment centres around the country, including one in London, will not charge for enrolling biometric data, new fees have been introduced for attending a biometric appointment in 50 local libraries around the country. They will charge a flat rate fee of £60 to enrol biometrics. Add on services including out of hours enrolment or an expedited appointment slot are available at all centres for a fee of £100 for each specified service. There is also a Premium Lounge in London where fees for a standard appointment are £200 or £260 for an out of hours slot. These fees are in addition to the usual Home Office visa processing fees. An On-Demand (VIP) service replaces the Super Premium Service, which is being offered by another provider, BLS.
In May, following months of coverage in the media, the Home Office was forced to take action in connection with the Windrush saga and the problems being encountered by many Commonwealth citizens in proving their right of residence and/or British citizenship. (See our blog on: The hostile environment extends to Commonwealth citizens.)
Detailed below are the key events and changes which we have publicised over the last 12 months.
The Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes has since confirmed this in a written statement to Parliament on 6 December 2018 and also stated the Government’s intention to introduce a new innovator visa to replace the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, again with an emphasis on endorsement by a business sponsor. There will also be reform of the Tier 1 (Investor) route. It is proposed that these changes will be introduced in the Spring of 2019.
Summary of recommendations for work migration post-Brexit (19 September 2018)
There are a number of important immigration changes coming up in 2018, not least the long awaited new Immigration Bill, which is widely expected to outline details of a completely new immigration system.
The MAC has recommended that EU nationals should not receive preferential treatment and should therefore be treated in the same way as other non-EU migrants. If the Government follows this recommendation, then this would be reflected in the new immigration regime. This would come into effect in January 2020 (in the event of a no-deal Brexit) or at the end of an implementation period (if the Withdrawal Agreement as currently drafted comes into effect). Of course, if we leave the EU under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement or negotiate a favourable trade agreement with the EU, preferential treatment may be afforded to EU nationals. Events occurring over the next few months leading up to 29 March 2019 (Brexit day) will therefore have a huge impact on the timing of any new changes.
As mentioned above, Immigration Rule changes in April 2019 are likely to include significant changes to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Investor) routes.
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