UK – new rules for EU / EEA citizens looking to apply for British citizenship
An unexpected change in the UK Nationality regulations now makes the process harder for EU / EEA citizens looking to become British citizens.
Effective from November 2015, all EU citizens (and EEA citizens) in the UK must first apply for and be issued a permanent residence document before being eligible for British citizenship. This is a big change from the process up to now where EU citizens (and their family members) could apply directly for British citizenship after reaching the residential qualifying period. Now the process involves 2 steps – firstly applying for permanent residence and then secondly a separate application for citizenship.
Applying for permanent residence is not straightforward. Such applications can easily take up to 6 months to be processed and involve a comprehensive account of the applicant’s residence in the UK for 5 years under EU law. The full 5 year period needs to be accounted for with strong evidence of residence under EU law such as a worker, self-employed person, student or self-sufficient person.
If successful, the applicant is issued a permanent residence document. An applicant can then apply for citizenship after living in the UK for 1 more year. An exception is made for those already married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen – in those cases, the applicant is not required to complete the additional 1 year after permanent residence.
All EU / EEA applicants for British citizenship need to be aware of the other main requirements for citizenship, including;
• English language ability – meeting the required evidence on this
• Passing the Life in the UK test
• Meeting the good character test
• Residence in the UK – within the guidelines on permitted days absence
UK – new Tier 2 (General) points test for Certificates of Sponsorship
Back in April 2011, an annual cap of 20,700 Tier 2 (General) visas was introduced. The cap created an annual limit on the number of workers that UK employers could sponsor to come from overseas.
The 20,700 available places are issued on a monthly allocation (issued as Certificates of Sponsorship) but it is only in the last few months that demand has exceeded the available places. This means a “cap” or numerical limit being reached each month.
Once demand exceeds supply, the available places are allocated on a points system. This works out the points score of each applicant and then ranks them accordingly.
The Home Office has now amended the points system to prioritize high earners and those on the shortage occupation list.
The points system is biased towards offered salary, meaning that in time if demand continues to exceed the monthly allocation, then those who are paid more will get priority in the allocation.
Employers need to be aware of this in their forward planning for recruiting overseas workers who will require a restricted Certificate of Sponsorship.
Australia – Cap and Cease for certain subclasses
The Australian Department of Immigration have recently taken the highly controversial step of implementing a “cap and cease” policy on certain visa subclasses.
All visa applicants who have been patiently waiting in a queue for the Skilled Independent subclass 175, Skilled Sponsored subclass 176 and Skilled Regional Sponsored subclass 475 are now subject to “cap and cease”. This caps the number of applications that can be made in a subclass in a certain year and then deems all remaining applications not to have been made. In effect – applications are discarded despite applicants applying correctly at the time and waiting for many years.
Applicants affected by this have been invited by the Department of Immigration to apply for a refund of their application fee.
This decision has left many applicants dismayed and outraged by the manner in which this has been done, after waiting patiently for many years.
We now understand that legal action against the Department of Immigration is being planned in Australia.
Australia – Engineers in Demand
Engineering professionals looking to move to Australia for work should be aware of the option to secure permanent residence and not rely on an employer sponsored visa.
In the last few years, the Australian government have reduced the numbers of occupations that are eligible for Skilled Independent migration and instead are moving to steer their migration programme towards employer sponsored visas. This allows an applicant to work for a specific employer in a specific position. But work visas do not readily allow an applicant to move from one employer to another, or indeed to switch positions with the same employer. In effect, the applicant is “tied” to the sponsoring employer and position.
Despite the reduction in the number of occupations on the Skilled Occupation List – many engineering occupations are still present on the list for Skilled Independent migration. The main entry requirement is usually a relevant degree and at least 1 years’ work experience.
This can include Professional Engineers, Engineering Technologists and Engineering Technicians across a range of disciplines.
Before one can apply for Skilled Independent migration, an applicant must have received a positive Skills Assessment and meet the basic entry requirements on age and English language. The Skills Assessment still remains a vitally important and time consuming part of the process for all applicants. This involves an assessment of the applicant’s qualifications and work experience.
Once the Skills Assessment is passed, the next stage is usually to apply for permanent residence through the Skilled Independent subclass. This is a points tested system, with the main points awarded as follows;
Diploma / Trade Qualification
Bachelor Degree / Masters Degree
English Language Ability
The required Pass Mark to attain for an application is 60 points.
Applicants can also be awarded extra points for; Australian qualifications, Australian employment experience, State / Territory sponsorship, Partner skills, Sponsorship by an eligible relative living in Australia.
The main advantage to Skilled Independent migration is that it allows the applicant to secure full permanent residence at the outset without needing an offer of employment.
It can be seen that many Engineers can score highly on this points test providing a pathway to permanent residence in Australia.
The overall timeframe to secure permanent residence is around 6- 9 months.
Obviously, occupations are present on the Skilled Occupation List for Australia due to a recognised demand. Therefore, Engineers can be confident that their inclusion on the list means very good employment prospects Down Under.
Please see our Free Guide on Engineering in Australia