UNITED KINGDOM – IMMIGRATION UPDATE

There have been several recent developments in UK immigration law as follows;

* An increase in the level of maintenance funds required for applicants and dependants in Points Based applications such as Tier 1 and Tier 2.

* The government deciding to close the Tier 1 General extension category in 2015 and close Indefinite Leave to Remain for Tier 1 General applicants in 2018.

* Tier 2 visas will be able to be issued for up to 5 years

* New visa application centres are being introduced outside the UK to facilitate those applying for UK visas. These new centres are being introduced in the following countries; Australia, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Italy, Egypt, Jordan, Canada and Fiji.

* The Court of Appeal has been hearing the MM case on the legality of the UK spouse minimum income rules. This important case will have a huge bearing on UK family migration applications. However, judgement is not expected for up to 3 months.

* Our free Online Assessment Form

UK visa categories 2013

So far in 2013, we have seen changes in UK immigration reflecting the current government’s policy of reducing migration. The following is an up to date summary of some of the key UK visa categories that may be relevant to actuaries;

Tier 2 (General)
This is the main category for UK employers to recruit overseas employees.

The employer will need to demonstrate that they have carried out a standard recruitment search or “Resident Labour Market Test” before offering the position to an overseas employee. In 2012 certain actuarial occupations (especially in life assurance, general insurance, and health and care sectors) were exempt from this “Resident Labour Market Test” being seen as acute shortage occupations. However, in April 2013 the UK Border Agency removed these actuarial occupations from the shortage list.

Actuarial employers have a variety of different options open to them to advertise in meeting the “Resident Labour Market Test”. This can include using a recruitment agency, advertising on their company website or through external job-boards.

UK employers who do not have a sponsorship licence cannot look to recruit employees to work for them on Tier 2 (General) visas.
Employers who possess a sponsorship licence can request an increased allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship. This is especially important if the employer has already allocated all available Certificates of Sponsorship and still wishes to recruit further employees.

Tier 1 – Post Study Work visas
This visa category was closed to new applicants in April 2012.

Those who possess existing Post Study Work visas can still remain and work in the UK throughout the validity of their visa (up to 2 years in most cases)

Tier 1 (General) / HSMP visas
These visa categories are now closed to new applicants. Those currently in the UK on these visas can extend their stay and later apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Both extension applications and ILR applicants are points tested based on age, qualifications, earnings etc. This points test would be the same as that in operation when the applicant first applied – to ensure that the points for earnings have not diminished.

Tier 1 General and HSMP visa holders possess the freedom to work on a self-employed or employed basis.

Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme)
Citizens of the following countries are eligible for this 2 year visa; Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Monaco and Taiwan. South Korea has now been added to this list. Applicants must be between 18 and 30 (i.e. not have reached their 31st birthday) when they apply.

It is not possible to switch from this visa to another work visa category while in the UK. The applicant would need to return to their home country to submit a fresh application.


Ancestral visas
If you have a UK-born grandparent and you are a citizen of a Commonwealth country such as Australia or Canada, then this visa can allow you to work in the UK and later to obtain settlement. The visa is issued for 5 years. A sponsoring employer is not required and the visa holder has freedom to work on a self-employed or employed basis.


EEA Nationals and Spouses
Although EEA nationals do not require a visa to work in the UK, their non EEA spouses do.

If you are married or in a civil partner / unmarried partner relationship with an EEA national, then contact us regarding moving to the UK.


Business Entry
The UK permits business visitors to enter the UK for up to 6 months.
Permitted business activities would include attending meetings, selling goods or services, agreeing contracts etc. However, this is very different from permission to work in the UK

Our UK Visa Application Service:
At this stage, we just need you to complete this quick registration form on our website;

http://www.commonwealthimmigration.com/assesment_form.html

This should give us all the information we need to give you the correct advice.

We can then review in full and get back to you.


Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date on UK immigration changes

We are sending a newsletter on a periodic basis to update you on new developments and changes in all matters relating to migration.

Subscribe to our newsletter online HERE 
or by email at info@commonwealthimmigration.com 

UNITED KINGDOM – SPOUSES AND PARTNERS “FINANCIAL REQUIREMENTS”

It is now nearly 12 months since comprehensive changes were introduced by the UK government to the criteria for spouses and partners of UK citizens and of those settled in the UK.

These changes introduced on 9 July 2012 affect husbands, wives, unmarried partners, civil partners and fiancés.

As well as extending the probationary period for settlement from 2 to 5 years, the new rules introduced stringent new financial maintenance requirements.

12 months on, and many applicants are struggling to meet the requirements and many families have been separated as a result. A recent report by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration condemned the “anguish” caused by the new rules.

However, the new rules seem set to remain in one shape or another. An immediate reduction in family visas of 16% is the first indication that these rules will help the government to meets its target of reducing net migration.

So, how does one meet the financial requirement? Currently, this can be met through income or savings (or a combination of the two).

In short – an annual income of GBP 18,600 is needed by the UK sponsor or total savings of GBP 62,500 (held either by the UK sponsor or applicant). These amounts are increased if children are to be included.

But the new rules are incredibly complicated and the documentary evidence to support an application needs to be almost perfect – case officers are rejecting applications without asking for clarification.

Income can be met through employment, self-employment, pension, investment, property rental.

Savings can be met through “cash funds” held in a bank account or similar.

The following are some of the main issues that arise;

* What sources of income and savings can be combined together? For instance employment and pension income can be combined but self-employment and savings cannot be combined.

* The rules have introduced a new formula for using savings to top up an income shortfall.

* The rules differ greatly depending on whether the applicant and / or sponsor are in the UK or outside the UK

* Applicants outside the UK can only rely on the employed income of the UK sponsor but pension income can be from either party.

* Applicants employed outside the UK must have an offer of employment in the UK. Self-employed applicants must show an intention to continue self-employment.

* Only savings held in cash funds can be counted – property equity, shares and stocks are all irrelevant. Savings must be held for 6 months.

* The specified evidence for self-employment and employment is very difficult to meet and many applicants (especially outside the UK) struggle to satisfy the requirements.

We are seeing many applicants coming to us who have been refused and are trying to submit an appeal. The reality is that an appeal is difficult unless you can show that the case officer made a basic error (which does happen of course).

It really is vital to prepare an application thoroughly and well in advance. We advise applicants to contact us early in their plans to move to the UK.

These new rules are complex and applications need to fit in exactly with one of the permitted categories for financial maintenance. The new approach is very different from the previous more flexible system that was in place before July 2012.

If you need assistance on any aspect of UK migration, then please feel free to contact us through our website;

* Our free Online Assessment Form

* United Kingdom info page with the migration news

Migration to United Kingdom – a range of different immigration UK visa options

LATEST IMMIGRATION NEWS – UNITED KINGDOM
(as published in our newsletters)

UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)March 2012 – FOCUS ON
 – UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

Overview

We have many years experience in assisting migrants to obtain UK Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) visas, also known as settlement or permanent residence.

The normal qualifying period to obtain ILR is 5 years. However if one is married to a British citizen, then the qualifying period is 2 years. However, not every visa category is counted as “qualifying” for ILR. For instance, time spent in the UK on a Working Holiday visa or a student visa does not count.

The following visa categories DO count towards the 5 year qualifying period;

Tier 1 (General)

Tier 2 (General)

Work permit

Tier 1 (Investor)

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

Ancestral visa

Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP)

You can obtain your qualifying 5 years by living in the UK on one of these visas or a combination of these visas. However, applicants need to note that EEA visas and residence cards cannot be used in combination with any of the above categories to apply for ILR.

EEA visas and residence cards can lead to permanent residence in their own right under EEA law but not ILR through UK immigration.

Absences in the 5 Years

The main residence requirement is that the applicant has been living in the UK throughout the qualifying period.

All absences from the UK need to be declared in the application. The UK Border Agency will of course disregard short absences for annual leave every year or for business trips.

New guidance has been issued to UK Border Agency case officers in April 2011 on calculating the continuous period in the UK and permitted absences.

The guidance states that discretion can be used where absences are for up to 3 months for a single absence or total absences of up to 6 months. The UK Border Agency can look at longer absences where these were for;

“compelling grounds either of a compassionate nature of for reasons related to the applicant’s employment or business in the UK”.

As detailed in their guidance, the case officer will want to see that;

“the applicant has clearly continued to be based in the UK“

Proof of employment, self-employment throughout the 5 years

The applicant needs to provide evidence to show that they were employed or self-employed in the UK or otherwise resident here in accordance with the terms of their visa.

So, for instance, Ancestral visa holders need to show that they have been working or self-employed in the UK throughout the qualifying 5 years – i.e. that the visa holder complied with the terms of their visa throughout the 5 years.

This previously was a very flexible requirement. However it is now being viewed much more strictly by the UK Border Agency.

Applicants need to be diligent in compiling as much material as possible throughout the 5 years. Many applicants may need assistance in this situation especially where a previous employer is no longer trading or in providing the correct proof of self-employment.

Applicants married to British citizens do not usually need to show employment or self-employment throughout the qualifying period.

Criminal convictions

In 2011, the government issued much more stringent rules relating to any criminal convictions when applying for ILR.

In short, an applicant cannot have any “unspent convictions” when applying for ILR. Most convictions become “spent” after a set period of time passes. This has proved a major hindrance for many applicants who may only have been convicted of a minor offence.

Please contact us, in strictest confidence, if you wish to see if a criminal conviction is seen as “unspent” and when it can be “spent”.

Life in the UK Test

Unless exempt through age or disability, applicants need to sit the Life in the UK Test. This is available at centres throughout the UK and is designed to test applicants’ knowledge of UK society, history, politics and government.

The test is not seen as particularly onerous – however applicants should take some time to prepare and read the recommended text book on “Life in the UK”

If you are applying for ILR on the basis of an initial application through the old HSMP visa category, then please contact us so we can see if you need to sit the Life in the UK Test.

Spouses, Partners, Children

Previously, applicants could include their spouse, partners or children on their ILR application. Once declared on the application they would be granted ILR with the main applicant regardless of how long they had lived together.

The rights of dependents changed in 2011, when the government removed the automatic rights of spouses and partners to apply at the same time.

We now have to prove that spouses or partners have been living at the same address as the main applicant for a minimum of 2 years before they can apply for ILR.

2011 changes and future developments

The following are some of the main changes to apply for ILR announced in 2011, and future proposals

Applicants applying for ILR whose current visa is Tier 1 (General) are now points tested. This is a major change from the previous position where applicants just needed to show they were economically active through employment or self-employment. The new system requires the applicants to pass a points test based on age, qualifications and most importantly – recent earnings.

Applicants applying for ILR whose current visa is Tier 2 (General) need to provide specific documents to show that they are being paid at the correct rate of pay for their occupation’s code of practice.

Revised guidance has been published on absences from the UK throughout the qualifying period for ILR.
A recent consultation on family migration has proposed increasing the residence period for ILR for spouses and partners from 2 to 5 years.

Retaining ILR

Once granted, ILR allows the holder to remain indefinitely or permanently in the UK. After living in the UK for another 1 year, the applicant may be eligible to obtain UK citizenship.

The main requirement to retain ILR is to continue living in the UK.

Any absences of more than 2 years at any one time outside of the UK, can result in one’s ILR being revoked.

Our ILR service

We have many years experience in securing ILR for our clients. The process can be complicated and is not granted easily by the UK government – it does, after all, allow permanent residence and is a very important step on the route to British citizenship.

We can handle the whole application from start to finish. The service includes everything from pre-application advice, document review, completing forms, covering letter, drafting your personal statement, submission to the authorities and bringing to a successful conclusion. This continues throughout the whole process until your visa is approved.

You will only deal with one dedicated immigration adviser to provide you with a focused one to one service.

Our success rate is second to none and we can provide numerous verifiable references from satisfied clients for you to review and inspect.

At this stage, we just need you to complete this quick registration form on our website;

* Online Assessment Form

This should give us all the information we need to give you the correct advice.

We can then review in full and get back to you.


UK Immigration and ResidencyUNITED KINGDOM – IMMIGRATION QUOTA INTRODUCED 

July 2010 – The UK government have announced that they are pressing ahead with plans to implement a cap or quota on all non-EU economic migrants. This was predicted in our previous newsletter.

This is likely to affect all applications for Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas.

A permanent cap is set to be introduced from April 2011. In the meantime, a temporary cap is to be imposed which will see overall numbers between now and April 2011, reduced by 5 %.

The criteria for Tier 1 visas (Highly Skilled workers) has been tightened from July 19th by increasing the points threshold by 5 points.

We therefore advise all applicants and employers to look at applying for such visas, as soon as possible. The announcement of a cap is unprecedented in UK immigration and is likely to lead to an increase in applications.

This may then lead to visas being unavailable until the new visa year commences in April 2011. The new criteria effective from April 2011 may well see further restrictions to ensure an immigration cap is effective.

A review by the Migration Advisory Committee has been launched into the permanent cap. There are a broad range of proposals on how the government should implement a cap and also what the final quota numbers should be.

If you wish to go ahead with a Tier 1 or Tier 2 application, then please contact us so that we can assess your eligibility

UK Immigration and ResidencyUNITED KINGDOM – NEW GOVERNMENT TO IMPLEMENT QUOTA? 

June 2010 – The new UK government took office last month with Damian Green appointed as Minister for Immigration.

The coalition government between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has reached compromise on many issues. However the government has still retained the Conservative idea of a “cap” or quota on numbers, as their main immigration policy.

The following is an extract from the agreed Programme for Government on the subject of immigration;

“The Government believes that immigration has enriched our culture and strengthened our economy, but that it must be controlled so that people have confidence in the system. We also recognise that to ensure cohesion and protect our public services, we need to introduce a cap on immigration and reduce the number of non EU immigrants.”

No timeframe has been indicated for this and it is important to stress that it does not affect EU migrants or migrants in other categories such as spouses, students etc..

However, this may logically result in an annual quota of visas to be granted, in categories such as Tier 1 and Tier 2. Applicants intending to apply in these categories may be advised to start the process sooner rather than later, in case a future quota would work to their detriment.

In any event, new figures show that net migration to the UK is set to drop below 100,000 a year. This of course is a key target of the new government – the aim of reducing the level to “tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands”.

New official immigration figures show that more eastern European migrants (from the 2004 Accession countries such as Poland) are leaving than arriving.

The annual citizenship figures for 2009 also published show more than 203,000 people were granted UK citizenship last year.

The overall statistics show a continued decline in net migration to the UK – the number of people coming to work and study minus the number of people leaving to live abroad – to 142,000 in the year to September 2009. This compares with a net migration figure of 160,000 in the previous year to September 2009.


UK Immigration and ResidencyUNITED KINGDOM – TIER 1 VISA CHANGES 

March 2010 – The UK Border Agency has announced an important change in UK immigration that will affect many overseas migrants looking to work in the UK through the Tier 1 visa.

Effective April 2010, the minimum educational requirement for the Tier 1 visa has now been amended from a Masters degree to a Bachelors degree.

The points system has also been amended to change the qualifying criteria for previous earnings.

The Tier 1 visa allows overseas professionals to enter the UK to work or establish themselves as self-employed. Most importantly – this visa does not require a sponsoring employer. It is assessed on a points system with points awarded for age, education, previous earnings etc…

This previous Masters degree requirement affected many overseas migrants who scored well on other assessment criteria but were ineligible for not having a Masters degree. This is a very significant change and will now allow many more overseas migrants to qualify to work in the UK without a sponsoring employer.

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