US Travel Ban: What we know so far

US Travel Ban

The United States (US) has introduced a US travel ban for people from a number of Muslim-majority countries. Here is a quick on what the ban means and its implications.

In summary, the executive order, signed by President Trump on Friday 27 January:

  • Halts travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for a period of 90 days. They are:
    • Iran
    • Iraq
    • Libya
    • Somalia
    • Sudan
    • Syria
    • Yemen
  • Prevents dual nationals from travelling to the US for 90 days if they hold nationality from one of the above countries
  • Grant priority to Individuals of religious minorities if they are from the countries listed
  • Allows for the executive order to be extended to other countries or beyond 90 days, if necessary

Implications

Nationals of any of the seven countries listed will be prevented from entering the US. This extends previous security restrictions which had excluded those nationals from entering the US without a valid visa.

The executive order applies to individuals with permanent residence status in the US and who may be seeking re-entry after a holiday abroad. It will include nationals that have legitimately and successfully secured a spouse or work visa overseas and are due to travel to the US.

The US administration confirmed that dual nationals are included so that a dual British Sudanese national seeking entry to the US for business, after the executive order was signed, may find themselves detained at the US airport and eventually returned to the UK.

Update: The UK Foreign Office later confirmed on 29 January, that nationals from the listed countries with dual British nationality, will be exempt from the travel ban. Instead, dual British nationals may be subject to further vetting and questioning. We hope this clarification has been disseminated to immigration officials at the US border.

Caps to the number of refugees admitted into the US under the US refugee programme for the 2017 fiscal year have also been implemented. The number has been capped from 110,000 to 50,000 with refugees from Syria being prevented from entering the US indefinitely.  However, the US administration confirmed that the travel ban will not apply to refugees or those seeking refugee status from the above countries.

For businesses, employees from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will be barred from returning to their place of work in the US or from entering the US in order to represent their company.

As a result, individuals arriving into US airports individuals arriving into US airports, with valid visas, will be detained at the airport and removed, merely because of their nationality.

Concerns

The travel ban has elicited uproar and condemnation from political figures around the world, including, UK opposition leaders, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin TrudeauAnd it has of course, caused significant distress and anguish to individuals and families trying to come to terms with the direct and wider implications of the ban.

Of great concern is the speed and wide ranging nature of the US travel ban.  As a former civil servant in the Home Office of ten years, I myself have experience of numerous amendments and changes to immigration laws, rules and policies. In all cases, the Secretary of State at the time introduced transitional arrangements, allowing immigrations consultants and lawyers time to digest the legal and wider implications of the announcements. This has not been the case here, a point supported by UK immigration lawyer, Harjap Singh Bhangal on Sky News on 29 January. Bhangal stated that governments ‘…can’t just change immigration policy overnight and expect it to be implemented’ again highlighting the lack of transitional period or consideration.

Indeed, the immediacy of the travel ban, and inability of immigration professional to consider and properly advise individuals affected has already drawn one Federal Judge into the mix.

Judge Ann Donnelly of the US District Court in Brooklyn granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to partially stop the removals of individuals after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision.

This was followed by US District Judge Leonie Brinkema who issued a temporary restraining order, valid for seven days, against the removal of any green-card holders being detained at Dulles International Airport. For more, see the Chicago Tribune.

Despite the Federal Court rulings, the Department of Homeland Security have confirmed that the travel ban remains in place.

As a result, a number of immigration advisers have made themselves available, for free, at several airports to provide advice and guidance to those affected.

Guidance

The application of the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries remains confused. Several Republicans party members have also expressed unease with the measures, despite the president’s proclamations to the contrary. And it is not clear if the ban will stay in place for 90 days, be extended to other countries or lengthened.

For the time being, the situation is uncertain. If you are travelling to the US and have concerns about the travel ban, you should:

  • Seek advice and clearance from the US embassy prior to travel, to avoid adverse consequences at the US border. Dual British nationals should be aware of the clarification issued by the UK Foreign Office
  • Ensure that you have prior authorisation to enter the US using a British passport, either through a visa, a Permanent Resident Card, or the Visa Waiver Programme and seek further clearance from the US embassy
  • Ensure that you are familiar with US entry requirements
  • Contact the airline responsible for your flight to ensure that you will be able to board
  • Seek immigration advice or guidance prior to your travel if you remain concerned. See also the UK Foreign Office website  for additional guidance. Upon travel, ensure that you have documents confirming your reasons for travel to the US. On arrival to the US, seek expert US immigration support if you concerned about your circumstances.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. We offer immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families by looking at the bigger picture to get the right solution.

Call to Action: Contact me for a consultation or assistance with an immigration matter. Or read more of our blogs.

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Brexit latest: Brexit, Trade, Sovereignty and Immigration

Thomas Chase Immigration - Birexit

The UK government looks set to trigger article 50, the formal notification of its intention to leave the European Union (EU). Once triggered, the leaders of the 27 countries within the EU, must unanimously agree how to extricate the UK from the myriad of shared EU regulations by way of transitional and new arrangements. Two years after article 50 is triggered, the United Kingdom (UK), according to the Lisbon Treaty, will no longer be a part of the EU. What are the implications of Brexit to UK trade, sovereignty and immigration? And how are they linked?

Background

Much has been made of the approach the UK government will take during the two years of negotiations once article 50 is enacted. Will the government take a ‘hard’ approach, a sort of clean break? Or will a ‘soft’ approach to leaving the EU be implemented, so that the UK gives up its power and voice within the EU while managing to claw onto some of the benefits of free trade.

Regardless, of the approach to negotiations, we know with certainty, as a result of the Supreme Court’s judgement of 24 January, that the UK parliament must have a say in the UK’s approach to negotiations. And given the members of parliament’s fear of defying the results of the advisory referendum to leave the EU for reasons of reducing EU immigration and magnifying UK sovereignty, article 50 looks set to be triggered within Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed timescale of March 2017. The timescales are supported by the government’s ‘Brexit Bill’ which comes before parliament in the week beginning 30 January.

The impact to Brexit on Trade and Sovereignty   

The UK’s overall economic growth is mainly dependent upon import and exports. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS):

‘UK exports have grown at an average rate of 8.7% in nominal terms over the last four decades (1974 -2014), however the level of UK exports as a proportion of world exports has been gradually declining’

The ONS added:

‘World Bank data shows that the UK’s share fell from 7.3% in 1970 to 3.6% in 2014, indicative of slower UK export growth relative to a number of other global economies such as China, Germany and the USA. This decline marks a halving in the UK’s share of world trade since the 1970s. In 1970, the UK held the 3rd highest export share among the G7 economies and China but has since alternated between 3rd, 4th and 5th positions’.

In relation to Brexit, in 2015 (figures for 2016 not yet being available), exports of goods and services to the EU accounted for 44% of the UK’s total exports of goods and service). See ONS’ bulletin

Therefore, leaving the EU, will significantly minimise the UK’s ability to export goods and services to the EU without restrictions. As a third country, the UK will experience an increase in its exporting costs.

To compensate for the impact of trade with the EU post-Brexit, the UK must look to other countries to close the gap.

In her speech of 17 January, Theresa May set out for plan for Brexit negotiations. May said, that she had been given a mandate by the British people to bring about change and outlined her vision for the UK:

‘I want this United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before. I want us to be a secure, prosperous, tolerant country – a magnet for international talent and a home to the pioneers and innovators who will shape the world ahead. I want us to be a truly Global Britain – the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. A country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike’.

For a full transcript of Theresa May’s speech, click here

Yet, trade deals, by their very nature, require compromise, external overarching controls, subjugation and therefore a limit on the sovereignty of the State. To what extent is the UK prepared to compromise its sovereignty in order to secure trade deals with world leaders? And who will it trade with?

Trading partners

One possible post-Brexit trading partners will be the United States (US) and Prime Minister May has taken steps ingratiate herself with the incoming US president, President Donald Trump with a State visit to the US scheduled for Thursday 26 and a meeting with the President set for Friday 27 January.

ONS data from 2015, indicates that the US is the UK’s largest export partner, after Germany. In 2015, the USA accounted for 19.7% and 11.1% of UK’s total exports and total imports, respectively.

In fact, between 2005 to 2015, the UK continually ran a trade surplus with the US with an average value of £28.1 billion, a figure that peaked in 2013 at £40.3 billion but has since fallen to £39.4 billion in 2015. See ONS’ bulletin for further details

Moving forward, the US has a president that has given voice to a sort of protectionist US environment, one where US businesses will reap the rewards of lower taxation, if they ensure that their businesses remain in the US and employ US workers. Countries have been openly criticised by the President for exporting goods to US citizens, created by overseas workers, ignoring the fact that some overseas companies sell goods to US citizens made in the US by US workers – companies such as Samsung Electronics America Inc. and BMW US Manufacturing Company.

This raises a number of questions. How much will UK companies have the accede to Trump’s vision of protectionist US? Will UK companies be welcomed, as early indications show, to enter into trade deals as long as they are heavily weighted in the US’ favour? Will UK businesses be expected to open more branches and sites in the US in order to better access the US market, to the detriment of UK workers? And is it a price worth paying when figures show that even if the US doubles its exports from the UK, this will still fall short of the numbers needs to meet the EU trade shortfall.

Can the UK even expect an equitable trade deal with the US in two years’ time once it has officially left the EU? After all, the UK can only negotiate and agree terms with the US government while it remains part of the EU, with the deal being solidified post-Brexit. However unlikely it may be, it is possible for the US to renegotiate terms once the UK’s economic position becomes clearer post-Brexit which is possible if the UK (and US) find themselves in economically and politically weakened positions in 2020.

For this reason, the UK will have to look for trade deals with not only the US but other countries further afield.

Immigration

In line with her vision of Global Britain, Theresa May has expressed a desire to negotiate trade deals with India and Australia. Both India and Australia share this view, at a price. Favourable immigration controls for their citizens, something which Theresa May has refused to do.

Under current immigration laws, anyone entering the UK from outside of the European Economic Area, is subject to a very strict Points Based System, unlike EU nationals who have freedom of movement. (For the avoidance of any doubt, yes, we do indeed have a Points Based System in place).

During Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s address to the second Raisina Dialogue event in New Delhi, India in January, Johnson insisted that by leaving the EU, the UK would be free to enter into trade partnership with India, the world’s fastest growing economy. In response, Dr S Irudaya Rajan, an adviser to the Indian government on migration issues reaffirmed the importance of mobility stating that that free movement of its citizens and the free flow of goods and services and investments were inseparable.

Dr Rajan went on the say:

‘India is an important country for the UK and curbing the flow of good minds, whether they are students or skilled workers, cannot be good for the UK’.

This view was supported by Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha, the recently appointed Indian High Commissioner to the UK who commented that the issue of visas is not going to go away, and expressed concerns on the UK’s restrictions on Indian students and IT professionals under the Points Based System.

Such proclamations were echoed by Alexander Downer, the Australian High Commissioner to the UK and former Foreign Minister of Australia. Alexander Downer told BBC Radio 4  listeners during an interviewer, that:

‘We want to see greater access for Australian business people working in the UK and that’s often been a part of the free-trade negotiations-it hasn’t always been that way, but it’s often been a part of our free trade negotiations’.

Adding:

‘For example, an Australian company that invests in the UK might want to bring some of its executives to the UK. That can be done now with what are called tier two visas, but could be made a little bit easier’.

Given the views openly expressed by Indian and Australian government representatives, can Theresa May maintain tight immigration controls in keeping with her reign as Home Secretary? Or will India and Australia bide their time until they secure beneficial terms on the lifting of visa restrictions? If visa restrictions are relaxed for some overseas nationals, this may be seen to compromise to the UK’s ability to determine its own immigration policy in the way that ‘Brexiters’ did not envisage. In fact, some Brexiters may feel betrayed if immigration increases rather than falls. EU nationals living in the UK may also feel betrayed if, having paid the price of Brexit, they too were to see an increase in immigration.

Conclusion

Brexit has proven to be a complex outcome based of the premise of greater self-determination and immigration controls for EU nationals. And though there is an element of crystal ball gazing, there is a strong reason to believe that, post-Brexit, the UK may have less sovereignty and greater immigration as a direct result of trade deals with countries outside of the EU. Immigration has many benefits for the UK, but without proper debate and understanding about the possible consequences of Brexit on trade, sovereignty and immigration, we may unwittingly see continued resentment towards those who travel to the UK from overseas.

 

Written by:

Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Call to Action:

Contact Thomas Chase Immigration for an immigration consultation or assistance with an immigration matter. We offer immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families by looking at the bigger picture to get the right solution

Top 10 Q&A on British Citizenship

Latest position on Brexit

Over time, I have received many questions from individuals seeking guidance on how to apply to become a British citizen. With that in mind, I have collated the top 10 questions and answers on all aspects of British citizenship.

  1. What is British Citizenship?

A British citizen has a right of abode in the United Kingdom (UK). In practice, if you have British citizenship, you have the right to permanently live and work in the UK without any immigration restrictions. And you will not need permission from an Immigration Officer to enter the UK

  1. Who can apply for British citizen?

Unlike some countries, you do not automatically become a British citizen because you were born in the UK. Under the British Nationality Act 1981, much will depend on your date of birth.

For instance, you will be a British citizen if you were born on or after 1 January 1983, and your mother or father was either:

  • a British citizen when you were born
  • ‘settled’ in the UK when you were born

It is typical for you to be a British citizen if one of your parents was born in the UK or had become a British citizen at the time of your birth.

Different provisions apply if you were born outside the UK or were born in the UK before July 2006. Where you fall within the latter, your father’s British nationality will normally only pass to you if he was married to your mother at the time of your birth.

Likewise, if you are an overseas national, Commonwealth citizen or national of the European Economic Area (EEA), you will not automatically acquire British citizenship merely because you have lived in the UK for a lengthy period of time.

However, there are a number of ways to become a British citizen. One of the main ways is to naturalise as a British citizen.

To apply to naturalise as a British citizen, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Meet the residence requirements
  • Have passed the Life in the UK test
  • Have a Secure English Language Test (SELT) grade of at least B1, or an equivalent level qualification, such as a degree taught or researched in English or be a national of a majority English speaking country
  • Be of good character
  • Intend to make the UK your permanent home

The residence requirement is very important and you must show that you:

  • Have lived in the UK for at least 5 years before the date of submission of the application
  • Have settlement (indefinite leave to remain) or permanent residence for at least an additional 12 months preceding the date of the application
  • To have spent less than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years
  • To have spent less than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
  • Not have been in breach of the immigration laws during your time in the UK

Applications on the basis of marriage or civil partnership to a British citizen is a frequently used route also. The key differences are:

  • You must evidence that you have lived in the UK for at least the 3 years before your application is submitted
  • You must have pent no more than 270 days outside the UK in those 3 years
  • You must have spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
  • You must not have broken any immigration laws while in the UK

It is also possible to register to become a British citizen if:

  • You have another form of British nationality
  • You were born before 1 January 1983 to a British mother
  • You were born to a British father, even if he was not married to your mother
  • You were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983
  • You are under 18 and do not fit into the other categories
  • You have a connection with Gibraltar or Hong Kong
  • You are stateless
  1. Are British citizens allowed dual citizenship?

British citizens are allowed to hold dual nationality. Nevertheless, some countries may treat the acquisition of another citizenship as a renouncement of their original nationality.

To avoid this happening to you, it is crucial to verify, with your country of origin, the potential implications of applying for British citizenship before an application is prepared and submitted.

  1. What is the British citizenship test and where can I sit the test?

Details of the British citizenship test, or Life in the UK test, can be found in my previous blog.

  1. What does British citizenship cost?

The application fee payable to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will depend on how you qualify to become a British citizen. For instance, as of 18 March 2016, fee for British citizenship based on:

  • Naturalisation as an adult: £1,236
  • Registration as an adult: £1121
  • Registration as a child: £939
  1. Who can sign British citizenship application form?

As part of your application process, you must nominate two referees, one of which may be of any nationality and has professional standing in the UK.

The other referee must be a British citizen and hold a valid British passport. That person must be either a professional person or over the age of 25.

In addition, your referees cannot be:

  • Related to you
  • Related to each other
  • Your solicitor or agent
  • Someone who has been convicted for an imprisonable offence during the last 10 years

UKVI will make contact with your referees to verify your identity so it is important that your referees are able to respond in a timely manner to UKVI’ queries. Doing so will avoid delays to the application and at worse, a refusal.

  1. Can I apply for British citizenship if I have a driving conviction or criminal record?

UKVI had introduced a revised ‘good character’ requirements for all decisions made on or after 11 December 2014. As a result, UKVI will look at your previous conduct to assess whether you are likely, in future, to show ‘respect for the rights and freedoms of the United Kingdom’, observe national laws and fulfil your duties and obligations as a resident of the UK.Thomas Chase Immigration - British Citizenship

In doing so, UKVI will carry out criminal and civil record checks. All criminal offences, regardless of how minor the offence or when and where the offence was committed, will be considered by UKVI. This is because UKVI is not bound by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. Therefore, previous offences such as theft, drink driving, using a mobile phone while driving or driving while disqualified may likely prevent you from becoming a British citizen until there is a sufficient gap between the date of the offence and the date of the application.

Your immigration history will also be taken into account by UKVI when considering your application. For instance, if you entered the UK illegally, assisted in illegal migration or evaded immigration control, you will be prevented from making a British citizenship application until at least 10 years has passed from the date of entry to the UK. This will have a significant impact if you are a refugee who had used one of the above methods to gain entry to the UK. Similarly, if you overstay your visa for a relatively small period, your application for British citizenship may be refused.

And the tentacles of the good character requirements stretch even further so that financial issues such as bankruptcy or failure to pay your council tax can also have an adverse impact upon your application.

In light of the good character requirements, it is crucial to seek expert immigration advice if any of the above applies to you.

  1. Where should I send my British Citizenship application form?

Completed application forms should be sent to:

UKVI 
Department 1 
The Capital 
New Hall Place 
Liverpool 
L3 9PP 

The application must be accompanied by the correct application fee and supporting documents.

  1. How long does a British citizenship application take to be processed?

Applications are acknowledged within 2 weeks of receipt. UKVI aims to consider the application within 6 months. UKVI will retain all documents during that time including your passports. That said, it is possible to request the return of your passport although UKVI can request that it is resubmitted for further scrutiny.

10.Where are British citizenship ceremonies held?

Once your application has been approved by UKVI, you will be invited to attend at a Citizenship Ceremony. At the ceremony you will be asked to affirm or swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen and to pledge your loyalty to the UK.

Ceremonies take place at your local authority, and your UKVI Approval Letter will provide details of what you must do next and who to contact in order to make the necessary arrangements.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families by looking at the bigger picture.

Call to action

If you would like further guidance or assistance with an application for British citizenship, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs.

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