Immigration award winner

Global Advisory Experts

Thomas Chase Immigration has been named UK Visa Consulting Firm of the Year in England – 2019 by Global Advisory Experts.

Global Advisory Experts’ annual awards have been celebrating excellence, innovation and performance across the legal communities from around the world since 2010.

Their awards are designed to reward those most deserving in this global and very challenging environment by way of a rigorous process.

Awards are allocated solely on merit and recognize leaders in their respective fields. There is never any commercial requirement and further, no award can be guaranteed by payment, only by merit, sheer determination and hard work.

Global Advisory Experts 2019 Award Winner: UK Visa Consulting Firm of the Year in England 

Global Advisory Experts’ award winners’ include: KPMG; Deloitte, Asian Capital; EY and BDO.

Carla Thomas, Managing Director of Thomas Chase Immigration noted:

‘Thomas Chase Immigration is delighted to be named an immigration award winner for the category of UK Visa Consulting Firm of the Year in England – 2019 by Global Advisory Experts. Thomas Chase Immigration looks to provide clients with a sleek, responsive and high quality service.

‘Immigration can be complex, less than straightforward and conflicting. It is for good reason that our tagline is ‘Taking the complexity out of immigration’. By taking the time to understand the needs of the client, Thomas Chase Immigration can provide the most suitable advice and best services to its clients.’

In addition, Thomas Chase Immigration became another immigration award winner, after receiving the Immigration & Nationality Consultancy of the Year award from Corporate LiveWire Innovation & Excellence Awards 2020.

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Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration advice and assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or assistance with your application feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected], and visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

Spouse visa extension

Spouse Visa Extension

We had helped Shelby (not her real name) secure an extension of her spouse visa. She first approached us two months prior to the expiry of her current spouse visa because, in her words, she felt ‘clueless’. So we answered her questions and helped her through the application process. Here’s how we were able to secure Shelby’s spouse visa extension.

Requirements for a spouse visa extension

Shelby, a US citizen, and her British husband, Den, had been married for several years. Shelby had applied for a spouse visa to enter the UK, from the US, in order to join Den. Though she had used the services of another immigration advisor, she was clear that she did wish to use them again.

We took Shelby through the requirements of paragraph R-LTRP.1.1 of the immigration rules and explained that an applicant from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, holding a spouse visa, may apply for a spouse visa extension. When considering the application UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will assess whether:

  • The applicant continues to be the family member of a British national or settled person; and
  • Whether they continue to live with their spouse, in the UK, on a permanent basis.

As with the initial application for a spouse visa, the applicant must prove that:

  • The couple are 18 years of age and over;
  • The relationship remains genuine and subsisting;
  • The couple still intend to live with each other in the UK in a relationship akin to marriage;
  • The couple have an adequate place to live in the UK;
  • The couple can adequately maintain themselves;
  • They have a good knowledge of the English language and
  • They meet the suitability requirement.

In effect, UKV will test out the merits of the relationship again and the extension application may be refused if her circumstances had changed drastically or she had provided false or incomplete information.

We assessed Shelby’s, and Den’s, circumstances against each of the immigration requirements. But first, we verified Shelby’s immigration status. It should be noted that when applying for an extension of stay as a spouse of a British citizen, or settled person in the UK, the applicant’s presence in the UK must be lawful.

A person with a tourist or visitor visa, or visa issued to them with less than 6 months’ leave, (unless they were here as a fiancé/ fiancée or proposed civil partner), cannot apply for an extension of stay as a spouse. Instead, they must leave the UK and submit an application for an initial spouse visa from their country of lawful residence or nationality.

The couple are 18 years of age and over

We referred to Shelby’s and Den’s, passports. We submitted Shelby’s original current and expired passport. A certified copy of Den’s full passport was also submitted.

The relationship remains genuine and subsisting

For the initial spouse visa application to enter the UK, Shelby had submitted her original marriage certificate as well as numerous photographs of her and Den together. Shelby had also submitted a selection of screenshots of her communications with Den.

Here, we submitted the original marriage certificate as part of the spouse visa extension application. And Shelby and Den were advised to provide documentary evidence that they have been living together in the UK as a married couple.

We advised the couple to submit evidence of cohabitation in the UK, such as their joint tenancy agreements, joint utility letters and joint bank statements covering the last 2 years. Where Shelby and Den did not have possess joint letters, we submitted individual letters sent to them at their shared residential address.

Shelby questioned whether it was necessary to collate and submit such documents, given that UKVI had already accepted the existence of their relationship and marriage. After all, copies of documents from the earlier application were held by UKVI. She is not the first client to say this. In their guidance of November 2014, UKVI caseworkers are advised to make further enquiries of the applicant and sponsor, if the caseworker has any concerns as to whether the relationship is genuine or continuing. Further, UKVI may invite the applicant for an interview, and it the enquiries, and/or interview, prove unsatisfactory, the application will be refused.

It is therefore important to submit the correct information and documents in support of the immigration requirements.

The couple still intend to live with each other in the UK in a relationship akin to marriage

For the initial spouse visa application to enter the UK, Shelby had submitted numerous photographs of her and Den together. She had also submitted a selection of their communications to each other. UKVI is not necessarily concerned with such evidence here.

As above, to assess whether a couple intend to continue living together, UKVI will carefully consider the information and documentary evidence provided. That data will be used to determine whether the relationship and marriage is genuine and as such, whether the couple intend to continue living together in a close relationship. 

The couple can adequately maintain themselves

On 9 July 2012, a minimum financial requirement, based on income, was introduced into the Immigration Rules for applicants applying for a spouse visa or a spouse visa extension. Applicants, whose partners are in receipt of disability living allowance, personal independence payment, or other specified benefits are not required to meet the minimum financial requirements.

All other applicants must evidence that they or their partner earns £18,600 per annum. This figure will increase for each additional child included in the application. The requirements have since been adapted to apply a more flexible approach’

In Shelby’s case, Den earned an annual income of around £55,000. Shelby and Den were advised to submit Den’s Contract of Employment, payslips and corresponding bank statements covering the 6 months’ period immediately preceding the application submission date.

The couple have an adequate place to live in the UK

All applicants applying for a spouse visa extension under the 5 years’ route must evidence that they have adequate accommodation in the UK without the need to claim State funds. This applies whether the applicant’s partner is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (or other specified benefits) or not.

UKVI guidance states that the accommodation must be suitable for the applicant, their partner and any family members in the household, whether the family members are included in the application or not. The property must be one which the family own or which they occupy exclusively.

Shelby and Den jointly rent a 2-bedroom flat in Central London. We advised them to submit the Tenancy Agreement in support of the application.

Similarly, another client, Sam, who also applied for a spouse visa extension, rented a large 2 bedroomed flat with his civil partner and another tenant and that tenant’s partner, in a flat-share arrangement. In that matter, Sam was advised to not only submit the Tenancy Agreement in support of the application, but also, a letter from the Landlord confirming the arrangement and layout of the property. UKVI approved Sam’s application and the accommodation was seen as adequate because Sam and his partner had, as a minimum, exclusive use of the bedroom.

Under paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules, the term ‘occupy exclusively’ means that at least a part of the accommodation must be for the exclusive of the applicant and their partner (or their family).

As to Shelby, had she owned the property, we would have advised her to submit evidence to support this, such as a copy of the property deeds or a letter from a bank or building society confirming the mortgage arrangements. In other words, the documents to be submitted will depend on the individual circumstances.

They have a good knowledge of the English language

The Immigration rules state that an applicant must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English language by way of specified evidence. The applicant must:

  • Be a national of a majority English speaking country listed in paragraph GEN.1.6 of the immigration rules. That is: Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; the Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; New Zealand; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America; or
  • Have passed an English language test in speaking and listening at a minimum of level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages with a provider approved by the Secretary of State; or
  • Have an academic qualification recognised by UK NARIC to be equivalent to the standard of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or PhD in the UK, which was taught in English; or
  • Be exempt from the English language requirement under paragraph E-ECP.4.2. E-ECP.4.2. The applicant is exempt from the English language requirement if at the date of application- (a) the applicant is aged 65 or over; (b) the applicant has a disability (physical or mental condition) which prevents the applicant from meeting the requirement; or (c) there are exceptional circumstances which prevent the applicant from being able to meet the requirement prior to entry to the UK.

The immigration rules state that an applicant applying for a spouse visa to enter the UK must have a basic knowledge of the English language, at level A1. In the case of the Spouse visa extension application, the applicant is required to submit an English language pass certificate at A2 level. The spouse visa application will be refused if the applicant submits an English language pass certificate below level A2.

As a US citizen, Shelby was able to rely on her current passport as evidence of meeting the English language requirement.

The suitability requirement

When assessing the spouse visa application, UKVI will also test whether it is suitable to grant the applicant leave to remain under paragraph S-LTR.1.1 of the immigration rules. Therefore, the applicant’s character and conduct, their previous immigration history, whether they have accrued debt to the National Health Service (NHS), and whether they have co-operated with their enquiries will be assessed.

Absences

Shelby’s application to extend her spouse visa was approved under the same day service. Shelby was not required to provide details of her absences as part of the application. Longer term, Shelby would like to apply for settlement once she has held the spouse visa for 5 years. As such, we advised Shelby to be mindful of her absences from the UK over the course of her residence in the UK. This is because, the settlement, or indefinite leave to remain, application carries a strict absence requirement, which if not met could lead to the refusal of the application.

Conclusion

The application to extend the spouse visa in the UK must be approached with due care and attention. As with Shelby’s matter, it is important to demonstrate how each of the requirements under the immigration rules are met. The fact that the initial spouse visa to enter the UK, was granted, is not an indication that the application to extend that visa will be immediately approved without scrutiny. By reviewing the above tips, we hope that you will secure the extension of the spouse visa.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or assistance with your application to extend the spouse visa, feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected], and visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

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No deal exit

No deal exit

On 20 and 21 August 2019, there were several news reports, apparently citing the new Home Secretary’s (Preeti Patel) desire to end freedom of movement, for EEA nationals and their family members, on 31 October 2019, if the UK’s departure from the EU result in a no-deal exit.

Preeti Patel added that EEA nationals already resident in the UK will still be eligible to apply for settled status until December 2020.

This is a departure from earlier government assurances to protect the freedom of movement rights of EEA nationals until at least 31 December 2020.

The confusion about the rights of EEA nationals following a no-deal exit, has forced the Home Office to release a statement to clarify the position. The statement reads as follows:

21 August 2019

This is the latest information on the EU Settlement Scheme for EU citizens living in the UK. You are receiving this because you have requested email updates from the UK Government.

Update on the EU Settlement Scheme

There have been reports in the media and on social media regarding plans to end freedom of movement after we leave the EU, as well as what this means for EU citizens resident in the UK.

We want to reassure all EU citizens and their family members in the UK that you still have until at least 31 December 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, even in the event of a no-deal exit. Furthermore, if someone who is eligible for status is not in the UK when we leave the EU, they will still be free to enter the UK as they are now.

Those who have not yet applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by 31 October 2019 will still have the same entitlements to work, benefits and services. Those rights will not change. EU citizens will continue to be able to prove their rights to access these benefits and services in the same way as they do now.

Further details can be found in our free movement factsheet, but please feel free to contact us in writing by clicking here.

Kind regards,

Home Office Communications

In light of the uncertainty and proposed changes, we continue to recommend to our readers and clients to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for pre-settled status or settled status. Doing so will help protect your and your family status in the UK should the UK leave the EU with a deal, or in the event of a no-deal exit.

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or guidance?

Contact us at [email protected] to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

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EUSS Family Permit Applications

EUSS family permit

Family members from outside of the of European Economic Area (EEA) may apply for an EUSS family permit to join, or accompany, their EEA family member. We have received a number of queries about the EUSS family permit and the difference between the EUSS permit and the EEA family permit. So of course, we thought we would post a blog post on the subject in case there were others seeking clarification about this and about the requirements.

The EU Settlement Scheme

The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) allows qualifying nationals to continue their residence in the United Kingdom (UK), after the UK leaves the European Union (EU) on 31 October 2019 (also known as ‘Brexit’) and any transitional period.

Under the Scheme, non-EEA who is not in possession of a valid biometric card, or permanent residence card issued by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016, may accompany their EEA national family member to the UK, or join them in the UK.

The EUSS family permit operates alongside the EEA family permit.

EEA nationals

EEA nationals are defined under Annex 1 of Appendix EU (Family Permit), https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/appendix-eu-family-permit and can include an EEA national that had previously exercised their Treaty rights in the UK and later naturalised as a British citizen under the British Nationality Act 1981. Where the EEA national acquires British citizenship, they must retain their EEA (or Swiss) nationality.

If the EEA or Swiss family member’s nationality is cancelled, curtailed or revoked, their rights to sponsor their family member(s), under the EUSS, will be lost. 

Non-EEA nationals

Non-EEA nationals are defined in Annex 1 of Appendix EU (Family Permit) as anyone who does not hold EEA or British citizenship.

Family Members

If you are a non-EEA national, you can apply for an EUSS family permit to enter the UK providing the following applies:

  • You are the close family member of an EEA or Swiss national; and
  • the EEA national you wish to join has pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme; and
  • the EEA national that you are joining is already in the UK, or will be travelling with you to the UK within 6 months of the date of your application.

Family members must satisfy UKVI of their relationship. This is crucial as we have been approached by clients who had prepared their applications and had their application for an EEA or EUSS family refused because UKVI had not accepted that they were married or related to their EEA family member.

It can be extremely disheartening to receive a refusal on the basis of a relationship to an EEA or Swiss national, in part, because UKVI will not provide a right of appeal in such cases. The problem is not that those individuals had done the application themselves, but rather that they did not provide satisfactory evidence to support the application.

Family members are defined under Annex 1 of Appendix EU (Family Permit) as:

  • The spouse or civil partner of an EEA national in a genuine and subsisting relationship;
  • The child of an EEA national or of their spouse or civil partner;
  • The grandchild or great-grandchild of an EEA national or of their spouse or civil partner; and
  • The dependent parent (or grandparent or great-grandparent) of the EEA national or of their spouse or civil partner.

As of 9 April 2019, non-EEA family members can also apply directly for leave under the EUSS from outside the UK.

Nevertheless, if you are the close family member of a British citizen who had exercised their Treaty rights in another Member States before returning to the UK to live (Surinder Singh cases), you may not apply for a EUSS family permit. Instead, you must apply for an EEA family permit.

In addition, it is advisable to apply for an EEA family permit, rather than an EUSS family permit, if you are:

  • An extended family member, as defined in the EEA Regulations, such as a durable partner or dependent relative; or
  • A person with a derivative right of residence in the UK, such as ‘Chen’; ‘Ibrahim and Teixeira’; and ‘Zambrano’ cases; or
  • A family member of an EEA or Swiss national who does not yet have settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme

For instance, one of our clients, Jo, recently joined her unmarried partner in the UK after a successful application for entry clearance. Her partner is a German national and has pre-settled status to the EUSS. However, as Jo is deemed to be the extended family member of an EEA national, she had to apply for an EEA family permit, rather than an EUSS family permit.

Documents

As with any application for entry to the UK, it is important that you submit the required documentation in support of your EUSS family permit application.

The documents to be submitted include:

  • Your current and valid passport;
  • Evidence of your relationship to the EEA family member;
  • Evidence of your EEA family member’s identity such as a certified copy of their current and valid passport or national identity card; and
  • Proof of your dependency on the EEA family member, if relevant.

Evidence of your relationship to the EEA family member. Such documents will depend on the nature of the relationship and may include, for example:

  • Your marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate; or
  • Full birth certificates; and /or
  • Evidence of their dependency if, for instance, the child is over 21 years of age,

It can help to provide additional documents such as:

  • Evidence of the EEA national’s employment in the UK, such as their employment contract, wage slips or a letter from an employer;
  • Evidence of the EEA national’s self-employment, such as contracts, invoices or audited accounts with bank statements and confirmation of paying tax and National Insurance;
  • Proof that the EEA national is studying in the UK, by way of a letter from the school, college or university; and/or
  • Evidence of financial stability.

Original or certified copies must be submitted supported by certified translations, where appropriate. However, as of 16 February 2019, it is no longer a requirement for you to provide a certified English translation for certain public documents issued by another Member State only, as per Regulation (EU) 2016/1191.

Regulation (EU) 2016/1191 does not apply to documents issued by public bodies in non-Member States.

Cost

EUSS family permit applications do not carry a fee. Nor do they attract the Immigration Health Surcharge. Yet, the fact that the applications are free to make, does not mean that the application should be taken any less seriously than any other application for entry into the UK.

Location

EEA family permits can be submitted at any overseas location and you need not be a national or resident of the country that you would like to apply from.

Length

Like the EEA family permit, the EUSS family permit is valid for 6 months from the date of the decision. During that time, you may enter the UK as many times as you wish.

Residence

On the expiry of the permit, or following your arrival to the UK, you may continue to reside in the UK by applying for pre-settled status. This will prove your right to stay in the UK, and your right to work, study and access services.  

Conclusion

A non EEA family member may apply for a EUSS family permit to accompany or join their EEA national family member in the UK. There are some key differences between the EUSS family permit and EEA family permit, though the EUSS family permit has many advantages.

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families and are the recipients of the Corporate Immigration & Relocation Award Winner 2019: ‘UK/EEA Family Permit Support Advisor – London’.

Call to action

If you still have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application to the EU Settlement Scheme or for an EEA family permit, then feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected] visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

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Marriage Visitor Visa – What is it and when should you get one?

Thomas Chase Immigration - UK Spouse Visa
I received a call from an applicant who wished to travel to the UK to marry her partner currently based in this country and was considering applying for a marriage visitor visa.

Mary had searched (and searched) the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) website and thought she had everything pretty much sussed. Her partner, Jonathan, also searched the internet and they were both agreed on what they both needed to do and began completing the online application form.

Until, that is, Mary called the Consulate in her home country with a query about processing times and received differing information about the application type and process, leaving her and Jonathan somewhat confused, frustrated and a understandably, a little fed up.

In defence of staff at the Consulate, it can be difficult to guide applicants through the correct process without having a clearer understanding of the needs of the person.

So back to Mary who sought information about Marriage Visitor visas.

Marriage Visitor visas are just that. They allow the overseas applicant from outside of the European Union (EU) to travel to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK.

Criteria

To qualify for a Marriage Visitor visa, the applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Free to give notice of marriage, to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of their arrival
  • Be in a genuine relationship
  • Intend to visit the UK for less than 6 months
  • Intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit
  • Be in a position to support themselves without working in the UK or requiring public funds to do so, and that they can be supported and housed by relatives or friends
  • Must be able to meet the cost of the return or onward journey to their home country or country or residence
  • Not be in transit to a country outside the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands

Documents

Such applications require numerous original documents to be submitted. They include:

  • An original current passport or other valid travel identification
  • Proof that the applicant can support themselves during the entirety of their trip. Such evidence include:
    • Bank statements; or
    • Pay slips for the last 6 months
  • Proof of the applicant’s future plans for the relationship. This may include documents to show where they intend to live
  • Details of where the applicant intends to stay and their travel plans
  • Evidence that arrangements have been or are being made to marry or form a civil partnership or give notice of the intention to do so this during the visit. This may be a letter from a registry office

Additional documents

Depending on the applicant’s circumstances, it may be necessary to provide further documents to meet the eligibility requirements. For instance, if the applicant had previously been married, submitting the following may be necessary:

  • Decree absolute
  • Death certificate of a previous partner

Cost

The visa costs £95. There may be additional nominal fees for extra services payable to the Visa Application Centre.

Timing

Applicants may apply for a Marriage Visitor visa and submit their application to UKVI 3 months before the intended date of travel to the UK.

Processing times

Applications can take approximately 3 weeks to be concluded. However, processing times will vary depending on the Consulate location and individual circumstances. It is therefore strongly recommended that all required documents be submitted with the application to avoid delay at best.

Length of the visa

Marriage Visitor visas are issued for up to 6 months only. During that time, the applicant will be expected to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK. At the end of the visa, the visa holder must leave the UK and return to their country of origin or country of residence.

Is the Marriage Visitor visa the right visa?

The Marriage Visitor visa does not allow applicants to do the following:

  • Claim public funds
  • Bring in family members or dependants. They will need to apply separately
  • Reside in the UK for extended periods through frequent visits
  • Extend the Marriage Visitor visa or switch to another visa category
  • Take up employment – except for permitted activities related to the applicant’ work or business overseas. This may include activities such as attending meetings
  • Take up studies for more than 30 days.

Mary’s immediate and longer terms plans appeared to suggest that the Marriage Visitor visa was not the most appropriate option for her. Jonathan is a British Citizen living in the UK and Mary had expressed a desire to reside with Jonathan in the UK following their marriage.

Having set out the options to Mary, it became clear to her that the Marriage Visitor visa was too narrow for her needs. Such a visa would not enable her extend her stay in the UK beyond 6 months and make a life for herself with Jonathan, a British Citizen. Instead, we discussed the option of applying for a fiancée visa, which you can read about in my other blog post.

Needless to say, by talking through her immigration concerns with an expert, Mary saved herself further frustration and making a visa application that would not have met her immediate and longer term needs.

Updated post originally published on 19 July 2016.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

We can assist you with your application.

If you still have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application to enter the UK and marry, then feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected] visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

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Fiancée visa or Spouse visa? That is the Question

Why we charge for an immigration consultation

immigration consultation

It’s funny the things that stand out the most during your day. A client’s elderly mother had secured an EEA family permit to travel to the UK from Venezuela, which was even more pleasing given their situation.  Yet, it was a subsequent speculative email about an immigration consultation from, let’s call him Roberto, that lead me to write blog post about why we may offer an immigration consultation and charge a fee.

Roberto sent us a lengthy email, which I was asked to respond to. As a non- European Economic Area (EEA) national, he had, it appears, applied for a fiancé visa to marry his British partner. He contacted Thomas Chase Immigration after reading one of our blog posts, to seek personal advice about his and his partner’s next steps, the application process, timings and overall Home Office application fees.

Roberto said had contacted various firms in the past and that it was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that advised him of the process to follow.  Only now that he was in the UK, he had received contradictory information leaving him a little confused.

Roberto had been told that if he applied to switch immigration categories, the application fee would be reduced from the fiancé visa fee. Only now, he had been told that the fee was going to be much higher than expected.

It was difficult to provide some general information in light of the full personal nature of the questions. I responded by saying that I could not offer Roberto specific information without knowing more information and that if he wished to receive advice tailored to his circumstances, that could be done by way of a telephone consultation, with the advice given provided in writing, for a fixed fee.

For some individuals who find the fee to be unsuitable, we refer them to the website of the Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC) so that they may locate another independent regulated immigration adviser whom may be in a position to offer free detailed advice

In Roberto’s case, his response was filled with anger and frustration that we had the temerity to charge for an immigration consultation. He acknowledged that the blog posts were well written and helpful, yet accused us of writing those blog posts with the sole intent of luring readers into paying for a consultation fee.

Roberto accused us of ‘gaming the system’ and said that he had since had a free consultation with another immigration company who quickly answered his questions and offered to take forward his application, an offer that he would likely take up.

So here’s the response that I sent to Roberto:

“I am pleased that you found the blog to be nicely written as our intention is to give our audience as much free general information as possible to help them take forward their own application, or at least be better informed.

Nevertheless, you seem angry and frustrated overall, so let me respond in more detail.

As stated in the earlier email, and on our Contact Us page and in responding to written comments on our blog posts, we can only answer general questions without charge.

We provide specific immigration advice to questions via a telephone consultation and that service carries a fee of £129 for our time, expertise and for preparing a written record of the advice given. And I’m afraid, your questions are personal ones about what is right for you based on your circumstances.

We could offer ‘free’ consultations, with the intent of ‘selling’ our application services at the higher rate; but often our consultations are detailed enough to answer the questions and help clients take forward matters on their own, if they wish.

What I am personally keen to do, having worked in the Home Office and seen the impact of poor immigration advice, is avoid giving general information to you over the phone, that would differ had I of known the full facts of your particular circumstances. After all, immigration applications are personal and dependent on the individual circumstances.

Our services are obviously not for you, though I am pleased that you have found assistance elsewhere“.

Sadly, Roberto proceeded to mansplain immigration and business, at which point there was nothing left to say. We certainly wish him all the best!

However, the point stands. We can offer general information during a call free and we enjoy engaging with you and helping point you in the right direction wherever possible. So do go ahead and give us a call.

What we cannot do as professionals during a general call, is give specific and personal advice based on unverified information. Had Roberto arranged a consultation, I would have answered his very specific questions, as well as reviewed his current visa to ensure that he was aware of the next step in the process, and was clear of the strict date by which the new application must be submitted.

Based on his circumstances, Roberto would have been given information about the immigration fees and additional costs such as the Immigration Health Surcharge. It would have also been useful to establish if there was anything about his matter, which had led to him receiving contradictory information. For instance, had something changed since his arrival to the UK?

There is a cost. Many of the clients that use this service feel informed and say that the feel so much clearer about the way forward. Many times that’s enough.  

What we do not need to do, is offer free consultations so that we may hard sell the application service. That’s just not our approach, though it works for some. And in any case, it often leads to some advisers having to contradict their earlier ‘advice’ during the free immigration consultation, once they are in possession of all the verifiable data and information. I’ve seen this before when I worked in a law firm and clients can get very annoyed!

As I had said to Roberto, we are not for everyone, and that’s fine. There are more than enough OISC regulated immigration advisers to cater to the needs of the individuals seeking assistance.

If you have a general question, you can call; get in touch via the blogs; or send an email to [email protected] 

Nonetheless, if you would like to arrange an immigration consultation for advice about your specific circumstances, we can help too. But there will be a fee.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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EU Settlement Scheme Applications

EU Settlement Scheme Application

The EU Settlement Scheme enables qualifying nationals to continue their residence in the United Kingdom (UK), after the UK leaves the European Union (EU) on 31 October 2019 (also known as ‘Brexit’) and the transitional period. Since the Scheme was officially opened, we have received a huge number of questions about EU Settlement Scheme applications. So much so, that we decided to put together the key questions and answers in this post.

If you have any further questions that you would like us to answer, drop me a line at [email protected]. And feel free to add your comments about the EU Settlement Scheme application process below, so that we can help others as they begin this part of their journey.

Who can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?

Nationals from within the EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who are currently living, working or studying in the UK will need to submit an EU Settlement Scheme application in order to protect their rights so that may continue to live in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.

If you have family members, living in the UK, who are nationals from outside of the EU, EEA and Switzerland, they will also need to apply to the Scheme.

More specifically, you may submit an EU Settlement Scheme application if:

  • You are a family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen;
  • You are the family member of a British citizen and you lived in an EEA Member State together, where the British citizens had exercised their Treaty rights;
  • You are the family member of a British citizen who also has EU, EEA or Swiss citizenship and who lived in the UK as an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen before getting British citizenship;
  • You used to have an EU, EEA or Swiss family member living in the UK;
  • You are the primary carer of a British, EU, EEA or Swiss citizen; or
  • You are the child of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who used to live and work in the UK, or the child’s primary carer;

If the EU Settlement Scheme application is successful, you will be given either pre-settled or settled status.

The Mayor of London has helpfully provided an eligibility checker that may assist you.

What is settled status?

To successfully submit an application for settled status, you must demonstrate to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that you:

  • Had started living in the UK by 31 December 2020 (or by the date the UK leaves the EU without a deal); and
  • Have 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK.

What does the no-deal scenario refer to?

The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October 2019, extended from 29 March 2019 and 12 April 2019.

Once the UK leaves the EU, and is no longer a Member State, the UK and EU’s relationship will be governed by the Withdrawal Agreement.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement was published on 14 November 2018 and was endorsed on 25 November 2018 by leaders of the European Council. It has yet to be finally agreed.

If, the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified on 31 October 2019, the UK will continue to recognise the rights of EU, EEA, Swiss nationals and their family members until the end of the transitional period at 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020.

However, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will be permitted to submit their EU Settlement Scheme application until 30 June 2021. To clarify, applications must be made on the basis that you were in the UK prior to 31 December 2020.

In light on the ongoing discussions within the UK Parliament and with the EU, it is possible that the UK’s exit from the EU may be extended further. It is also possible that the UK may not leave the EU at all. The situation remains fluid and we will keep you updated of key events.

Should the Withdrawal Agreement fail to reach formal agreement or adhere to certain EU conditions, the UK will leave the EU in what has been called a ‘no-deal’ scenario. A no-deal Brexit will bring forward the UK’s departure from the EU and the transitional period to 31 December 2020 will no longer apply.

Nevertheless, the deadline for applications for pre-settled and settled status will be 31 December 2020, unless otherwise advised by UK Visas and Immigration.

If there is a no-deal exit from the EU, the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 will come into force.

After the UK’s exit, the rights and entitlements of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals living and travelling to the UK will be limited. The EU Settlement Scheme aims to protect the rights of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members, who are already in the UK prior to the UK’s departure from the EU.

What is pre-settled status?

Pre-settled status will be given to EU, EEA or Swiss nationals, and their family members, who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years.

To qualify for pre-settled status, you must have started living in the UK prior to the UK’s departure from the EU in a no-deal scenario (which at the time of writing, is still possible) and meet the ‘suitability’ criteria. This refers to UKVI’s criminality checks.

Alternatively, should the UK leave the EU after having ratified the Withdrawal Agreement, then you must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020.

Who are EU nationals?

The EU countries are: 

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden 
  • UK (for the purposes of this post, we will refer to UK nationals exercising their Treaty rights in another Member State).

Who are EEA nationals?

Nationals from the EEA includes the above EU nationals as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

What does ‘continuous residence’ mean?

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will look at the period of continuous residence to assess the length of time that a person has lived in the UK.

For instance, a person may wish to submit an application for pre-settled status on the basis of 3 years’ continuous residence, with the expectation that they secure settlement status within the next 2 years. Or they may wish to submit an application for settlement status based on 5 years’ continuous residence.

Continuous residence means you must have resided in the UK continually and can include residence in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

This does not mean that a person is not permitted to have left the UK for holiday or business purposes. However, if the person had resided in the UK and relocated to their home country for over 6 months in any 12 months’ period, before deciding to travel and take up employment in the UK, then the chain of continuous residence is likely to have been broken by the relocation abroad.

UKVI have listed certain circumstances where a lengthy absence may be permitted in EU Settlement Scheme applications. They are:

  • One period of up to 12 months for an important reason (for example, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas work posting);
  • Compulsory military service of any length;
  • Time you spent abroad as a Crown servant, or as the family member of a Crown servant; and/ or:
  • Time spent abroad in the armed forces, or as the family member of someone in the armed forces.

However, you should bear in mind that meeting the absences requirements for settled status does not guarantee that you will meet the absence requirements to naturalize as a British citizen.

In addition, UKVI state that you and your family may apply for settled status if you have less than 5 years’ continuous residence. This will apply in certain situations only, such as if you and your family need to relocate to the EU for work purposes. Nevertheless, we wait to see how this will be consistently applied.

Do I have to apply for pre-settled status before applying for settled status?

No. If you are likely to have lived in the UK continuously for 5 years before the deadline of 31 December 2020, then you may apply for settled status at date. In this scenario, you do not need to apply for pre-settled status first.

Over time, we may find that employers, and various institutions (rightly or wrongly) request sight of pre-settled and settled status documents well before 31 December 2020, as they too come to grips with their immigration compliance requirements.

As such, applying for pre-settled status, rather than waiting to accumulate 5 years continues residence prior to the end of December 2020, may become a necessity.

Does settled status expire?

Settled status allows the holder to remain in the UK indefinitely. But, their settled status will lapse if the holder is absent from the UK for more than 5 consecutive years.

What is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021.

If, the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the deadline for EU Settlement Scheme applications will be 31 December 2020, unless otherwise advised or published by UKVI.

The primary carer of a British citizen may apply to the Scheme from 1 May 2019.

How do I know if I am eligible to apply to the Scheme as a family member of an EEA national?

You can submit an EU Settlement Scheme application for pre-settled or settled status, if you are related to an EU, EEA or Swiss nationals because you are a:

  • Their spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner or in a relationship within them;
  • Their child, grandchild or great-grandchild under 21 years old;
  • Their dependent child over the age of 21;
  • Their dependent parent, grandparent or great-grandparent; or
  • Their dependent relative

You must provide evidence of your relationship to the EU, EEA or Swiss national as part of the application. This may include:

  • A birth certificate;
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate; or
  • A residence card.

As a family member, you may apply to the EU Settlement Scheme prior to the EU, EEA or Swiss national, though you will need to provide documentary evidence of their identity and residence.

Regardless, it can be beneficial and time efficient to apply to submit the EU Settlement Status application at the same time as the EU, EEA or Swiss national. If applying online, it is possible to refer to the UKVI reference for your family member within your own application. This will allow UKVI to link or connect the applications to each other.

Can British citizens apply for pre-settled and settled status?

British citizens are not eligible or required to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Do Irish nationals need to submit an EU Settlement Scheme application?

No. Irish citizens do not need to apply for pre-settled or settled status.

Nevertheless, family members of an Irish citizen may apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, if they wish.

Further, if you are an Irish national and you have a child who is neither an Irish national nor a British citizen, they may apply for pre-settled or settled status in their own right.

I have Indefinite Leave to Remain. Do I need to apply to the Scheme?

Nationals with indefinite leave to enter or indefinite leave to remain under the Immigration Rules are not required to submit an EU Settlement Scheme application.

Nevertheless, UKVI’s guidance states that if you hold indefinite leave and you submit an EU Settlement Scheme application, then providing you meet all of the requirements, UKVI will give you settled status.

What are the benefits of doing so? Well, currently, holders of indefinite leave can travel outside of the UK for up to 2 years at any one time. Any longer and you will lose your indefinite leave status.

If you hold settled status, it may allow you to stay outside of the UK for up to 5 years in one go, without losing your status.

That said, we strongly suggest that you seek immigration advice before taking any significant action that may change your status.

What if I have certified permanent residence status?

If you hold certified permanent residence status, you will still need to protect your rights by applying to the EU Settlement Scheme. This will allow you to continue to exercise your rights of residence in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.

However, the process for applying for settled status will be different from those who do not hold certified status, in that you will not have to evidence continuous residence for a period of 5 years. This is a sensible approach, given that you had already done so when applying to UKVI to have your permanent residence status certified.

Instead, you must submit one of the following:

  • A certificate inside your blue ‘residence documentation’ booklet (or pink for Swiss nationals);
  • A certificate inside of your passport confirming your status;
  • A biometric residence card confirming permanent for non-EU/EEA nationals; or
  • A document which states ‘Document Certifying Permanent Residence’.

The EU Settlement Status application must be submitted before 30 June 2021. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the application must be submitted by 31 December 2020.

It is also possible to instead apply for British citizenship by 30 June 2021 (or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal), if you hold certified permanent residence status.

Can my child apply for pre-settled or settled status?

Your child may apply for pre-settled or settled status. You may also submit an EU Settlement Scheme application on behalf of your child if:

  • Your child is under 21 years of age; and
  • The child is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen; or
  • You or your spouse or civil partner is an EU, EEA or Swiss national, but the child is not.

As part of the application, your child will need to provide evidence of their status or proof of their relationship to the EU, EEA or Swiss national.

Your child will not be required to provide evidence of their continuous residence in the UK, though UKVI may request such proof when considering the application.

In addition, if you are an Irish national and you have a child who is neither an Irish national nor a British citizen, they may apply for pre-settled or settled status in their own right.

What happens if I cannot join my EEA family member in the UK after the UK after Brexit?

If your EU, EEA or Swiss family member is already resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, but you are not, you may still apply to join them in the UK, if:

  • Your family member has either settled or pre-settled status; and
  • Your relationship to the EU, EEA or Swiss national began before 31 December 2020; and
  • You continue to be a close family member, such as a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, a dependent child or grandchild, or a dependent parent or grandparent.

However, if the UK leave the EU without a deal, the deadline for you to join your EU, EEA or Swiss family member in the UK will be 29 March 2022. Nevertheless, the situation remains fluid and therefore subject to change.

Can I take up employment in Europe and still live in the UK?

You may apply for settled status if you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and had lived in the UK, but has now started working in another EU Member State.

In this situation, you will need to evidence that you:

  • Have lived and worked or been self-employed in the UK for a continuous period of 3 years prior to your departure; and
  • Usually return to your UK once a week.

This applies to employment and self-employment and applications must be submitted from within the UK.

If you are the family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen at the time that the EU, EEA or Swiss citizen starts work or self-employment in another EU Member State, you may also be eligible for settled status.

Is there a fee to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?

EU Settlement Scheme applications are free. There was an intention, at the announcement of the Scheme, to charge £65 per applicant. And indeed, the fee had been paid by some applicants during the pilot phase.

Thankfully, the fee has since been waived and refunded to applicants, where appropriate.

What happens after I apply to UKVI?

If, after consideration of the EU Settlement Scheme application, UKVI decide to grant you pre-settled or settled stats, UKVI will send you a link to an online service where you may confirm and prove your status.

The link may be given to employers or other institutions to prove your status in the UK.

UKVI will not provide you with a physical Biometric Residence Card (BRP) or document, so it is important that you keep a copy or screenshot of your status for your records.

Conversely, if you are a national from outside of the EU, EEA or Switzerland and do not already have a BRP to evidence your status, you will be given a document to confirm your pre-settled or settled status.

What happens if my application is unsuccessful?

The decision to refuse pre-settled or settled status applications does not carry a right of appeal, though it is possible to request an administrative review.

UKVI will normally contact you if there is incorrect or missing information prior to making a decision, so it is crucial to provide an email address or phone number where you can be reached.

If the application is refused, you may apply again to the EU Settlement Scheme at any time until 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020, in a no-deal scenario.

Conclusion

Submitting an EU Settlement Scheme application will protect the rights of EU, EEA, Swiss nationals and their family members living in the UK. We have received a number of questions about the Scheme, which we have addressed in this in-depth Q&A post.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

If you still have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application to the EU Settlement Scheme or for an EEA family permit, then feel free to contact us.

Contact us at [email protected] or visit https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation.

Or learn more about from our blogs

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https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/eu-settlement-scheme-guide

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/brexit-deal-or-no-deal

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/eea-family-permit/

Tier 2 ICT Salary Requirements

Tier 2 ICT Salary Requirements

This guide sets out the Tier 2 ICT salary requirements and considerations so that you can avoid an adverse visa decision and gain the points needed to secure the Tier 2 ICT visa.

Background

Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Long Term visa (or Tier 2 ICT visa) allows a multinational company to transfer highly skilled overseas nationals to their branch or office in the United Kingdom (UK), where there is a genuine temporary need.

Under the Immigration Rules, there are a number of requirements to be met. On fundamental, and often confusing criteria, which sometimes lead to the refusal of the Tier 2 ICT visa, is the Tier 2 ICT salary requirements.

In order to secure a Tier 2 ICT visa, the applicant must meet the Tier 2 ICT salary requirements. We have focused on this requirement due to a recent approach from a company and subsequent query on Quora

To gain sufficient points to secure a Tier 2 ICT visa under the Points Based System of the Immigration Rules, the applicant must have:

  • A skilled job offer;
  • A certificate of sponsorship from an organisation that is a licensed sponsor in the UK; and
  • Evidence that they will receive the appropriate salary.

In relation to the latter, the Immigration Rules specify that the Tier 2 ICT visa applicant must earn a minimum salary of £41,500 per year or the appropriate salary for their job type (whichever is the higher). Tier 2 ICT Graduate Trainee visa holders must earn a minimum salary of £23,000, though our focus here is on the Tier 2 ICT Long Term visa sub-category.

This requirement can cause HR professionals within multinationals and Tier 2 ICT visa applicants much concern. Indeed, applications for a Tier 2 ICT visa can be refused if the salary requirements are not met. For this reason, I always ensure that HR professionals understand the important connection between the role to be offered to the Tier 2 ICT applicant, the hours to be worked in the UK and the salary to be paid.

Hourly rates

The annual salary figure is based on 39 hours per week. As a result, a Tier 2 ICT Long Term visa applicant, who has been offered a position in the UK office, and who will receive a salary of £41,500, will earn £20.46 per hour.

That is, 41,500/52 = 798.08

798.08/39 = 20.46

If the applicant were to be offered £41,500 for employment, of say 40 hours per week, the visa applicant will fall short of the minimum salary requirement and their visa application will be refused. Instead, in this example, the applicant would be expected to earn £42,556.80 per annum based on 40 hours per week.

That is, 20.46 x 40 = 818.40

818.40 x 52 = 42,556.80

Where the Tier 2 ICT visa applicant has not worked for the sponsor in their overseas office for at least 12 months, the applicant must be offered an annual salary of at least £73,900.

For completeness, Tier 2 ICT Graduate Trainees need only have been employed by the sponsor in their overseas office for 3 months.

SOC codes

We now have to add the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC)code of the Codes of Practice in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules into the mix.

The HR professional must enter the SOC code into the Certificate of Sponsorship, as confirmation that the Tier 2 ICT applicant will be paid at, or above, the appropriate rate of salary for the role as set out in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules.

SOC codes are used by sponsoring employers and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to assess, not only the correct skill level for the specific employment role, but also the appropriate salary.

‘Appropriate salary’

So what do we mean when we say that the highly skilled applicant must earn a minimum salary of £41,500 ‘or the appropriate salary for their job type (whichever is the higher)’?

Well, the Tier 2 ICT Long term visa applicant will have to earn the annual salary set out under the appropriate SOC code, if that salary is higher than £41,500 per annum.

Again, salary calculations are based on 39 hours per week.

So, to clarify, if the Tier 2 ICT visa applicant is seeking to transfer to the UK to undertake the role of an experienced Marketing Director, as mapped to SOC code 1132, as listed at Table 2 of the Codes of Practice they will need to earn a minimum annual salary of £49,900. That figure may include certain employment allowances – see below.

If the applicant wishes to enter the UK and work as an experienced Social Services Manager as mapped to SOC code 1184 of the Codes of Practice, they cannot rely on the salary of £29,100, as specified. Rather, the company will have to pay the applicant an annual salary of £41,500.

This may all seem nonsensical, as many of the salaries listed within the Codes of Practice list salaries of less than £41,500. Yet, worth noting that the Codes of Practice apply to Tier 2 (General) visa applicants also, who can earn a minimum salary of £30,000 per annum, unless the appropriate salary for their job type is higher. Therefore, it is feasible for a Tier 2 (General) visa applicant to meet a lower minimum salary threshold in comparison to an applicant applying for a Tier 2 ICT Long Term visa.

New entrant v experience worker

The salary, as mapped to the appropriate SOC code, will need to factor in whether the applicant is a ‘new entrant’ or an ‘experienced’ hire.

If the applicant has worked in a particular role for the company for a lengthy period of time, the applicant will be deemed to be an experienced hire. By entering the salary figure into the Certificate of Sponsorship, the sponsoring employer is undertaking to pay the stated salary to the applicant for the initial period of the Tier 2 ICT visa. That is, 3 years and 1 month.

The applicant is entitled to extend their visa, from within the UK, to a total of 5 years. At the time of the renewal, the applicant must earn the salary rate for an experienced hire or £41,500 (whichever is the higher salary), so as to meet the Tier 2 ICT salary requirements. This is regardless of whether the applicant first earned a lower new entrant salary or not.

It is possible for sponsors to support an application for a 5-year visa. Some companies do so because of the certainty that a longer term visa can provide to both the business and applicant. If, from the very outset, the company wishes to sponsor the applicant for the full 5-year term of the visa, the applicant must be paid at, or above, the appropriate experienced rate of salary for the role, as set out under the SOC code or £41,500, whichever is the higher. This is regardless of whether the applicant would ordinarily be deemed to be a new entrant when first transferring to the UK.

Allowances

Tier 2 ICT salary requirements allow the applicant’s salary to be made up of:

  • Guaranteed gross basic pay; and
  • Allowances, up to the limit below, which are guaranteed to be paid for the duration of the applicant’s employment in the UK; and
  • will be paid to a local settled worker in similar circumstances, such as London weighting; or
  • are paid as a mobility premium or to cover the additional cost of living in the UK.

There are certain allowances that a sponsor may pay, but which cannot be taken into account when calculating the Tier 2 ICT applicant’s appropriate salary levels. They include, but are not limited to:

  • One-off payments, such as those linked to the cost of relocation, which will not form part of the Tier 2 ICT applicant’s regular salary package;
  • Non-guaranteed payments, such as bonuses or incentive related pay;
  • Overtime payments, whether or not overtime is guaranteed;
  • Business expenses payment, including (but not limited to) training, international travel, hotels and business travel within the UK;
  • Any payments for which the applicant will need to reimburse the sponsor or a linked overseas business;
  • Employer pension contributions;
  • Medical benefits;
  • Tuition fees payments; and
  • The value of any shares that the applicant may obtain in exchange for some of their UK employment rights as an employer-owner.

It is not unusual for sponsors to include accommodation allowances as part of the applicant’s salary calculations. Nonetheless, UKVI only consider accommodation allowances of up to a maximum of 30 per cent of the gross salary package.

UKVI have helpfully provided 2 examples in their guidance, which it is worth replicating here:

Example 1

The sponsor offers:  

* Accommodation allowances: £10,000
* Salary and other (non-accommodation) allowances: £35,000  

The total salary package the sponsor has offered is:
*£10,000 + £35,000 = £45,000.  

The salary and other (non-accommodation) allowances can be a minimum of 70 per cent of the total package you can take into account.  

This means that £35,000 is 70 per cent of the maximum package you can take into account.

You calculate this maximum package by dividing £35,000 by 70 per cent (or 0.7):  
* £35,000 ÷ 0.7 = £50,000  

In this example, the total package the sponsor has offered is less than the maximum package that UKVI can take into account.

In this case UKVI can:  
* Take into account the whole package and use the total £45,000 when checking the appropriate rate  

As a result, UKVI will award 20 points for meeting the Tier 2 ICT salary requirements.

Example 2

The sponsor offers:

* Accommodation allowances: £20,000
* Salary and other (non-accommodation) allowances: £24,500  

The total salary package the sponsor has offered is: £20,000 + £24,500 = £44,500.

The salary and other (non-accommodation) allowances can be a minimum of 70 per cent of the total package you can take into account (or 0.7):  
* £24,500 ÷ 0.7 = £35,000.

In this example the total package the sponsor has offered is more than the maximum package you can take into account.  

In this case UKVI can:  
*Only take into account £35,000  

As a result, UKVI will award no points for meeting the Tier 2 ICT salary requirements because the salary falls below the £41,500 threshold for long term applicants.

For completeness, Tier 2 ICT Graduate Trainees accommodation allowances of up to a maximum of 40 per cent of the gross salary package, instead of 30 per cent for long term staff. This is to reflect the higher cost of short term accommodation.

Conclusion

Tier 2 ICT visas are a helpful tool for allowing companies to transfer highly skilled talent to fill roles in the UK, that cannot be filled by resident workers or by those from within the European Economic Area (EEA). There are strict requirements to be met, including the Tier 2 ICT salary requirements.

Where the Tier 2 ICT salary requirements are not met, UKVI will refuse the application on the basis that the applicant has not gained the necessary points to be awarded a Tier 2 ICT visa.

There are many factors which HR professionals and Tier 2 ICT applicants must take into account when assessing whether the salary requirements are met, such as: whether the role has been mapped to the most suitable SOC codes of the codes of Practice within the Immigration Rules; if the appropriate salary level has been met or exceeded; if the applicant is a ‘new entrant’ or experienced hire’; the hours of work; and length of the term of the visa to be applied for.

The Tier 2 ICT salary requirements are less than straightforward. Yet, taking the above into account, and paying due diligence to the Immigration Rules and UKVI guidance, can help ensure that the Tier 2 ICT visa is issued without distress to the applicant and without further time and cost to the sponsoring company.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application.

Contact us at [email protected] visit  https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/contact-us to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

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British Passport Interview

British passport interview

Congratulations! You and your family have naturalised as British citizens. You have submitted your applications for your first British passports. Only now, you have been invited to an interview. Why? What’s the purpose of the British passport interview and what can you expect? We answer those questions below.

Our clients, Seb and Ute, and their 3 children had naturalised as British citizens with our assistance.

Once completed, we gave Seb and Ute guidance on how to proceed with their British passport applications.

We hadn’t heard from them for quite some time, and took the view that everything was probably progressing smoothly. That is, until Seb called in a huge panic.

Seb’s application for a British passport, and Ute’s, had been approved by the Passport Office. Their two youngest children, both under 10 years of age, also received their passports. But Seb’s and Ute’s 17-year-old daughter did not receive her passport. Instead, she was invited for a British passport interview by the Passport Office.

Disappointed and fearing the worst, Seb called to understand the meaning behind the British passport interview. After all the hurdles that he, Ute and their children had jumped through to reach this stage, would their daughter end up being denied her first British passport?

The reason for a British passport interview

British passport interviews are nothing to fear.

Normally, HM Passport Office (Passport Office) will issue a British passport based on the document submitted with the application.

If not completely satisfied about the applicant’s identity, rather than reject the British passport application, the Passport Office may invite the applicant, of 16 years of above, to their offices for an interview in order to assure themselves that the applicant is who they say they are.

This applies to the very first passport application. It does not apply to passport renewal applications.

The validity of the interviewing process to achieve this objective was questioned as far back as 2010, when data at the time showed that the interviews lead to great inconvenience for genuine applicants and added to the application fees, yet did not lead to significant sanctions for those caught abusing the system.

Still, is important to highlight that the Passport Office is not seeking to test the applicant’s entitlement or eligibility for a passport, merely their identity.

It isn’t as daunting as it sounds and there is no need to request the presence of a lawyer or adviser.

Where can I find a passport office?

Passport offices can be found via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/passport-interview-office

What to expect at the interview?

The British passport interview lasts approximately 30 minutes. Some of the questions that the applicant can expect to answer are:

  • Their full name and the spelling of their name
  • Their date of arrival to the UK
  • Their residential address, including their full postcode
  • The length of time that they have lived in the UK
  • The length of time that they have lived at their present address
  • The names and roles of the persons that countersigned their application for a British passport
  • Their employment status
  • Their employment or self-employment role
  • The location of their Citizenship ceremony

For younger applicants such as Seb and Ute’s daughter, the applicant may also be asked:

  • Their school name and address
  • The full names of their family members
  • The number of siblings in their household
  • Their parents’ names and date of births

The answers to the questions should already be familiar to the applicant, and so there is nothing to revise or prepare for, except say, making sure that you are clear about the information that your chosen referee has provided to you for the purposes of the application.

When applying for a British passport on behalf of minors, it may seem inconsequential to inform them of the persons supporting their applications. However, it may be beneficial to update them if there are invited to an interview.

Regardless, we are aware of one person who was unable to recite the date of their parents’ marriage or their parents’ wedding location. That person had answered all of the remaining questions correctly and still received their passport.  

Conclusion

British passport interviews may strike fear but really are an opportunity for the Passport Office to test your identity. The Passport Office will ask questions that should be readily known to you, as the sample questions above demonstrate.

Once the Passport Office are satisfied with the information provided at the interview, you can expect your first British passport to be issued quite quickly.

As to Seb and Ute’s daughter, she attended the interview and we are pleased to report that she was issued with a British passport a few days after her interview.  

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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Brexit Deal or No Deal

Brexit no deal

As of today’s date, we do not yet know what Brexit means for the UK. The UK was due to leave the UK on 29 March 2019. and yet here we are. Let that sink in for a moment. A once politically stable country has now become the victims of party politics as its denizens watch on, feeling more and more powerless over a referendum vote that was supposed to make them feel empowered and optimistic.

And yet, the UK is still a fantastic place to live. So what other positives can we take away from this situation for European Union (EU) nationals and their family members living in the UK? And what is the EU Settlement Scheme?

Brexit deal

On 14 November 2018, the UK government reaffirmed, by way of its draft Withdrawal Agreement that EU nationals, and their family members, will continue to have a right of residence in the UK as of 30 March 2019, after the UK leaves the UK.

To add to the uncertainty, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU was extended until 12 April 2019.

To solidify their rights, and confirm the right to stay in the UK after 30 June 2021, European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their family members must apply for continued residence to the new scheme. That is, the EU Settlement Scheme.

Under the EU Settlement Scheme, qualifying individuals will need to apply for pre-settled or settled status during a transitionary period that will end on 31 December 2020, though the deadline for such applications will end on 30 June 2021.

If a person applies for pre-settled status during the transitionary period, they may remain in the UK and apply for settled status after a period of continuous residence of 5 years.

Pre-settled status is important as it will allow EEA nationals and their qualifying family members to:

  • Work in the UK;
  • Access the National Health Service (NHS);
  • Enrol in education or continue studying;
  • Access public funds such as benefits and pensions, if you’re eligible for them; and
  • Travel in and out of the UK.

Prime Minister Theresa May had stated in her Brexit Statement, before the House of Commons, that no fee would be payable for pre-settled and settled status applications. In other words, the proposed fee of £65 have been scrapped.

However, if applications are free, it begs the question, how will the Home Office finance the large numbers of caseworkers needed to process the millions of applications in a timely and costly manner? Already there is concern that applicants can only use Home Office’s App on Android to prove their identity. Apple users will have to be patient or ‘borrow a friend’s phone’ according to the Home Office.

The exercise also seems excessive, as EEA nationals and their family members are having to switch their current residence certificates and certified permanent residence cards to pre-settled and settled status documents. Though, perhaps it is an exercise that will allow the Home Office to collect data and statistical evidence.

‘No deal’

Should the UK leave the EU in a ‘no-deal’ situation, EEA nationals and their family members will, according to the Government, continue to have a right of residence under the EU Settlement Scheme.

EEA nationals and their family members will have until 31 December 2020 to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme, to protect their status. Further details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/policy-paper-on-citizens-rights-in-the-event-of-a-no-deal-brexit.

That said, it is crucial to note that if there is a no-deal Brexit, only those who have been in the UK by 12 April 2019 may apply to the scheme for pre-settled status. This is correct as of today’s date.

In the event of a no deal Brexit, EEA nationals and their family members seeking entry to the UK will be subject to the UK’s stricter immigration laws. They will no longer have a right to enter the UK as per the EU regulations.

Indeed, the Government had said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and as such, the end of freedom of movement:

“EU citizens and their family members arriving in the UK will be admitted under UK immigration rules and will require permission (leave to enter or remain). Unlike EU free movement, this will not be a rights-based system so those who do not hold valid immigration permission to be in the UK will be here unlawfully and may be liable to enforcement action”.

The Government went on to say:

The details of the UK’s future skills-based immigration system are set out in a white paper published on 19 December 2018. It will take some time to implement this new system, and for EU citizens already resident in the UK to obtain their status under the EU Settlement Scheme. It is important that we allow sufficient time for granting status to resident EU citizens before we start to implement the new skills-based immigration system because until the resident population have been granted status, it will not be possible for employers, universities, landlords and others to distinguish between pre-exit residents who are eligible to remain in the UK on broadly the same terms as now, and later arrivals”.

Hence, the need for an interim arrangement until 31 December 2020. Though whether the Government and Home Office will be ready to implement the new system and processes by that time remains to be seen.

How will this affect you?

For those EEA nationals, and their family members that are already in the UK, it is highly advisable to apply for pre-settled status or settled status during the transitionary period, and certainly before any published deadlines. This will ensure that their UK rights of residency are protected.

For EEA nationals already in the UK, who are separated from their family members, now may be a good time to consider whether their non-European family members should apply for entry to join them in the UK.

What individuals should avoid doing is panicking! Easier said than done! But leaving the UK for more than six months to assess matters from afar, and then returning after Brexit, could have serious implications for EEA nationals and their families.

Similarly, leaving the UK and applying for entry clearance under a work visa or other category under the UK immigration rules may prove harmful to European nationals who have already invested a great deal to the UK, as it could re-set the individual’s continuous residence clock and status.

Conclusion

Brexit has led to uncertainty. Uncertainty about what Brexit is and what it means for the UK. There are also question marks as to whether there will be an agreed Brexit deal or not. Nevertheless, amongst the haze, some clarity has been provided. EEA nationals and their family members will have a continued right of residence under the EU Settlement Scheme. What individuals must avoid, is doing anything that may negatively impact their long term hopes.

UPDATED 3 April 2019.


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals, families and organisations.

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Avoiding EEA Family Permit Refusals

EEA family permit refusals

In Part 1, of our series on EEA applications we looked at the application process, and documents required to apply for an EEA family permitHere, in the second part of our series, we look at EEA family permit refusals, focusing on the top 3 reasons for refusals and how to avoid them.

If you would like support with your EEA family permit application or a review of your draft application before submitting it, feel free to contact us at [email protected]

Background

EEA family permits are issued under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 but has seen little change from Regulations 2006. The issue of the permits does not fall under UK Immigration Rules.

The purpose of the family permit is to allow overseas nationals, from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), (or non-EEA nationals) to enter the United Kingdom (UK) and join their family member, as long as they are the:

  • Family member of an EEA national, or
  • Extended family member of an EEA national

There is no application fee and the process is not as onerous as compared to, say, applying for a UK spouse visa under the Immigration Rules. So what could possibly go wrong? Let’s explore…

Context

According to the Home Office’s National Immigration Statistics as of the end of 2018,  the number of EEA family permits that were granted from 2015 to 2018 was as follows:

  • 2015 – 30,302
  • 2016 – 33,118
  • 2017 – 27,106
  • 2018 – 36,555

So, 30,302 EEA family permits were issued overseas in 2015. The number of EEA family permits issued rose by almost 10% in 2016 to 33,118. While there was a dip in the number of approvals in 2017, the numbers rose to their highest levels in 2018, a likely reflection of the high number of applications there were received in the run up to the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Extracting details of the number of successful applications and the rate of refusals is difficult and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the body responsible for processing applications, is often unwilling to provide such specific data. Much of the data tends to include other types of applications and categories.

Yet, from direct experience, UKVI was well known for inappropriately refusing EEA family permits and using an inconsistent approach when considering applications.

When presenting cases in the immigration Tribunal on behalf of the Secretary of State, it was, unfortunately, not usual for applicants to successfully lodge an appeal against an adverse decision of an Entry Clearance Officer or in a few instances, to withdraw a UKVI decision because it was poorly argued.

Nowadays, the decision making has improved but the European Commission noted that non-EEA family members are still being denied family permits by UKVI on invalid grounds, or without a justified reason.

In fact, the European Commission stated:

Only in the UK is it possible to state that the number of refusals of entry or residence, as well as expulsions of EU citizens, is steadily on the rise

It went on to say:

National authorities indicate that this is the result of concerted efforts to refuse entry or to expel EU citizens convicted of a criminal offence, as well as EU citizens who do not meet the conditions attached to extended residence rights under Article 7 of the Directive. This indicates the UK’s willingness to publicly demonstrate that it is addressing popular concerns such as criminality and immigration, including the immigration of EU citizens

It’s hard to disagree with this. There are times when, the way in which non-EEA family members visa applications are handled appear to support the Commission’s assertions that barriers are deliberately being placed.

For instance, it is not uncommon for non-EEA family members to be asked to produce excessive levels of documentation  so as to secure their permit and still experience delays of sometimes 12 weeks and beyond.

Similarly, it is difficult to assess the main reasons invoked by UKVI for refusing to grant non-EEA family members entry to the UK. Yet from past UKVI experience, research and information from clients looking for assistance after a refusal, the top 5 reasons for EEA family permits can be seen as follows…

Tops reasons for EEA family permit refusals

3. The applicant does not provide any (or adequate) evidence to support their claim to be the direct family member of an EEA national

Direct family members of EEA nationals are set out in Part 7 of the EEA Regulations as:

  • Spouses or civil partners
  • Direct descendants of the EEA national or their spouse/ civil partner under 21
  • Dependent direct descendants of the EEA national or their spouse/ civil partner 21 and over
  • Dependent direct relatives in the ascending line, for example parents and grandparents of the EEA national or their spouse / civil partner

The above members are viewed as the core of the EEA national’s family.

When assessing the application, it is important for documentary evidence is provided to UKVI to show the relationship between the non-EEA family member and the EEA national.

The type of documentary evidence needed will depend on the nature of the relationship. As a guide, such documents can include:

  • An original marriage certificate supported by a certified translation, if appropriate
  • An original civil partnership certificate supported by a certified translation, if appropriate
  • A divorce certificate or a death certificate where there the EEA national or non-EEA national was previously married
  • Original birth certificates naming the EEA national as one of the parents of the non-EEA child
  • Original birth certificates naming the EEA national as the child of the non-EEA parent

2. The EEA national is not a qualified person because there is no evidence of Treaty rights being exercised

The purpose of the EEA family permit is to join or travel with the EEA national to the UK. To clarify, the EEA national must either:

  • Be in the UK already
  • Plan on travelling with you to the UK within 6 months of the date of your application

If the EEA national has been in the UK for more than 3 months they must either:

  • Be a ‘qualified person’ who is exercising their ‘Treaty’ right by working, looking for work, self-employed, studying or self-sufficient); or
  • Have a permanent right of residence in the UK

Where UKVI is not satisfied of the above, you can expect to receive an EEA family permit refusal with the following wording:

You have failed to provide evidence that your EEA national family member is a qualified person in accordance with Regulation 6 of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006. I am, therefore, not satisfied that your EEA national family member is residing in the UK in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006.

To avoid this, it is important to evidence the EEA national’s permanent residence status, by way of an EEA permanent residence status, or show they are exercising their ‘Treaty rights’ by submitting original, stamped or certified documents appropriate to their circumstances – see our previous article for more details.

If the EEA national does not have a permanent residence status, some examples of recommended documents of exercising Treaty rights may include:

  • Employment – an employment contract, payslips or a letter from an employer
  • Self-employed – Service contracts, customer invoices or audited accounts with bank statements
  • Studying – A letter from the UK school, college or university
  • Financially self-sufficient – bank statements

EEA nationals that are financially self-sufficient or studying in the UK must have comprehensive medical insurance to be a ‘qualified person’ and it is recommended that evidence of insurance be submitted to UKVI.

1. The applicant is a party to a marriage of convenience

UKVI defines a marriage of convenience as an ‘abuse of the right to reside’. Unsurprisingly, where UKVI suspect that the marriage or civil partnership between the EEA national and non-EEA national was entered into to circumvent the UK immigration rules, the UKVI will issue a refusal with the following wording:

The definition of ‘spouse’ in the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 does not include a party to a marriage of convenience. I am satisfied that you are party to a marriage of convenience and are therefore not the family member of an EEA national in accordance with Regulation 7 of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006.

One of my previous clients, a US national, was absolutely devastated to receive a letter from UKVI informing her that her recent marriage to a French national was a sham.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Mr Polyakov, a Russian national, married to his German wife, Anna who had sought an EEA family permit to visit his daughter and newly arrived grandson in the UK. Mr Polyakov was surprised to find that the genuineness of his marriage was doubted by UKVI because he had submitted his marriage certificate, but has not provided photographs of his wedding. Mr Polyakov and Mrs Polyakov have been married since 1975!

In the case of our client, she had followed the online guidance and submitted her original marriage certificate.  UKVI’s guidance makes it clear that a valid marriage certificate is sufficient to prove a family relationship. In fact, where UKVI suspects that the marriage is one of inconvenience, the burden of proof falls on UKVI to support their assertion by testing their suspicions.  This is supported by case law.

Yet despite this guidance, UKVI did not ask the client to provide additional information about the relationship. Nor had the client or her spouse been invited to an interview. Unfortunately, the client’s time frame for lodging an appeal had lapsed and so the decision to refuse the application for this reason could not be challenged.

She contacted Thomas Chase Immigration for the first time to assist her with a new application for an EEA family permit.  By now, she had been married for 6 months.

To help the client increase her chances of success in securing an EEA family permit, she was advised to gather as many documents that she had that related to her relationship with her spouse. The purpose of this exercise was to show UKVI that despite the couple’s marriage of 6 months, the couple had been in a genuine relationship for over 2 years.

The following documents were submitted:

  • Records of past communications between the couple such as Skype and WhatsApp messages
  • Travel tickets of holidays taken together
  • Photographs

We provided a covering letter, setting out the client’s circumstances, how she met the requirements, and touched on her previous refusal and how this application differed. We helped the client to make a strong application. Needless to say, the client’s application was approved.

Conclusion

EEA family permits can be refused for a number of reasons, many of which come as a total surprise to the applicant. By being aware of the pitfalls and preparing a strong application, the application process for an EEA family permit will likely go as smoothly as possible.

Have you or someone you know received a recent refusal? What were the reasons given and what advice would you give to others?

Share this blog with someone who might benefit from it.

This post was first published on 31 May 2017 and updated on 1 March 2019.

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Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase Immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals, families and HR professionals.

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Need straightforward immigration advice or assistance with a visa application?

Contact us at [email protected] to arrange a consultation or to request assistance. You can also learn more about UK immigration from our blogs.

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