Brexit Update

Brexit Update

On 23 March, the Home Office issued an update to European Economic Area (EEA) nationals on their status after Brexit on March 2019, when the United Kingdom (UK) formally leaves the European Union (EU).  This follows the Department for Exiting the European Union’s policy paper, which was published on 28 February 2018.

The Home Office maintains that EEA nationals’ rights to reside in the UK will continue to be honoured until 29 March 2019.

From 29 March 2019 until 30 June 2021, EEA nationals and their families, will be allowed to apply for a new status that will allow them to continue to work, study and reside in the UK.

It was announced, that the system for registering for the new settled status will be straightforward and streamlined, and compatible with EU Directive 2004/38 (Article 8).

At the present time, it is still unclear what immigration framework EEA nationals, and their families, will be subjected to post 30 June 2021 and so we await further details.

For the Home Office’s full update, read on…

—————————————————————————————————————-

As Brexit negotiations continue, this is the latest information on the status of EU citizens in the UK and how you are affected.

You may have seen this week that the UK and the EU have now reached an agreement on what happens during the period immediately after Brexit, known as the implementation period. This is important as it will give citizens and businesses on both sides time to adjust before a new relationship with the EU is agreed.

So, what has been agreed so far and how will you be affected?

EU citizens currently in the UK

The agreement on citizens’ rights reached in December has now been formalised into a draft Treaty text, meaning it is in the right form to be written into law.

The agreement means that if you are an EU citizen living in the UK before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 you will be able to continue to live and work in the UK. Your rights to healthcare, work arrangements and access to benefits will continue. Also, your existing close family members will be able to join you in future in the same way that they can now. You can read more here: Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know.

From this week, EU citizens in the UK have been seeing digital adverts encouraging you to ‘stay informed’. The activity is part of an ongoing effort by the Government to build awareness about the agreement to protect EU citizens’ rights ahead of the roll-out of the settlement scheme. As a member of this mailing list, you will continue to receive the latest information on how you are affected and what action you will need to take in future.

Settlement scheme

If you are an EU citizen or family member already living in the UK, a user-friendly scheme to enable you to secure your settled status here will open later this year. But there is no rush – you will have up until 30 June 2021 to make your application.

We will provide more information on the scheme and how to apply in the coming months. You do not need to do anything further at this point.

Implementation period

The agreement we reached with the EU this week extends the citizens’ rights protections above to include EU citizens and their family members arriving in the UK during the implementation period (from 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020). This ensures that those planning to come to the UK after March next year know what the arrangements will be. During this time, new arrivals will need to register through a new Home Office registration scheme after three months in the UK.

—————————————————————————————————————-

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Liked this blog?

You might also like:

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/brexit-latest-settled-status-eu-nationals/

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

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/top-10-qa-on-british-citizenship/

 

Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or guidance on EU free movement?

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

 

EU Citizens Brexit Update

EU Citizens Brexit Update

On 19 December 2017, Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, issued an update to EU citizens on their status once the UK formally leaves the EU in March 2019. So how does the UK Government intend to protect EU citizens, and their families, after Brexit?

In essence, the Home Secretary maintains that EU citizens’ Treaty rights will continue to be honoured until March 2019. Thereafter, EU citizens will be granted a new status that will allow them to continue to work, reside, study in the UK.

For the Home Secretary’s full update, read on…

—————————————————————————————————————-

I’m proud that so many EU citizens like yourself have built your lives in the UK and made it your home. We value your contribution which is why the Government put safeguarding your rights as the first priority in the Brexit negotiations.

I am absolutely delighted that we have now reached an agreement with the EU that does this. I know that at times you’ve had an anxious wait while the fine details were ironed out, but we wanted to get it right and we have always had you at the forefront of our thoughts.

We have always said that we will continue to recognise the value you bring to our society, and that we will remain an open and diverse country. Hopefully this deal provides reassurance that we will do just that.

The agreement we have reached ensures the rights you and your family currently have remain[ed] broadly the same with access to healthcare, benefits and pensions protected. And your existing close family members living outside the UK retain the right to join you in future. These rights will be cemented in UK law meaning you can live your life as you do now with the security of knowing they won’t change. Irish citizens also have their existing rights, associated with the Common Travel Area arrangements, protected.

Away from the negotiations, my team at the Home Office has been working hard to build the digital system that you’ll use to get your new status. It’s being designed from scratch to be quick and simple to use. There won’t be bureaucratic hurdles – those processing applications will work in your favour.

What’s more, it will cost no more than the fee a British person pays for a passport and if you already have valid permanent residence documentation it will be free. There will be support for the vulnerable and those without access to a computer, and we’re working with EU citizens’ representatives and embassies to ensure the system works for everyone.

You do not need to do anything just yet. You will see more detail about the settled status scheme from us in the new year and we expect applications will open during the second half of 2018. In the meantime, please do share this message with your friends and family so that they too can stay up to date through our mailing list.

I hope that the agreement we have reached provides certainty to you and your family ahead of Christmas. EU citizens, like yourself, who have made the UK their home are our family, our neighbours and our colleagues and we want you to stay.

Have a very happy Christmas.

Yours sincerely,

Amber Rudd
Home Secretary

 

—————————————————————————————————————-

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Liked this blog?

You might also like:

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/eu-settled-status-latest/

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/brexit-latest-settled-status-eu-nationals/

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

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/top-10-qa-on-british-citizenship/

 

Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or guidance on EU free movement?

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

EEA PR applications: Assessing your options

EEA PR applications

There is still a lack of clarity about the position of European Economic Area (EEA) nationals in the United Kingdom (UK) post Brexit and this is having an impact on EEA PR applications.

As highlighted in past blogs (and newsletters to our subscribers), EEA nationals will be expected to ‘upgrade’ their current status to the new ‘settled’ status from March 2019, when the UK formally leaves to the European Union (EU).

While nothing has changed for the time being, many clients are instructing us to assist them with their applications to certify their permanent residence (PR).

But before launching into the applications, it helps to understand our clients’ reasoning and assess whether the legal requirements are met. After all, we want to make sure that our clients’ immediate and long terms needs are fulfilled and that the applications are in their best interests.

For example:

Case study 1: Sarah

Sarah is a French national who has lived and worked in the UK for over 10 years.

She owned her own home, had a stable and well paid job, had not used the National Health Service (NHS), apart from the odd check-up at her local doctor’s surgery) and until recently, felt very settled in the UK.

Sarah wished to apply for British citizenship to give her peace of mind in light of the lack of clear Government assurance for EEA nationals.

During our consultation, it became clear that Sarah had automatically acquired permanent residence (PR) in the UK once she had exercised her Treaty rights and continually resided in the UK for 5 years.

Nonetheless, that status had not been certified by the Home Office, a prerequisite for applications to naturalise as a British citizen.

Sarah was advised to submit an application to the Home Office to request that they certify her PR status. Once Sarah had held certified PR status for 12 months, she was advised to apply to naturalise as a British citizenship.

This was additional time that Sarah had not foreseen. Yet we reduced this timeframe by advising Sarah to gather specific documents, as advised by us, to cover a period of 6 years, rather than the required 5-year period.

By doing so, Sarah’s EEA PR application, similar to other EEA PR applications we have submitted, was recognised by the Home Office for a 6-year period, allowing her to immediately apply for British citizenship, an application that is now being considered by the Home Office.

Case study 2: John-Pierre

JP had lived the UK for 10 years after having travelled to the UK, from France, to study.
Three years ago, and at the end of his degree and postgraduate degree studies, JP became self-employed.

JP wished to apply for PR status also.

We reviewed JP’s immigration history. During his studies, JP never held Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) or been issued a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The requirement to hold CSI was not highlighted by the Home Office and when JP once sought treatment on the NHS, it was ever raised as an issue. In fact, JP’s university had not told him about the requirement at the time.

Yet the impact of not having CSI as an EU student in the UK is serious, as JP would find it difficult to demonstrate, to the Home Office, that he was exercising his Treaty rights during his time as a student, as supported by case law.

So what were JP’s options?

JP was advised against submitting an application to certify his PR status at this time.

Could JP instead apply for settlement in the UK on the basis of 10 years continuous and lawful residence in the UK under the UK ? immigration laws?

Well yes and no.

Under the long residence requirements EEA nationals exercising who have exercised Treaty rights in the UK, but not yet certified their permanent residence status, are excluded from the provisions.

Why? Because EEA nationals are not subject to UK immigration rules and therefore cannot rely on those rules for redress.

Nevertheless, JP could submit a discretionary long residence application to the Home Office, outside of the UK immigration rules.

The issue?

JP would need to evidence that he had lawfully and legally exercised his Treaty rights in the UK for the entirety of his time in the UK, a hurdle that would be difficult for JP to overcome as he was not exercising Treaty rights as a student (remember the CSI requirements during his studies?).

Even if that discretionary application were to be approved by the Home Office, it would likely not have been in JP’s interests to make at this time, due to cost factors.

Of most concern to JP, was his wish to sponsor his non-EU girlfriend to join him in the UK, after their wedding early next year (and prior to the UK’s formal exit from the EU). JP did not wish to spend significant amounts of money on an application to the Home Office, unless it was absolutely necessary.

Previously, securing his status under UK immigration laws would have meant that JP would no longer have been recognised as an EU national exercising his Treaty rights in the UK.

Instead, JP would have been treated as a British citizen, and would therefore have been expected to sponsor his wife’s application under harsher and stricter UK immigration rules, rather than EU regulations.

We were pleased to inform JP that any application for British citizenship would not prevent him from exercising his Treaty rights and sponsoring his wife’s application for an EEA family permit due to recent case law.

And, it should be pointed out that UK immigration laws permit British citizens to sponsor their fiancées, a category of persons not strictly recognised as EEA family members.

That said, based on JP’s circumstances and longer term plans, JP was advised to take a wait- and-see approach to his status and arrange for his wife (once married) to apply for an EEA family permit to join him, soon afterwards, in 2018.

Under the Government’s proposals, EU nationals would be granted new settled status once they had completed 5 years’ lawful continuous residence in the UK. More importantly, that status would be granted, according to the Government, whether or not the EU national held CSI as a student (or self-sufficient person) or not.

Of course, the Government’s intentions are not set in stone.

Still, it is an option that would allow JP the opportunity to secure permanence in the UK after March 2019 and to sponsor his wife’s application, once married, under present EU regulations.

Have you experienced any of the above when making an application for PR status? What considerations or issues have you faced?

______________________________________________________________

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

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

Liked this blog?

You might also like:

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

Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or assistance with an application under the EU Settlement Scheme, EEA family permit or naturalisation?

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

Refusal of British citizenship

Immigration

Tips to Avoid the 3 Main Reasons for a Refusal of British citizenship

When Jodi contacted us, the Home Office had refused her application to naturalise as a British citizen. She was understandably upset because she had indefinite leave to remain and, based on her understanding of the law, she appeared to be a good candidate for British citizenship.

No criminal behaviour, no court action, continuous employment since her arrival to the United Kingdom (UK) as a Tier 2 (General) highly skilled worker, involvement in community activities and yet, three months later and at great financial cost, Jodi’s application was refused.

We reviewed Jodi’s application and found that she had made one of 3 common errors. Below we set out our 3 tips to avoid a refusal of British citizenship applications.

The basics

A person may naturalise as a British citizen, under:

  • Section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981), as a person applying in their own right who is not married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen
  • Section 6(2) BNA 1981, as a person married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen.

The requirements to be met depend on whether you are applying to naturalise under section 6(1) BNA 1981 or section 6(2).

The requirements

Section 6(1) BNA 1981

The key requirements to be met:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Meet the 5-year residence requirements
  • Have indefinite leave to remain (settlement) or permanent residence status for at least 12 months
  • Have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Meet the ‘good character’ requirements
  • Intend to make the UK your home

Section 6(2) BNA 1981

The key requirements include:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Be married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen
  • Meet the 3-year residence requirements
  • Have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Meet the ‘good character’ requirements
  • Intend to make the UK your home

Children and those under the age of 18 years cannot apply to naturalise as British citizens. Instead, they may apply to register as British citizens.

When preparing applications to naturalise, some applicants often fail to submit documents to demonstrate how they meet the requirements, which can lead to a refusal of the applications.

In fact, from experience, regardless of whether the application falls under section 6(1) or section 6(2) BNA 1981, there are 3 common errors which stand out. They are:

  • Not meeting the residence requirements
  • Not meeting the ‘good character’ requirements
  • Not meeting the English Language requirements

Let’s look at each one in turn, so that you too, can avoid a refusal of a British citizenship application:

  1. Not meeting the residence requirements

As highlighted above, the residence requirements differ depending on whether you are applying to naturalise on the basis of a marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen or not.

If you are applying on the basis of your marriage or civil partnership, you must meet the 3-years residence requirement. Apply in your own right and you must instead meet the 5-years residence requirements.

How does this work in practice?

Under section 6(1) BNA 1981, you must show that you have been resident in the UK for 5 years preceding the date of the application. This is also known as the Qualifying Period.

During that time, you must not have been absent from the UK for:

  • 450 days in total: and
  • 90 days in the 12 months’ period immediately preceding the date of the application

Conversely, under section 6(2) BNA 1981, you must evidence that you have been resident in the UK for 3 years preceding the date of the application.

During that 3 year’ qualifying period, you must not have been absent from the UK for:

  • 270 days in total: and
  • 90 days in the 12 months’ period immediately preceding the date of the application

Not only that, but in both instances, you must have been physically present in the UK at the start of the qualifying period, whether it is 3 years or 5 years ago. There are exceptions for those who may have been in the armed forces at the start of the qualifying period.

Some applicants fall foul of the absence requirements. Yet, it is important to note that if all the other requirements are met, the Home Office can exercise its discretion in favour of the applicant.

Our client, Jodi, found herself in exactly that position. Even though Jodi’s total absences were recalculated when we prepared the application, she still had absences of 502 days during the 5 years qualifying period.

To overcome this, we made representations to the Home Office, to request that it exercises its discretion in Jodi’s favour. We also submitted documentary evidence to demonstrate that much of Jodi’s travel was due to her employment commitments because of the seniority and nature of her role.

In another past case, where the client had exceeded his permitted absences by 35 days, we submitted medical documentary evidence to illustrate that his travel was necessary. We also provided the Home Office with evidence of his strong ties to the UK by way of mortgage statements for his residential home and family ties.

It is, of course, up to the Home Office to exercise its discretion and each case will be assessed and decided on their individual merits.

Nonetheless, the above examples highlight that it is possible to avoid a refusal of British citizenship applications where the absences requirements are exceeded, provided strong evidence is submitted to persuade the Home Office to exercise its discretion favourably.

  1. Not meeting the ‘good character’ requirements

The Home Office will assess if you are of sufficient ‘good character’ to be granted British citizenship or whether your previous conduct should adversely affect your application.

To be considered as having good character you must have “shown respect for the rights and freedoms of the United Kingdom, observed its laws and fulfilled your duties and obligations as a resident of the UK.”

This is quite a broad test, but essentially the Home Office will carry out criminal and civil record checks in every application. As the Home Office is not bound to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, this means that every criminal offence will be considered as part of your application to naturalise, no matter how minor or when the act was committed.

Any criminal offence committed, both in the UK and abroad, such as theft, drink driving, use of a mobile phone while driving and driving while disqualified may prevent you from naturalising until a certain period of time has lapsed from the date of conviction.

You may also be prevented from applying successfully if you have any financial issues such as bankruptcy or not having failed to pay your council tax.

It should also be noted that failure to declare any of the above, could also be viewed negatively.

Examples

A previous client, who successfully applied to naturalise as a British citizen, had 5 fixed penalty notices for speeding and 2 others for parking related offences. In light of the number of penalty notices, we were wary that such behaviour could show a pattern of non-compliance with UK laws.

We therefore took the precaution of highlighting broader aspects of that client’s good character. We also submitted information from DVLA to prove that the client’s overall driving record was positive and that all penalty notices had been resolved.

In another instance, Jimmy had recently been declared bankrupt and sought a telephone consultation to discuss his chances of securing British citizenship.

Jimmy was advised against making an application to naturalise, at this time, as it was highly likely, in our opinion, and based on his wider financial dealings and lack of strong UK ties, that the application would fail.

Jimmy appeared to have sought assistance elsewhere and submitted an application to the Home Office. He contacted us by email to say that he had been invited by the Home Office to provide his biometric data. We informed Jimmy that the receipt of a biometric letter did not equate to approval of his application. Hopefully a decision will go in his favour!

Not meeting the good character requirements could lead to a refusal of British citizenship applications and it may be sensible to allow time to lapse before making an application. Nevertheless, there are times when a refusal can be avoided, provided strong evidence is submitted to persuade the Home Office of your good character.

  1. Not meeting the English Language requirements

Nationals of majority English speaking countries are not required to demonstrate English language proficiency. Majority English speaking nationals are those from:

  • 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
  • United States of America

If you are from a country not listed above, you must pass an English language test (SELT), at B1 CEFR or higher.

It is not uncommon for applicants to provide an English language test certificate below the required level, leading to a possible refusal of the application.

Alternatively, if you hold an equivalent level qualification, such as a degree taught in English, such evidence may be submitted with the application instead.

The issue often occurs where the applicant received a degree qualification taught to them in English, from an approved university or educational establishment from outside of the UK.

Where this occurs, extra steps are required to illustrate how the applicant meets the requirements. For instance, Jodi, had previously submitted evidence of meeting the English language requirements, during her initial application for a Tier 2 (General) visa application and again in her application for indefinite leave to remain. At that time, Jodi had submitted a print out of the  Points Based Calculator detailing how her degree certificate met the requirements.

To Jodi’s surprise, the fact that she had met the requirements previously, did not preclude her providing such evidence again. And unfortunately, since 6 April 2016, the Home Office no longer accepts the Points Based Calculator as evidence of meeting the English language requirements.

Therefore, we approached UK NARIC for an Academic Qualification Level Statement from UK NARIC confirming that Jodi’s degree qualification was comparable to a UK degree. We submitted this statement, together with on official letter from Jodi’s overseas university stating that the degree was taught in English and also submitted her original degree certificate as part of the application.

As a result, we were clearly able to verify that Jodi met the English language requirements.

Conclusion

We hope that the 3 tips to avoid a refusal of a British citizenship application have been helpful.

As for Jodi, her application for British citizenship was approved and she had since attended the Citizenship Ceremony. As for Jimmy, if you are reading this, not your real name but you know who you are, please feel free to update us on your application and share your experience.

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Liked this blog?

You might also like:

Lost Life in the UK Test Letter

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/top-10-questions-on-the-life-in-the-uk-test

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/top-10-qa-on-british-citizenship/

Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application.

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

EU Settled Status Latest

Settled Status

On 7 November 2017, the Home Office issued an update to EU nationals on the proposed EU settled status due to come into effect post Brexit. Read on…

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Thomas Chase,

Brexit negotiations latest

Brexit negotiations

On 19 October, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has issued an update, via email, about the Brexit negotiations and their impact on EU nationals.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Thomas Chase,

As I travel to Brussels today, I know that many people will be looking to us – the leaders of the 28 nations in the European Union – to demonstrate we are putting people first.

I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority. And I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.

 

I want to give reassurance that this issue remains a priority, that we are united on the key principles, and that the focus over the weeks to come will be delivering an agreement that works for people here in the UK, and people in the EU.

 

When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips. Nothing could have been further from the truth. EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.

 

But this agreement will not only provide certainty about residence, but also healthcare, pensions and other benefits. It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK system – and UK nationals into the system of an EU27 country – can benefit from what they’ve put in. It will enable families who have built their lives together in the EU and UK to stay together. And it will provide guarantees that the rights of those UK nationals currently living in the EU, and EU citizens currently living in the UK will not diverge over time.

 

What that leaves us with is a small number of important points to finalise.  That is to be expected at this point in negotiations. We are in touching distance of agreement.  I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals for finalising the agreement with an open mind. And with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident that we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.

 

I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented. People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome. I want to provide reassurance here too.

We are developing a streamlined digital process for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind, and we will engage with them every step of the way.  We will keep the cost as low as possible – no more than the cost of a UK passport.

 

The criteria applied will be simple, transparent and strictly in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement.  People applying will not have to account for every trip they have taken in and out of the UK and will no longer have to demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance as they currently have to under EU rules.  And importantly, for any EU citizen who holds Permanent Residence under the old scheme, there will be a simple process put in place to swap their current status for UK settled status.

 

To keep development of the system on track, the Government is also setting up a User Group that will include representatives of EU citizens in the UK, and digital, technical and legal experts. This group will meet regularly, ensuring the process is transparent and responds properly to users’ needs. And we recognise that British nationals living in the EU27 will be similarly concerned about potential changes to processes after the UK leaves the EU.  We have repeatedly flagged these issues during the negotiations. And we are keen to work closely with EU Member States to ensure their processes are equally streamlined.

 

We want people to stay and we want families to stay together. We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK. And I know that Member States value equally UK nationals living in their communities. I hope that these reassurances, alongside those made by both the UK and the European Commission last week, will provide further helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures.

 

Yours sincerely

Theresa May, Prime Minister

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

Liked this blog?

You might also like:

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/brexit-latest-settled-status-eu-nationals/

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

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/top-10-qa-on-british-citizenship/

 

Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or guidance on EU free movement?

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

 

Fiancée visa or Spouse visa? That is the Question

Fiancee visa

Of all the visa types, assisting clients with fiancée visa or spouse visa applications are some of my favorites. Perhaps I’m an old fashioned romantic but I simply enjoy helping couples secure visas to reunite and carry on their lives together.

And so it was with Raj, a dual British national living and working in the United Kingdom (UK), and Louisa, an American citizen from California.

Raj and Louisa met during their university studies in the UK over 3 years. At the end of their undergraduate studies and Louisa’s Tier 4 student visa, Louisa returned to the United States (US) and took up a lucrative position in New York.

Raj remained in the UK and went on to study for his Masters’ degree before starting and running his own business.

The one constant was Louisa and Raj’s relationship to each other, something that they maintained via Skype, Facetime, email and regular trips abroad whenever their schedules (and finances) allowed it. As Raj’s business grew, he had less freedom to visit Louisa as before, though the funds to do so. For Louisa, taking more time off to visit the UK and spend time Raj was proving increasingly difficult as her employers were not always understanding of her inability to change her travel at short notice.

And so, Raj and Louisa approached me for advice. Raj and Louisa wanted to take their relationship to the next stage and live together. They did their research, readily admitting to me that much of the information they had read elsewhere was either complicated or contradictory.

Based on their research, they both agreed to try and secure a fiancée visa for Louisa to come to the UK to marry Raj. Yep! They were going to tie the knot!!! I warned you I was a bit of a romantic!

Once in the UK, Louisa planned to apply for a spouse visa to remain in the UK with Raj.

And that’s when they contacted me to assist them with applying for a fiancée visa.

However, rather than launch into preparing the fiancée visa, I wanted to make sure Raj and Louisa understood the immigration requirements and were aware of their options.

Fiancée visa

Fiancée visas allow overseas nationals, from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) to enter the UK and marry their British or ‘settled’ partner.

The marriage must take place within 6 months of entry.

This visa type was attractive to Louisa because she could stay in the UK and apply for a UK spouse visa.

I also explained to Raj and Louisa that fiancée visas were very different from marriage visas, the latter being a short term visa to enter the UK to marry only. At the end of the 6 months’ visa, the marriage visa holder must leave the UK.

Clearly, Louisa’s wish was to remain in the UK so a marriage visa was immediately discounted.

Fiancée visa requirements

Though not an exhaustive list, to qualify for a fiancée visa, Louisa would have to demonstrate that:

  • Raj is over 18 years of age
  • That she and Raj had met each other and are in a genuine relationship together
  • That they both intend to live together on a permanent basis once married
  • That they are both free to enter into a relationship with each other
  • They intend to marry in the UK within 6 months
  • They have sufficient funds to support themselves
  • That Raj, as the sponsor, earns a minimum salary of £18,600 per annum or equivalent in savings
  • They have suitable accommodation in the UK

Of importance was helping Raj and Louisa understand  UK Visas and Immigration’s (UKVI’s) application fees and when they would be incurred.

Raj was somewhat shocked to hear of the level of fees involved. For instance, a fiancée visa would cost Louisa and Raj around $2,050 USD at the point of submission on the online application. And they would have to incur similar fees, within 6 months, for a spouse visa as well as incur the Immigration Health Surcharge.

In fact, although they both had well paid jobs, their various overseas trips to see each other and wedding plans had depleted both of their savings.

Spouse visa

We discussed their options further and Louisa revealed that her preference was to marry in California. She had a large family and it would prove logically easier and cost effective to have the wedding in the US.

Raj appeared easy going about the location of the wedding. His family was much smaller and he just wanted to move matters forward.

Another area of concern for Louisa was employment. Louisa considered a 6 months’ career gap to be a long one and was not aware that she could not work while holding a fiancée visa.

Why not get married in California?

Raj and Louisa hadn’t really considered this as an option. Quite rightly they were focused on securing Louisa’s immediate long term stay in the UK, but I wanted to highlight that they had wider options.

Spouse visa requirements

Though not an exhaustive list, to qualify for a spouse visa, Louisa would have to demonstrate that:

  • Raj is over 18 years of age
  • That she and Raj had entered into a genuine marriage
  • That they both intend to live together on a permanent basis once married
  • That they are both free to enter into a relationship with each other
  • They intend to marry in the UK within 6 months
  • They have sufficient funds to support themselves
  • That Raj, as the sponsor, earns a minimum salary of £18,600 per annum or equivalent in savings
  • They have suitable accommodation in the UK

Applying for a spouse visa from New York or California would negate the need for Louisa and Raj to incur fiancée visa fees and for Louisa’s family members to travel to London.

Also, Louisa would be granted entry to the UK for 30 months, and could immediately take up employment. The fact that their marriage would be a recent one, and could be subjected to further scrutiny by UKVI, was something that could be overcome with proper preparation of the application.

Conclusion

Six months later, Louisa secured a spouse visa UK and is currently in the UK.

And I am pleased with the part that I played in helping Louisa to secure her spouse visa from New York, drafting the application form on Louisa’s behalf, advising on the documents to be provided and inspecting them, preparing the application bundle of documents and booking the biometric appointment for her. Like I said at the start, I enjoy seeing couples reunited.

Here’s wishing Louisa and Raj all the best!

And by the way, the main picture is not a photo of Raj and Louisa, but I have seen the wedding photos and they are gorgeous!

Over to you. Have you applied for a spouse visa or fiancée visa and how did you find the experience?

If not, do you need straightforward immigration advice or guidance? Contact us at [email protected] for a quick reply.

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families secure visas to travel to and remain in the UK.

Call to action

If you would like straightforward immigration guidance or assistance, or simply have a question, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration.  Or learn more about from our blogs

Brexit Update & EEA Nationals

Thomas Chase Immigration - EEA nationals

It is important to stress that for the time being, EEA nationals, and their family members, continue to have free rights of movement.

Nothing has changed!

What happens after Brexit continues to cause concern, especially following Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May’s much anticipated speech to European (EU) Leaders in Florence, Italy, on 22 September.

During her speech, PM May wanted to make clear to European Economic Area (EEA) nationals: ‘We want you. We want you to stay’.

May broadly outlined that a ‘new regime’ would apply to EEA nationals in future. However, there was more details in a leaked Home Office document, exposed by The Guardian newspaper, which found that the Government intends to take away the right of EEA nationals to travel to the UK to look for work, take up employment, study, set up a business, or live self-sufficiently.

And there is more. The end of freedom of movement will not just apply to new EEA nationals travelling to the UK, but will also apply to EEA nationals already exercising Treaty rights in the UK.

Transitional period

Within the leaked paper, the Government proposed that there should be a transitional period from March 2019, of ‘at least 2 years’. Indeed, during her speech, the Prime Minister was equally unclear about the expected length of the transitional period.

During that period, EEA nationals travelling to the UK for the first time will be expected to do so under new rules requiring them to evidence their status by way of a valid European passport. So national ID cards!

Once in the UK, EEA nationals will need to request permission to reside in the UK by registering with the Home Office. At part of the registration process, the Government would like EU nationals to provide their biometric data. That is, fingerprints and digital facial photographs.

For EEA nationals already in the UK, they may apply to ‘upgrade’ their status to a new ‘settled status’.

Theresa May was keen to highlight that businesses would also need this time to adjust and no doubt, to adapt to the new status of EU nationals and new right to work requirements.

After the Transitional period

According to the leaked document, following the end of the transitional period, all freedom of movement rights will cease and the UK immigration rules will apply.

Under those rules, skilled EEA nationals who are ‘considered highly valuable’ to the UK, may apply to work in the UK for up to 5 years, providing certain conditions are met.

What are those conditions? Well, the document mentions that a minimum income threshold may be introduced. Non-EEA nationals working in the UK under a Tier 2 work visa will be well aware of the minimum income threshold!

Indeed, a minimum income threshold may also be introduced for EEA nationals coming to the UK to live self-sufficiently.

The plans seem extremely restrictive. And as you can imagine, the Government’s plans, as revealed in the leaked document, seeks to place great limitations on the freedom of movement of the family members of EEA nationals.

Government plans to restrict the actual family members that may travel with, or join the EEA national in the UK, to partners of the EEA nationals, children under 18 years of age, and adult dependant relatives. Again, this will bring the ability to bring family members into the UK in line with current immigration rules.

Watch this space for further developments.

What can you do?

If you are an EEA national already in the UK, it needs to be stressed again, that nothing has changed for the time being, and that EU negotiations are still underway.

Yet, planning ahead, you may wish to consider applying to certify your permanent residence so that you may apply for British citizenship.

However, the key is to plan and get advice if necessary. If you have family members that you would like to join you in the UK, it may prove more straightforward to do so under the current, more viable, EU regulations. After all, applying for family members to join you in the UK as a British citizen, or even under the new ‘settled status’ could mean greater Home Office application fees and having to meet the strict requirements.

 

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

Liked this blog?

You might also like:

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/brexit-latest-settled-status-eu-nationals/

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

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/top-10-qa-on-british-citizenship/

 

Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or guidance on EU free movement?

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

 

 

 

Right to Rent Checks

Right to rent

Landlords form part of the Government’s plans for maintaining effective immigration controls.  As a result, landlords, or their agents, must carry out immigration checks to ensure that a tenant or lodger can legally rent the residential property in England. Here, we provide guidance to landlords on the right to rent checks to be carried out, and the follow-up checks required, in order to stay compliant with immigration laws.

Background

You’re a landlord in England with residential property for rent.  You find a suitable tenant, you meet them, verify their references, perform a background check, and once assured take a deposit. With move-in dates sorted and direct debits in place, you can sit back and relax.

Well not quite!

Now you have to meet the immigration obligations by carrying out right to rent checks.

Why? The Government is keen to frustrate individuals, who may not be entitled to reside in the United Kingdom (UK) from accessing services and rental property.

Of course, this all places a large onus on you, the landlord. If you are found renting your residential property to a tenant, who does not or no longer has a right to be in the UK, you could be issued with a civil penalty of up to £3,000 per tenant.

So how do you ensure that you stay on the right side of immigration laws?

Here’s how…

Tenants to be checked

The right to rent requirement, under section 32(6)(a) of the Immigration Act 2014, only apply to residential tenancies that started on or after 1st February 2016 in England. There is an earlier date of 1st December 2014 and after, for residential properties in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall or Wolverhampton.

As a landlord of a residential property, you must ensure that the tenant, or a lodger, can legally rent the property.

To do so, you must carry out checks on the tenant, or if there is more than one person occupying the property, checks must be made on each tenant aged 18 years of age and over.

For the purposes of the Home Office, tenants can include individuals who are not named on the tenancy agreement

In fact, as long as there are tenants at the residential property, right to rent checks need to be carried out regardless of whether:

  • There is no tenancy agreement in place; or
  • The tenancy agreement is no in writing.

How to carry out right to work checks

There are 3 key steps to conducting right to rent checks. They are:

Obtain

After you have confirmed how many adults intend to use your property, you must request their original documents to prove their right to reside in the UK

The Home Office accepts it can be difficult for non-immigration specialists to know which documents to collect and once, collected, what they mean. So the Home Office has split the documents into List A, Group 1 and Group 2, and List B.

List A, Group 1

Documents in List A, Group 1 documents clearly evidence that the individual has a permanent right to rent in England and the UK.

List A, Group 1, documents include:

  • A passport (current or expired) showing that the holder is a British citizen, or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the ‘right of abode’ in the UK
  • A passport or national identity card (current or expired) showing that the holder is a national of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. A registration certificate or document (current or expired) certifying or indicating permanent residence issued by the Home Office, to a national of the European Economic Area country or Switzerland
  • A ‘permanent’ residence, ‘indefinite leave to remain’, ‘indefinite leave to enter’ or ‘no time limit’ card issued by the Home Office (current or expired), to a non-EEA national who is a family member of an EEA or Swiss national
  • A biometric ‘residence permit’ card (current or expired) issued by the Home Office to the holder indicating that the person named has ‘indefinite’ leave in the UK, or has ‘no time limit’ on their stay in the UK
  • A passport or other ‘travel document’ (current or expired) endorsed to show that the holder is either ‘exempt from immigration control’, has ‘indefinite’ leave in the UK, has the ‘right of abode’ in the UK, or has ‘no time limit’ on their stay in the UK
  • A current immigration status document issued by the Home Office to the holder with a valid endorsement indicating that the holder is either ‘exempt from immigration control’, has ‘indefinite’ leave in the UK, has the ‘right of abode’ in the UK, or has ‘no time limit’ on their stay in the UK
  • A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen

Group 2, List A

Where a tenant presents a document from Group 2, List A, you must ensure that you request another document from this list also.

Documents in Group 2, List A include:

  • A full birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland, which includes the name(s) of at least one of the holder’s parents or adoptive parents
  • A current full or provisional photo card UK driving licence
  • A letter from HM Prison Service, the Scottish Prison Service or the Northern Ireland Prison Service confirming the holder’s name, date of birth and that they have been released from custody of that service in the 6 months prior to the check
  • A letter issued within the 3 months prior to the check by a UK government department or Local Authority and signed by a named official (giving their name and professional address), confirming the holder’s name and that they have previously been known to the department or local authority
  • A letter issued within the 3 months prior to the check from an officer of the National Offender Management Service in England and Wales confirming that the holder is the subject of an order requiring supervision by that officer; from an officer of a local authority in Scotland confirming that the holder is the subject of a probation order requiring supervision by that officer; or, from an officer of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland confirming that the holder is the subject of an order requiring supervision by that officer
  • Evidence (identity card, document of confirmation issued by one of HM forces, confirmation letter issued by the Secretary of State) of the holder’s previous or current service in any of HM’s UK armed forces
  • A letter from a UK police force confirming that the holder is a victim of crime and has reported a passport or Home Office biometric immigration document stolen, stating the crime reference number, issued within the 3 months prior to the check
  • A letter issued within the 3 months prior to the check signed by a representative of a public authority, voluntary organisation or charity which operates a scheme to assist individuals to secure accommodation in the private rented sector in order to prevent or resolve homelessness
  • A letter issued within the 3 months prior to the check confirming the holder’s name signed by the person who employs the holder (giving their name and business address) confirming the holder’s status as employee and employee reference number or their National Insurance number
  • A letter issued within the 3 months prior to the check from a UK further or higher education institution confirming the holder’s acceptance on a current course of studies. This letter should include the name of the educational establishment, as well as the name and duration of the course
  • A letter issued within the 3 months prior to the check from a British passport holder who works in (or is retired from) an acceptable profession as specified in the list of acceptable professional persons. The letter should confirm the holder’s name, and confirm that the acceptable professional person has known the holder for longer than three months
  • Benefits paperwork issued by HMRC, a UK Local Authority or Job Centre Plus, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions or the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development, issued within the 3 months prior to the check
  • Disclosure and Barring Service Certificate (criminal record check) issued within the 3 months prior to the check

List B

If a tenant presents a documents from List B, the document permits the individual a time-limited right to rent the residential property.

Such documents include:

  • A current passport or other ‘travel document’ endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to stay in the UK for a time-limited period

 

  • A current biometric ‘residence permit’ card issued by the Home Office to the holder, which indicates that the named person is permitted to stay in the UK for a time-limited period

 

  • A current ‘residence card’ (including an accession residence card or a derivative residence card) issued by the Home Office to a non-EEA national who is either a ‘family member’ of an EEA or Swiss national or has a ‘derivative’ right of residence
  • A current immigration status document issued by the Home Office to the holder with a valid endorsement indicating that the named person may stay in the UK for a time-limited period.

You can also use the Home Office online service Home Office online service to check whether a person is entitled to rent your property.

Check

Once you have obtained the document from the relevant list, you must check the tenant’s document in their presence.

Again, the Home Office is not expecting you to be an expert in immigration documents or inappropriately issued documents. Landlords are merely expected to make reasonable checks to see if the document is genuine and relates to the person in front of you.

So for instance, ask yourself:

  • Does the document look as if it has been obviously tampered with?
  • Does it contain spelling mistakes?
  • It the photograph, on the document, a true likeness of the tenant?

Copy

Copies of the tenant’s List A Group 1 document or List A Group 2 documents or List B document must be kept on file, with a brief record of the date that you checked the originals.

It is crucial to follow the above steps so as to ensure compliance with UK immigration laws. If the tenant is found to have no legal right to reside in the UK, you will have a statutory excuse against a civil penalty if you can evidence that you have obtained, checked and copied the appropriate documents.

Further information can found on the Home Office website.

Timing of checks

It is possible to obtain copies of the identity documents in advance. However, the right to rent checks must be carried out at the start of the tenancy.

There are instances where the right to rent checks must be made well in advance of the start of the tenancy. For instance, if the tenant has limited leave to stay in the UK, or their visa contains an expiry date, you will need to carry out checks 28 days prior to the start of the tenancy.

Follow-up checks

A landlord’s immigration obligation is a continuing one. For that reason, as a landlord, you must ask the adult tenants for proof of their continued right to rent the property.

Where the tenant provides a document from List B, you must obtain and make a copy of the document and follow the same steps again in 12 months’ time, or when the tenant’s leave is due to expire, or when the document evidencing the tenant’s limited leave is due to expire. Doing so, will provide you with a statutory excuse against a civil penalty, should the tenant be found to no longer have a right to reside in the UK.

However, if the tenant provides a document from List A and you have obtained and kept a copy of the document on file, no further checks will be necessary and you are deemed to have a continuing statutory excuse.

When are right to rent checks not required

As the landlord, you are not required to conduct right to rent checks for certain types of accommodation. They include:

  • Social housing;
  • Care homes, hospices or hospitals;
  • Hostels or refuges;
  • Mobile homes; and
  • Student accommodation.

Checks are also not needed if the tenants in accommodation is:

  • Provided by the local authority or Council
  • ‘Tied accommodation’, provided as part of their job
  • Leased to the tenant for a period of 7 years or longer

You will however, require evidence of the above.

The tenant has limited leave but no documents

It is not unusual for a tenant with limited leave to lack documents because they submitted to the Home Office as part of an application to extend their stay in the UK.

This does not mean that the individual is not entitled to rent the property. Instead, you should check their immigration status by completing a short Home Office online form.

Results are normally relayed within 48 hours.

Important

It cannot be stressed enough, that a, you are required to conduct right to rent checks on all new tenants. This is regardless of whether you believe the tenant to be a British citizen. You still need to gather documentary evidence for all tenants and cannot discriminate.

And another thing…

It was somewhat disconcerting to read according to a Residential Landlords Association (RLA) survey, as many as 20% of landlords admitted they were less likely to rent their residential properties to EU nationals.

Apparently, some landlords felt that the right to rent checks for EU nationals were too onerous. For many, renting their properties to British citizens was much easier.

It must be stressed that following, Brexit, the rights of EU nationals remain the same, at least for the time being. But more importantly, and as highlighted above, right to rent checks must be carried out on all adult tenants. Failure to do so could lead to allegations of discrimination and a breach of immigration laws.

The Home Office Code provides more information for landlords.

Conclusion

Right to rent checks are now part of a landlords continuing immigration obligations. To avoid a civil penalty, landlords must carry obtain documents, as appropriate, depending on the status of the tenant. By following the detailed steps above, landlords can protect themselves against a civil penalty and avoid falling foul of anti-discrimination laws.

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 on the right to rent checks? Contact us at [email protected] to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about from our blogs

Liked this blog? You might like to read:

Brexit Deal or No Deal

Minimum Income Requirement

Minimum Income Requirement

The Home Office has updated the minimum income requirement, within the Immigration Rules, following the recent findings of the Supreme Court. We highlight the key takeaways from the Court’s findings and updated Immigration Rules.

Background

British citizens and settled nationals in the United Kingdom (UK) who wish to sponsor their non-European Economic Area (EEA) spouse must meet strict minimum income requirements (MIR), as set out in Appendix FM Family Members Section E-ECP Eligibility. Under the MIR, a sponsor must evidence a minimum annual income of £18,600 from employment, or hold the equivalent in cash savings. That is, savings of £62,500 in total.

The MIR also applies to those wishing to sponsor a non-EEA unmarried partner or fiancé/ fiancée. And the amount of income required increases depending on the number of overseas children to be included in the application. For instance, the sponsor must earn an additional £3,800 for the first child and an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child added to the application.

The Supreme Court, the final court of appeal for civil cases in the United Kingdom (UK), recently considered the scope of the MIR in the case MM (Lebanon) and others v the Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] UKSC 10 (MM (Lebanon)).

The Supreme Court’s findings

In MM (Lebanon), the Supreme Court unanimously (and unfortunately) supported the minimum income requirement in principle, agreeing with the Home Office, that it was not only necessary for the UK’s aim of maintaining an effective immigration control, but that the requirement was compatible with the right to family life enshrined under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), much to the disappointment of many families and campaigners.

However, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the minimum income requirement was ‘particularly harsh’. In paragraph 80 of the judgement, the Justices stated:

There can be no doubt that the MIR has caused, and will continue to cause, significant hardship to many thousands of couples who have good reasons for wanting to make their lives together in this country, and to their children.

They ruled that the Immigration Rules, and the Immigration Directorate Instruction issued to caseworkers were defective and unlawful due to their narrow application and little weight given to the interests of children.

The Home Office has since incorporated the findings of the Supreme Court in the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC290, which came into effect on 10 August 2017 and Appendix FM to HC 395.

Key Takeaways

The key takeaways from the judgement of MM (Lebanon) and the Home Office Statement of Changes are as follows:

  1. Children’s rights must be safeguarded

Under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, the Secretary of State has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when making decisions which affect them. The Justices felt that the Immigration Rules and the guidance issued to caseworkers and entry clearance officers failed to do so, making them unlawful.

The Home Office has since revised the Immigration Rules and guidance to ensure that decision makers treat the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.

  1. Alternative funding

The Supreme Court assessed whether the overseas partner’s prospective income should be taken into account when determining whether the MIR had been met. They ruled in favour of the Secretary of State on this point, stating that to do so would prove cumbersome to verify for decision makers.

Nevertheless, the Court expressed concern that the sources of funding, taken into account by decision makers when assessing whether the MIR had been met, were so restrictive as to be harmful. This was particularly significant where the refusal of the application could breach Article 8 ECHR.

The Home Office has now amended the Immigration Rules and guidance so as to place a less restrictive approach to alternative funding.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court, in their judgement of MM (Lebanon) recognised that the minimum income requirement (MIR) was harsh and somewhat unfair to a number of individuals, couples and families. They stopped short of ruling that the MIR was unlawful overall but found that elements of the Immigration Rules and guidance were.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Home Office must give more consideration to the interests of the child in such cases and gave findings on the alternative sources of funding.

The Home Office has duly complied. However, time will tell whether the Home Office has truly heeded the concerns expressed, and findings of, the Supreme Court.

 

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

Call to action

If you would like straightforward immigration guidance or assistance, or simply have a question, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration.  Or learn more about from our free blogs

Liked this blog post? You may also like:

https://www.thomaschaseimmigration.com/spouse-visa/

Brexit, Settled Status & EU Nationals

Thomas Chase Immigration - Brexit, Settled Status

The UK government has set out its negotiation position with the European Union (EU), on the future status of approximately 3 million EU nationals currently exercising Treaty rights in the UK. The published information provides an outline of the government’s position on a ‘new settled status’, but is very short on detail. Here, we review the latest government proposals and their possible impact for EU nationals and their families.

Settled Status
A new ‘special settled status’ was announced by Prime Minister, Theresa May on 26 June 2017, aimed at granting EU nationals “the right to live in Britain, to undertake any lawful activity, to access public funds and to apply for British citizenship.”

The proposals will allow EU nationals to acquire or transfer their permanent status into a special settled status, thereby bringing them within the restrictive UK immigration laws that currently apply to nationals outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Let’s look at the proposals in more detail. As part of the UK government’s wish to ‘safeguard’ the rights of EU nationals in the UK, the government said it will:

  • Comply in full with its legal obligations, including in respect of administrative procedures for providing documentation for those exercising Treaty rights until such time as the UK leaves the UK;

 

  • Create new rights in UK law for qualifying EU citizens, resident here before the UK’s exit from the EU. Those rights will be enforceable in the UK legal system and will provide legal guarantees for those EU. In addition, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will not have jurisdiction in the UK;

 

  • These rights will apply to all EU citizens equally and the UK government will not treat citizens of one member state differently to those of another qualifying EU citizens will have to apply for their residence status. The administrative procedures which they will need to comply with in order to obtain these new rights will be modernised and kept as smooth and simple as possible;

 

  • Bring the application process under a separate legal scheme, in UK law, rather than the current one for certifying the exercise of rights under EU. The UK government intends to tailor the eligibility criteria so that, for example, it will no longer require evidence that economically inactive EU citizens have previously held ‘comprehensive sickness insurance’ in order to be considered continuously resident;

 

  • Provide all qualifying EU citizens adequate time to apply for their new residence status after the UK leaves the UK. There will be no ‘cliff-edge’ at the point of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU;

 

  • Guarantee that qualifying individuals will be granted settled status in UK law (indefinite leave to remain pursuant to the Immigration Act 1971). This means they will be free to reside in any capacity and undertake any lawful activity, to access public funds and services and to apply for British citizenship;

 

  • Allow EU nationals to qualify for the new settled status as long as they were resident in the UK before a specified date and must have completed a period of 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK before they apply for settled status. They must also still be resident in the UK at that point to qualify;

 

  • Allow EU citizens who arrived and became resident before the specified date, but who have not accrued five years’ continuous residence at the time of the UK’s exit from the EU, to apply for temporary status in order to remain resident in the UK. Once those EU nationals have resided in the UK for 5 years, they will be eligible to apply for settled status;

 

  • Allow EU citizens who arrived after the specified date, to remain in the UK for at least a temporary period. They may become eligible to settle permanently, depending on their circumstances. However, this group should ‘have no expectation of guaranteed settled status’;

 

  • Allow family dependants, who join a qualifying EU citizen in the UK before the UK’s exit from the EU, to apply for settled status after 5 years. The 5 years’ period includes time accrued after Brexit. Those joining after the UK’s exit will be subject to the same rules as those joining British citizens or alternatively to the post-exit immigration arrangements for EU citizens who arrive after the specified date;

 

  • Define the ‘specified date’ as no earlier than the 29 March 2017, the date the formal Article 50 process for exiting the EU was triggered, and no later than the date of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The specified date will be agreed with the EU as part of delivering a reciprocal deal; and

 

  • Apply rules to exclude those who are serious or persistent criminals and those whom we consider a threat to the UK.

It cannot be stressed enough that the above proposals are just that, proposals. The proposals will form part of the UK’s negotiations with the EU and is likely to change or bend as time progresses. Regardless, as they stand, they will have a huge impact on EU nationals’ ability to work, study and unite with family members in the UK.

Summary

The new settled status will apply to EU nationals and their family members who are currently exercising Treaty rights in the UK, but have not yet acquired 5 years’ continuous residence, and will also be applicable to EU nationals that have already applied to the Home Office to certify their permanent residence status.

Applying for the new settled status will be done under a ‘fast- track process’.

Great. Some information has been provided. And yet, so much has been left unsaid.

  • What will the fast track process look like?
  • How does the government intend to fast-track the applications for the large number of EU nationals in the UK?
  • It is not clear if the application process for the new settled status will differ for EU nationals that have already gone through the onerous process of applying to certify their permanent residence status and supplied a great deal of documents, as compared to those that had not certified their permanent residence status at all.
  • How will settled status for EU nationals already in the UK, differ from the settled status for EU nationals arriving after the ‘specified date’?
  • Will EU nationals arriving after the cut-off date see a restricted definition of ‘family members’ as seen under the current UK immigration rules?
  • Will EU nationals that had certified their permanent residence status be expected to complete another form and submit masses of documents again?
  • What is the specified cut-off date?

Another key omission? Fees. How much will EU nationals be expected to pay to apply for the new settled status? For instance, national from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) can expect to pay £2,297 (fees as applied from 6 April 2017 and current as of today’s date). Compare that to an application to certify permanent residence, currently £65.

Will EU nationals be expected to pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds for settled status? We don’t yet know although the UK government proposes that fees will be reasonable.

And will the fast-track system be offered as standard or will a premium fee be attached? We also do not know.

What is clear is that some EU nationals are holding off making an application to certify permanent residence status and instead waiting for details of the new settled status. The merits of doing so will of course depend on each individual and their circumstances.

Settled status, students and the self-sufficient

At present, EU nationals in the UK as students or who are self-sufficient, are required to hold comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI). Without CSI, such EU nationals are deemed not to have exercised their Treaty rights in the UK.

The government has proposed that CSI will not be a requirement for EU nationals seeking the new settled status.

Permanent residence and British citizenship

What factors should EU nationals factor into their decision making?

Well, not all EU nationals are eager to apply for British citizenship or meet the requirements for British citizenship. In fact, some nationals are precluded from holding dual nationality by their home country.

For those keen to secure British citizenship, applying to certify permanent residence status, especially for those already exercising their Treaty rights in the UK for 5 years and over, can be beneficial. Why? Because it may be a ‘quicker’ route to naturalising as a British citizen.

When applying for British citizenship, EU nationals have been exercising Treaty rights for 5 years, at which point they will acquire permanent residence. Thereafter, they must apply to the Home Office to certify their permanent residence and hold such recognised status for a further 12 months.

Examples

For example, one of our client’s Eliana, owned and ran her own business in the UK for the past 8 years and successfully applied for British nationality. Eliana first applied to certify her permanent residence status on the basis that she could evidence exercising her Treaty rights as a self-employed person for the past 7 years. Not the easiest of exercises but Eliana only managed to obtain 7 years of the recommended documentary evidence.

We prepared the application and asked the Home Office to not only certify Eliana’s permanent residence status for the past 5 years, but for the past 7 years. This was duly done and allowed Eliana to immediately apply for British citizenship without waiting for a further 12 months.

Equally, another client had her permanent residence status recognised based on her UK activities over the past 5 years. After 12 months’ she may apply for British citizenship, well before the UK formally leaves the EU, assuming the cut-off date is when the UK officially leaves the EU.

This option may be far ‘quicker’ route to British citizenship as compared to applying for settled status, once it is rolled out, and holding that status for an additional 12 months. At the moment, there is nothing to say that the new settled status will be retrospective in law.

Family members

There are good reasons to wait and delay making an application British citizenship. One of which is related to family members. Under EU regulations, EU national exercising Treaty rights in the UK, are entitled to have their direct and indirect family members join them in the UK.  This includes non-EEA family members.

Once the EU national becomes a British citizen, family reunion becomes restricted, onerous and expensive.

An EU national sponsoring a non-EEA spouse to join the in the UK can be as (relatively) straightforward as submitting a EEA family permit application at zero cost.

Doing so as a British citizen means meeting the financial requirements and earning a salary of at least £18,600 per annum, and Home Office fees in the region of £1400 plus an Immigration Health Surcharge of approximately £600.

And applying for an elderly parent to a British citizen in the UK is extremely difficult, with extended family members such as cousins and uncles being almost impossible.

Conclusion

The government has laid out its proposals, for a new settled status, for EU nationals exercising Treaty rights in the UK and for those arriving after the UK formally leaves the EU. Nevertheless, the proposals are extremely light on details, making it difficult for EU nationals to assess the best way forward. That is, whether to apply to certify their permanent residence status, thereafter apply for British citizenship, or simply wait and see how the plans for new settled status materialise.

Much will depend on the circumstances of the individual EU national, and we have listed some of those considerations above. And of course, we must remember that the proposals, at least for now, are just that…published plans to be negotiated with the EU. As such, they are subject to change. So we will watch this space and keep you updated.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families looking for friendly, straightforward advice.

Call to action

If you would like further guidance on the rights of EU citizens or assistance with an application for a permanent residence document, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs.

 

You may also like:

EEA permit applications and processing times

Permanent Residence to British citizenship: Is it worth the hassle?

Overseas Visitors and UK Healthcare

We look at overseas visitors to the UK from the EEA and non EEA countries and and access to healthcare

It is holiday season and millions of travellers from all over the world are expected the visit the UK. Most visitors will have adequate medical insurance. Yet what happens if your travel insurance doesn’t go far enough or you don’t have travel insurance at all, but require healthcare. And what impact will rule changes have from October 2017. We answer those questions, and more, in this post on overseas visitors and healthcare.

In 2015, there were 36.1 million visitors to the UK from overseas visitors, 5.1% higher than in 2014. In 2016, the number of overseas visits to the UK reached record levels of 37.6 million. 

Access to healthcare treatment during a person’s travels depends on whether the visitor is travelling from within or outside of Europe.

EEA NATIONALS

For those visitors to the UK, from within the Economic European Area (EEA), it is recommended to apply for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC entitles EEA nationals to access necessary treatment at a reduced cost, or sometimes at no cost, in certain European countries with state provided healthcare, and is free.

Treatment for pre-existing medical conditions are covered. Yet, the EHIC has its limitations. For instance, it will not cover private medical healthcare costs such as the cost of being flown back to the European country of residence. And while routine maternity care is covered, it will not cover the cost of specifically travelling to the UK to give birth within the UK’s National Health Service (NHS)

For this reason, it is highly recommended that EEA nationals travelling to the UK on holiday hold both an EHIC card and valid and adequate travel insurance.

Only EEA nationals from the following countries are required to hold adequate medical and travel insurance and need not possess a EHIC:

  • The Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
  • The Isle of Man
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • The Vatican

If an EEA national visiting the UK finds themselves in need of medical treatment, they may dial 112, the free European emergency number, for immediate assistance.

The EU Directive route

The European Union (EU) Directive route entitles EEA visitors to purchase NHS or private healthcare in England and seek reimbursement for medically necessary treatment from their country of residence. The reimbursements are limited to the amount the treatment would normally cost in their home country. It does not cover emergency treatment and prior authorisation may be required

NON-EEA VISITORS

Visitors to England, more specifically, from outside of the EEA must have personal medical provisions or travel insurance to cover for the length of their visit.

If a visitor requires certain emergency treatment, the NHS will not turn the person away and some NHS services and treatments are free, making them exempt from charges.

These include:

  •  Accident and emergency services
  • Family planning services though it does not include infertility treatment
  • Treatment for most infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Treatment required for a physical or mental condition caused by torture, female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic violence or sexual violence and yet charges will apply if the visitor enters England for the purpose of seeking that treatment

What happens if they then seek unplanned medical treatment from the NHS? Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon visitors to book their travel and omit or forget to purchase travel insurance or even seek the minimum travel insurance cover available. In such cases, overseas visitors receive a medical bill for fees chargeable at 150% of the NHS standard rate. Ouch!

Different rules apply for overseas visitors requiring medical assistance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It is also worth pointing out that some non-EEA visitors may be exempt from NHS charges. They include those traveling for longer than 6 months to work, to study or join family members, as they will have paid a separate Immigration Health Surcharge.

Changes to Healthcare rules from October 2017

As of 23 October 2017, non-EEA nationals must pay for non-urgent treatment and services, in advance. Visitors will be given an estimate of the treatment costs and will be expected to pay for this upfront, or treatment will not be provided.

From October 2017, failure to pay such charges will adversely impact upon any future immigration applications.

Reciprocal Agreements

Exemptions also apply to visitors from countries that have reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK.

The reciprocal agreements entitle visitors, from specified countries, to access immediate emergency medical treatment free of charge. They are:

  • Anguilla
  • Australia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • Kosovo
  • Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Montserrat
  • New Zealand
  • Serbia
  • St Helena
  • Turks and Caicos Islands

The nature and access to free treatment will differ for each country under their respective reciprocal agreements. http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/countryguide/NonEEAcountries/Pages/Non-EEAcountries.aspx

The agreements do not normally apply when the person has travelled to the UK for the purpose of obtaining healthcare.

There are non-EEA countries which previously held reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK. Those agreements came to an end on 2016. As a result, visitors from the following countries must ensure they have adequate travel and health insurance, as they will be charged for accessing healthcare and treatment on the NHS.

  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Georgia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Moldova
  • Russia
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Ukraine
  • Uzbekistan

On another note, from 21 August 2017, employers of overseas visitors working on UK-registered ships will be charged for NHS fees incurred.

Conclusion

With travel season well underway, it is important, whether you are from within the EEA or a non-EEA national, to know what emergency and non-urgent treatment and services you can access in the UK. Having adequate travel and medical insurance can provide a great deal of comfort, but if that, for whatever, reason is not the case, there may be other measures in place to help you get the treatment you need at reduced costs. By being informed, you can ensure you have a safe and enjoyable holiday, avoid a huge bill and at worse, for non-EEA nationals in particular, prevent adverse consequences in any future immigration applications.

Happy travels!

 

Key information

Call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk

Call NHS 111 if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation. You can also call NHS 111 if you’re not sure which NHS service you need.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration provide an end-to-end immigration service to individuals and families to help make the process as smooth as possible

Call to action

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