Settled Status Scheme

Settled Status Scheme

The UK Government has set out their latest position on the settled status scheme, as it will apply to EEA nationals and their family members.

The statement rehashes much of the information provided by Prime Minister Theresa May on 26 June 2017, about the new ‘settled status’ and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Sajid Javid on 22 June 2018.

The statement reads as follows:


The Home Office has been working to develop a new scheme which allows resident EU citizens and their family members to obtain the UK immigration status they will need in order to remain here permanently.

The EU Settlement Scheme will be fully open by 30 March next year. EU citizens and their family members will have until 30 June 2021 to apply, in line with the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

Testing is already underway. Since August, EU citizens working for a small number of NHS trusts and universities in the north west of England, and students at those universities, have been able to apply for status under the scheme.

A new phase of testing will begin next month. It will involve many more organisations across the UK, including higher education institutions and organisations in the wider health and social care sector. Testing the system with real applicants helps the Home Office ensure the new system operates effectively when it opens fully.

You do not need to do anything for now. EU citizens eligible to apply in the latest test phase will receive information from their employer.

Further information about the scheme can be found on GOV.UK.

 


What next?

At the risk of being repetitive, it must be stressed that if you are an EEA national, or family member, residing in the UK, nothing has changed. After all, the UK is still a Member State of the EU.

 

It can be beneficial to wait until the new settled status scheme has been fully rolled out and apply for recognition under that scheme.

 

Nevertheless, we are aware of many EEA nationals, and their family members, who have already resided in the UK for a significant amount of time, and who have submitted an application for certification of their permanent residence status in order to better meet the requirements to naturalise as British citizens.

 

Of course, time will be a major factor as applications will need to be submitted soon.

 

The key is to and seek advice and plan the best way forward for you and your family. We can arrange a telephone consultation should you wish to discuss your immediate and longer term options.


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

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British passport renewals

UK immigration

British passport holders may renew their passport well before the end date of the passport. The time remaining on the existing passport, of up to 9 months, was merely added to the new passport.

Fair enough – the time left on the existing passport has been paid for after all.

But now, the Home Office and HM Passport Office has now admitted a  change to this policy, so that new passports will be issued without the remaining time being added. Thank you Callum Mason, reporter, and Martin Lewis, founder, of Moneysavingexpert.com for putting this before the mainstream media!

It is no coincidence that the announcement comes at a time of much Home Office Brexit contingency planning and Home Office announcements in the case of a ‘no deal’ departure from the European Union.

Here’s the concern – British passport holders may start holding onto their passports as close to the end date as possible, before submitting an application for a new passport.

Yet, for immigration purposes, many countries will not allow a person to enter or cross the border unless they have 6 months’ validity to run on their passport. Indeed, the United Kingdom, requires non-EEA visitors to present a passport with 6 months’ validity.

Alternatively, British passport holders may wait until the passport has 6 months to run and then submit new passport application, so that in effect, as Martin Lewis put it, ‘passports will now only last nine and a half years’.

Watch this space.

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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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Latest Position on Brexit

Latest position on Brexit

Here, is the latest position on Brexit, as it applies to EEA nationals and their family members, following the Home Office’s latest statement.

Settled Status
On 26 June 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May, announced plans to grant nationals from the European Economic Area (EEA), a new ‘settled status’ following the United Kingdom’s (UK) formal departure from the European Union in March 2019.

The new settled status will replace the current ‘permanent residence’ status and allow EEA nationals and their family members, the right to live, work and study in the UK.

On 22 June 2018, almost one year later, the new Secretary of State for the Home Department, Sajid Javid, has released the Home Office’s latest position on Brexit, as it relates to the rights of EEA nationals, as follows:

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As Home Secretary, I take immense pride that so many EU citizens like you have made your home here.

Safeguarding the rights of EU citizens in the UK has always been our first priority and the agreement we reached with the EU earlier this year did just that. The rights that you and your family currently have been protected which include access to healthcare, benefits and pensions.

Away from the negotiations, my team in the Home Office have been working hard to develop the service that you’ll use to get your settled status. This work will continue as we make sure that the system and processes are rigorously tested and meet every requirement ahead of the launch.

Today I am able to announce in more detail what this system will look like.

Most importantly, the application process is designed to be simple. Most people will only need to complete three sections to prove their identity, show that they live here and declare that they have no serious criminal convictions. We will also check employment and benefits records we already hold in government which for many people will mean that their proof of living here is automatic.  We hope therefore most people will not need to do anything beyond typing in personal details.

What’s more, settled status will cost less than the fee for a British passport – £65 and £32.50 for children under 16. For those who already have valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain documentation, they will be able to exchange it for 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.

I should stress that you do not need to do anything just yet. The scheme will open later this year and we are on track to open the scheme fully by 30 March 2019. The deadline for applications to the scheme will be 30 June 2021 so there will be plenty of time for you to apply and there are absolutely no quotas for applications.

I hope you will agree with me that this is an important step towards the commitment we made to you and your families so that you can continue your lives here.

Yours sincerely,

Sajid Javid
Home Secretary

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What next?

If you are an EEA national residing in the UK, it must be stressed again, that nothing has changed. The latest position on Brexit refers to the UK governments plans post-Brexit and in any case, the UK is still a Member State of the EU.

Thinking ahead, it may prove beneficial to wait until the introduction of the new settled status and submit, what promises to be, a streamlined application to register and recognise your UK status. EEA nationals will have the option of doing from March 2019 until 30 June 2021.

However, for many EEA nationals, and their family members, who have already resided in the UK for a significant amount of time, it may be advantageous to apply to certify your permanent residence, so as to facilitate an application for British citizenship. Of course, time will be a major factor as applications will need to be submitted before the end of March 2019.

The key is to plan ahead, and seek advice if you are unclear or wish to discuss your, and your family members’, immediate and longer term options.

 

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

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Cross Bones Graveyard

Cross Bones Graveyard

You have probably heard it all before. London is vibrant, cosmopolitan, historical, yet modern, lively and diverse. And we agree. So we are starting a series that explores a small part of London. Today, we look at the Cross Bones Graveyard and the Cross Bones Memorial Gates.

Long before The Shard towered over Southwark, a nearby area, known then as The Mint, was infamous for being a violent slum for the poorest Londoners.

By the time of the 19th century, ‘25% of the population was living at or below subsistence level’ in the United Kingdom (UK) according to LocalHistories.org.

LocalHistories.org goes on to say that;

‘Surveys indicated that around 10% were very poor and could not afford even basic necessities such as enough nourishing food. Between 15% and 20% had just enough money to live on (provided they did not lose their job or have to take time off work through illness)’.

For those who had lost their jobs or had no jobs at all, the dreaded and often feared workhouses awaited. Workhouses were designed to be austere, harsh and very unpleasant so as to discourage only but the extremely poor from seeking State support.

Rather than turn to the workhouses, those facing poverty often took their chances on the streets. To counter this, in 1834, Parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act, designed to move beggars and ‘paupers’ off the streets and force them into workhouses. The Act also sought to reduce the financial cost, to the State, of looking after the poor.

In London, those facing extreme poverty were deemed outcasts and buried within Cross Bones Graveyard on Redcross Road, SE1.

Redcross Way SE1

When the Cross Bones Graveyard closed in 1853, it was said to have held the remains of 15,000 paupers, including the bodies of The Winchester Geese, licensed sex workers during medieval times, who were then taxed severely by the Bishop of Winchester.

Many of the bodies of the paupers were removed following the Jubilee Line extension.

The Cross Bones Memorial Gates now holds colourful ribbons, seen here, dedicated to the forgotten outcasts, the forgotten paupers, the forgotten Londoners.

Check out crossbones.org.uk for more information about their campaign to preserve the site and gardens.

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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 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…

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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.

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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 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…

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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

 

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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