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Football visa options: Travelling to the UK to play football

Football visa

Pursuing a footballing career in the United Kingdom (UK) is a dream for many.  And a difficult one. After all, football requires commitment, dedication and ability. There is the competition from peers. And yet, harder still is securing a football visa to travel to the UK to pursue a football career.

Football players from within the European Union (EU) are free to move between Member States to pursue their footballing career.

For those outside of the EU, it is imperative to find a football club willing to sponsor a Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and sporting) visa or Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa.

Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visas are issued for the length of the applicant’s contract or up to three years, whichever is the shorter period. There is the possibility of extending the visa up to a total of 5 years. Whereas the Tier 5 visa is issued for the length of the applicant’s contract or up to 12 months, whichever is the shorter.

The sponsoring club will be responsible for securing a Governing Body Endorsement and issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Determining the correct visa option will depend on the applicant’s skills, experience and nature of their sporting career, as the immigration rules dictate that, a person wishing to play football in the UK must be internationally established at the highest level, and their employment must make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level.

This strict requirement was introduced in response to the Football Association’s concerns about the high percentage of overseas nationals, participating in the Premier League at the expense of homegrown talent. See: Dyke: Work permit changes will benefit English football.

Some feel that the threshold is now too onerous. There have been a high number of Tier 2 (sportsperson) visa refusals, leading some overseas footballers and coaches to look to the Tier 1 (Investor) visa or Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa categories. And yet, the Tier 1 visas specifically prevent applicants from working as a professional sportsperson or sports coach. Same applies to the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa.

The best advice is speak with an immigration adviser who will be best placed to advise on the most appropriate football visa option

 

 

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

Call to Action: Contact Thomas Chase Immigration for a consultation or assistance with an immigration matter. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs

US Travel Ban: What we know so far

US Travel Ban

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

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

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

Implications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guidance

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

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

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

 

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

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

You may also like: New U.S Travel Restrictions.

Brexit latest: Brexit, Trade, Sovereignty and Immigration

Thomas Chase Immigration - Birexit

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

Background

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

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

The impact to Brexit on Trade and Sovereignty   

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

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

The ONS added:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trading partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigration

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

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

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

Dr Rajan went on the say:

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

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

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

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

Adding:

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

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

Conclusion

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

 

Written by:

Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Call to Action:

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

Top 10 Q&A on British Citizenship

Latest position on Brexit

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

  1. What is British Citizenship?

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

  1. Who can apply for British citizen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What does British citizenship cost?

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

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

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

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

In addition, your referees cannot be:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Completed application forms should be sent to:

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

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

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

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

10.Where are British citizenship ceremonies held?

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

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

 

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

Call to action

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

You may also like:

Top 10 Questions on the Life on the UK Test

 

Thomas Chase Q&A: Spouse visas and Disability Living Allowance

UK Immigration

Today, I received a query from an applicant who wished to apply for a spouse visa to join her husband (her sponsor) in the UK. Her husband was in receipt of Disability Living Allowance and she had reservations as to whether they could even meet the financial requirements.

The good news is, where a person is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, they will be exempt from meeting the strict income provisions under the financial requirements.

This applies also to:

  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme or Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme

The applicant and sponsor must provide the following documentary evidence in support of the application:

  • Official documentation from the Department for Work and Pensions or Veterans Agency confirming the current entitlement and the amount currently received
  • At least one personal bank statement in the 12-month period prior to the date of application. The bank statement should show payment of the benefit or allowance into their account.

The relevant guidance is set out in IDI Chapter 8 section 1.7a.

However, the applicant and sponsor must go on to provide evidence that they can adequately maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds or additional benefits.

Should the visa be extended from within the UK, the applicant will be exempt from meeting the minimum income requirements unless her sponsor ceases to be entitled to or is no longer in receipt of Disability Living Allowance.

The applicant was pleased to receive the above guidance and is now in the process of gathering further evidence to support the application.

If you would like us to assist you with your UK spouse visa application, get in touch via email at [email protected]

We look forward to working with you!

Update:

New claimants of Disability Living Allowance must now apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) unless the claimant is a child under the age of 16. For details about PIP, contact the PIP Helpline on 0800 917 2222.

Call to action

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

You may also like: What are the requirements for a UK spouse visa?

Statement of Changes: 28-day grace period

Statement of Changes: 28-day grace period

The government recently announced changes to the Immigration Rules for immigration applications made on or after 24 November. Here, we take an in depth look at one of the announced changes – the 28-day  grace period.

The Statement of Changes

On 3 November, the government announced the Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules (HC 667). There is also an Explanatory note.

The changes mainly sought to implement the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendations into the Tier 2 immigration categories. Having studied the report by MAC, it is fair to say that many of the contents of the Statement of Changes were as expected. See my earlier blog on the recent immigration changes.

Yet, there was one change to the Immigration Rules that was not anticipated. That is, the 28-day grace period.

Background to the 28 days’ grace period

Where a person remains in the United Kingdom (UK) beyond the expiry of their visa, they will be deemed to have ‘overstayed’ their leave and could be subject to removal directions.

What happens if the individual submits an in-time application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to extend or vary their leave, but fails to receive an immigration outcome prior to the end of the visa?

Due to an amendment to the Immigration Act 1971 referred to as ‘section 3C leave’ that individual will be prevented from becoming an overstayer whilst they are awaiting a decision on an in-time application.

Therefore, a person will have section 3C leave if:

  • They have limited leave to enter or remain in the UK
  • They apply to UKVI for variation of that leave
  • The application for variation of leave is made before the leave expires
  • The leave expires without the application for variation having been decided
  • The application for variation is neither decided nor withdrawn

(This applies to appeals also but subsequent changes to the law has complicated this area and is a matter for another blog).

In October 2012, a ’28-day grace period’ for all visa applicants was introduced. Whilst not a concession, it was a tool that allowed UKVI to disregard a very limited period of overstaying by the applicant where the application was submitted 28 days from the expiry of the visa.

In those circumstances, the UKVI caseworker would be allowed to go on and consider the application under the immigration rules.

Where an application to extend or vary leave is made out-of-time, section 3c leave will not apply. The 28-day grace period has therefore been helpful in preventing out-of-time applications from being completely disregarded due to innocent mistake or exceptional occurrence; an approach that was confirmed by the Upper tribunal in December 2015 in the case of R (on the application of Bhudia) v Secretary of State for the Home Department.

What has changed?

As of 23 November, the 28-day grace period will no longer apply as the government believes it to be inconsistent with their overall message of strict compliance with the UK’s immigration laws.

In a  Written Ministerial Statement to announce the Statement of Changes, the Minister for Immigration, Robert Goodwill, summarised the amendments and added:

‘We are also abolishing the ‘28-day grace period’, during which we currently accept out of time applications for a range of routes including work and study, to encourage greater compliance with the Immigration Rules. This will make clear that people must comply with the Rules and make any application for further leave before their current leave expires’.

What does this mean?

Immigration applications to extend or vary leave should always be submitted in advance of the expiry of the visa – that has not changed.

For individuals making an out-of-time application because of exceptional circumstances, the lack of a grace period would be extremely harsh.

Perhaps, for this reason, the government did not abolish the grace period altogether but instead reduced the 28-day period to within 14 days of the expiry of the visa.

As such, UKVI can disregard this limited period of overstaying if the Secretary of State considers that there is a good reason beyond the control of the applicant or their representative.

In addition, where an individual who has had their leave extended by section 3C leave, the 28-day period is to be reduced to 14 days from the expiry of any leave extended by section 3C.

Conclusion

The recent Statement of Changes introduced a number of changes to the Immigration Rules that will apply from 24 November. One such change includes the 28 days’ grace period being reduced to14 days, a measure introduced by the government to encourage compliance with immigrant laws. Regardless, of the grace period, individuals should adhere to the number one immigration rule: do not overstay your visa! Submitting an application to UKVI to extend or vary leave within the validity of the visa can prevent adverse consequences and help to protect an individual’s immigration status. Nevertheless, where there are exceptional reasons for submitting an out-of-time application on or after 24 November 2016, it is recommended that the application is submitted within 14 days from the expiry of the visa as the 28-day grace period will no longer apply.

For immigration advice or assistance, please feel free to contact us.

 

Top 10 Questions on the Life in the UK Test

Top 10 Questions on the Life in the UK Test

Passing the Life in the UK test, or as some people call it, the British citizenship test, is a key requirement for settlement and British citizenship applications. Yet it is one of those areas that seem to raise the most questions (and resentment) from applicants. Here, we answer the top 10 client questions about the Life in the UK test.

  1. What is the Life in the UK Test?

The Life in the UK test requires applicants seeking to reside in the UK permanently or to naturalise as British citizens to demonstrate a certain level of understanding of British life and society.

To truly understand the purpose of the Life in the UK test, it is necessary to briefly capture the political landscape at the time.

In 1997, the Labour government had been voted into government ending 18 years of Conservative government.

However, in 1998, the Labour government saw net migration jump from 48,000 to 140,000.  Migration Watch stated that the rise ‘was largely due to factors outside the government’s control’, but the Labour government faced criticism for its handling of immigration nevertheless.

As the Home Office grew under Labour (and from I was able to join the Home Office) so too did the rhetoric and legislative measures to control immigration or to make individuals ‘earn’ their status, including those already in the UK and were now seeking to make the UK their permanent home or naturalise.

  1. When was the Life in the UK Test introduced?

Some clients will often ask this question to mentally calculate if they could have avoided the test had they submitted an application sooner.

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Test 2002 (the Act), a huge piece of legislation that received royal assent on 7 November 2002, provided for knowledge of British society to be tested by way of a Life in the UK Test for settlement and naturalisation applicants.

The format and content of the test took some time for the specially formed Life in the United Kingdom Advisory Committee to agree upon and only became effective for settlement applicants from 1 November 2005 and naturalisation applicants from 2 April 2007.

  1. Do I have to sit the Life in the UK test?

Clients that have made the UK their home for a number of years can find the need to demonstrate an appreciation of British life and society, by way of a test, to be quite onerous and unreasonable.

At present all applicants applying for settlement or naturalisation as a British Citizenship must sit the Life in the UK test.

Applicants do not need to sit the Life in the UK test if they are:

  • Under 18 years; or
  • Over 65 years.
  1. How much does the Life in the UK cost?

As of today’s date, the Life in the UK test costs £50.

Life in the UK test refund can be obtained, if requested at least 3 days prior to the date of the test. A refund will not be given where the test is cancelled within 3 days of the test date.

  1. How long is the Life in the UK test?

The test lasts 45 minutes. There are 24 multiple choice questions and to pass, individuals must obtain 75% or more.

  1. What questions are in the Life in the UK test?

There is a great deal of information online. I suggest that individuals use the official handbook as it is their knowledge of this handbook that will be tested.  The official book covers a range of topics including:

  • The process of becoming a citizen or permanent resident
  • The values and principles of the UK
  • Traditions and culture from around the UK
  • The events and people that have shaped the UK’s history
  • The government and the law
  • Getting involved in your community

The book can be purchased in hard copy or in a number of formats from the TSO website.

As an aside, previous editions of the official Life in the UK book has been said to contain a few errors. Yet, there is no right of appeal or ability to challenge the accuracy of the information contained in the handbook.

There is also an official online practice test which gives a sense of what the test will be like and  official study guide book.

  1. When should I book the Life in the UK test?

My view, only book the test once they fee sufficiently prepared to sit and pass the test. Thereafter, the Life in the UK test can be booked least 3 days in advance.

The Life in the UK pass notification letter will be issued at the end of the test and will need to be submitted in the application bundle to the Home Office.

  1. How do I book the Life in the UK test?

Book the Life in the UK test online.

When booking the test, the following information must be provided:

  • Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) reference or passport number
  • Residential address details
  • Debit or credit card
  • Email address
  • Details of any special requests

Further guidance on the identity documents required to book the Life in the UK test, can be found in the Home Office’s identification guidance.

At the test centre, identity documents and address details will be cross referenced with the information provided when booking the test.

If there is a mismatch between the documents used when booking the test and those presented on the date of the test, the test cannot be taken and no refund will be given.

Should a mistake be made when booking the Life in the UK test online, this can easily be rectified up to one day before the test date. The details will need to be edited and saved within the Life in the UK test account.

There is a Home Office helpline for individuals requiring further help to book the test:

Life in the UK Test Helpline
Telephone: 0800 015 4245
Monday to Friday open 8am to 4pm

The test is taken at a Life in the UK test centre

  1. How long is the Life in the UK test valid for?

Currently, the Life in the UK pass notification letter does not have an end date and the test only needs to be taken once. This allows an applicant to use the same Life in the UK test certificate as part of their settlement application and again as part of their naturalisation application.

One of my clients is applying for British citizenship. She settled in the UK in 2003 and had sat her Life in the UK test in 2006 but, for a number of reasons, decided against pursuing the naturalisation application at that time. Fortunately, her Life in the UK test certificate from 2006 is still and can form part of her naturalisation application. She will need to sit an English Language test however.

  1. What if I fail the Life in the UK test?

The test can be retaken 7 days after the unsuccessful test result. The test will need to be booked online using the process highlighted above.

And another thing….

The Life in the UK pass notification letter is presented in a form of a simple letter. It is very important that the pass notification letter is kept safe as duplicate copies will not be issued by the test centre or Home Office.

Should the Life in the UK pass notification letter be misplaced or lost, the Home Office can be contacted for guidance on 03001 232 253. There is a charge for calling this number.

Conclusion

Passing the Life in the UK Test is a key requirement for settlement and British citizenship applications. It can cause anxiety, panic and sometimes resentment by individuals who have immersed themselves in British life and society and find the test a pointless administrative exercise. In this blog, I have attempted to answer the top 10 questions raised by clients over the years. Hopefully, the answers have provided some clarity about test and I would welcome any tips, experiences that you may have.

 

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

Call to action

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

You may also like: Top 10 Q&A on British citizenship and Permanent Residence to British citizenship: Is it worth it?

Spouse visa – what are the requirements for a spouse visa

Thomas Chase Immigration - UK Spouse Visa

‘How do I apply for a spouse visa?’ ‘What are the requirements for a spouse visa? Common questions. You may be a British national living in the UK and would like your overseas spouse to join you. It should be a simple enough process. It is not. In an attempt to demystify the spouse visa applications, I have put together an outline of the process for applying for a spouse visa, the documents required and some general guidance to bear in mind.

Background

A spouse visa is appropriate when you are already in the UK and you would like your overseas spouse or civil partner to join you in the UK for over 6 months. Overseas national refers to your partner being a national of a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and who is living abroad.

As part of the immigration process, you will need to sponsor your partner’s application to join you as a dependant and you will need to fall within one of the following:

  • Be a British citizen
  • Have settlement or indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • Have asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK

Much of this information may apply to unmarried partners also though for the purposes of this article, the focus will be on spouses and married partners.

Application

As the sponsor you are supporting the application. Your partner will need to complete and submit the application online in their country of nationality or residence. The only exception to the online process is where your partner resides in or is from North Korea in which case, they will need to download and complete a paper application form.

The application form can be saved and returned to, allowing you to assist with the preparation of the application form or to review the application to ensure that all the information provided is correct.

The application type normally causes confusion. As you are a British citizen or settled and living in the UK, your partner will need to apply for a ‘Family of a Settled Person’ visa.

If you have children, your partner should their details within their application form and also complete separate online applications for each child.

Key requirements:

Genuine Relationship

Your partner must be over 18 and your relationship must be genuine and that you intend to live together as a family in the UK. When submitting the application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), they will wish to see evidence that the marriage or civil partnership is legal and that the relationship is one that exists and has not an ‘arranged marriage’ or has been entered into to circumvent immigration laws.

Earnings

One of the most onerous requirements is the need for you to meet the financial requirements for your partner to successfully apply to join you in the UK. This means that you need to show that you earn above a certain threshold.

The salary threshold currently stands at:

  • £18,600 per annum – partner only
  • £22,400 per annum – partner and first child
  • £24,800 per annum – partner and 2 children
  • £27,200 per annum – partner and 3 children
  • £2,400 for each additional child

So as an example, if you are sponsoring your wife and 3 children to join you in the UK as your dependants, you will need to show the following savings or earnings:

  • £27,200 per annum – partner and 3 children

Total = £27,200

The financial requirement is usually evidenced via your income but can be a combination of:

  • Income from employment or self-employment – if you’re in the UK with permission to work
  • A pension
  • Maternity, paternity, adoption or sick pay
  • Other income such as from rent or shares
  • Cash savings – you’ll need at least £16,000, and the savings must have been in your name for 6 months or more

You will not need to meet the financial requirement if you have one or more of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment or Guaranteed Income Payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • Constant Attendance Allowance, Mobility Supplement or War Disablement Pension under the War Pensions Scheme
  • bereavement benefits

The above requirements do not apply if you have either humanitarian protection or refugee status and are subject to change.

You will also need to complete a Financial Requirement Form or Appendix 2 to further evidence that you meet the financial requirements.

The evidential flexibility for meeting the financial requirements is set out in paragraph D of Appendix FM-SE.

Accommodation

As part of the application process, you must show that you and your partner (and any children) will have adequate accommodation in the UK. This is to prevent individuals later seeking public assistance.

English language

Your partner will need to show that they have a knowledge of the English Language when they apply to join you in the UK.

If your partner is from a national of a majority English language, their language skills will be implied. Those countries are:

  • 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
  • US

Otherwise, English language can be evidenced by way of:

  • An academic qualification that both:
    • was taught or researched in English
    • is recognised by the body, UK NARIC, as being equivalent to a bachelor’s or master’s degree or PhD

A partner may be exempted from evidencing a knowledge of the English language where:

  • They are 65 years of age and older
  • Unable to do so due to a long term physical or mental condition
  • There are exceptional circumstances preventing them from meeting the requirements

UKVI will expect to see evidence if any of the above applies.

Tuberculosis Testing

As part of the immigration process, your partner may need to provide evidence of Tuberculosis (TB) screening if they are a resident of a particular country. Further information on TB screening can be found here.

It is advisable for your partner to book a test well in advance of the UKVI appointment as TB screening appointments in some countries can be subject to long waiting times.

Once your partner has been screened and found to be clear of infectious TB, they will be given a certificate which must be submitted as part of their application.

If you have children traveling as part of the application, they will need to be seen by the clinician who will decide if they need a chest x-ray. For any children under 11, a chest x-ray is rare. Once cleared, their certificates will also need to be included in their applications.

Children under 11 will not normally have a chest x-ray.

The TB certificate is normally valid for 6 months so this needs to be factored into your overall applications timescales.

Sponsorship Form

You will need to confirm your sponsorship of your partner’s (and child or children’s) application by way of an undertaking. This is done by completing a Sponsorship Form

By signing the Sponsorship Form, you are confirming that you will be responsible for your partner’s (and child’s or children’s) maintenance, accommodation and care, without relying on public funds:

  • For at least 5 years, if they are applying to settle
  • Throughout their stay in the UK

Documents

The key documents to be submitted with the application will depend on your and your partner’s circumstances. Each person’s circumstances are different and there have been instances when I have advised clients to submit additional documents or made detailed representations to UKVI in order to make the application process as smooth as possible.

Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, some of the key documents to be submitted are:

  • Printed application form
  • Your current passport or valid travel identification document
  • Any previous or expired passports
  • Your partner’s passport sized photographs
  • Evidence of your identity and status in the UK
  • Evidence of marital status
  • Evidence that you and your partner intend on living together in the UK and of your relationship
  • Proof of adequate accommodation in the UK
  • Proof that you can meet the financial requirement/ maintenance requirements
  • Financial Requirements Form
  • Your partners proof of their knowledge of the English language
  • Your partner’s valid TB test certificate – see above
  • Sponsorship Form

If your child or children are applying to travel to the UK with your partner, the following should also be included, though this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Your child’s current passport or valid travel identification document
  • Your child’s previous or expired passports
  • Your child’s passport sized photographs
  • Your child’s valid TB test certificate

How long are processing times?

Processing times are at the mercy of UKVI and depends on a number of factors. For that reason, it is advisable to leave nothing to chance so as to prevent delay to your application.

On average, however, spouse applications can take up to 12 weeks to be decided. The latest  UKVI processing timescales can be found here.

Application fees

As of 2016/2017, application fees for your dependant to join you in the UK stand at £1,195. Fee increases apply as of 6 April 2017.

In addition, your partner will need to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge towards the National Health Service of £200 per year.

How long will the visa be issued for?

Spouse visas are issued for 33 months. Before the end of the visa, your partner will need to apply to extend their visa for a further 2 years and 6 months. The application will be made UKVI from within the UK so there is no need for your partner to leave the UK and make the application from abroad.

Can my partner work in the work?

Once the visa has been issued, your partner may work, take up employment and study in the UK.

Can my partner apply for settlement?

Your spouse may apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK or settlement once they have resided in the UK for 5 years continuously.

My suggestion is that as soon as your spouse enters the UK as your dependant, they you both take a long term view to your situation and collate documents over the next 5 years to with a view to submitting an application to first extend their leave in the UK and later to seek settlement.

Conclusion

Spouse visas allow an overseas partner living abroad to join their British or settled spouse or civil partner in the UK. Once obtained, the overseas partner may travel to the UK, live beyond 5 years, work and study. Yet, the fact that the sponsoring spouse of civil partner might be British or settled in the UK does not necessarily mean that the immigration process will be a straightforward one. There are a number of strict requirements that could lead to a delay or a refusal of a spouse visa application if those requirements are not met.  With this in mind, this article has sought to explain the spouse visa immigration process and clarify the requirements to be met by UK sponsors and their overseas partners.

Call to action

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

You may also like: Q&A: UK spouse visas and Disability Living Allowance.

Brexit: Retained Rights of Residence

“Brexit: Retained Rights of Residence” is locked Brexit: Retained Rights of Residence

Brexit remains a hot topic for European nationals and with good reason. The UK government has announced a time frame of March 2017 for the start of formal negotiations to leave the European Union. Many European nationals are eager to know how, and to what extent, their current rights to work and reside in the UK will be protected. But what of non-EEA family members whose circumstances have change? Here we look at the Retained Rights of Residence provisions and the documents that need to be gathered and submitted to support an application to UK Visas and Immigration.

Background

The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, later replaced by the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016,  sets out the rights of nationals, of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, and their family members to enter and reside in the UK.

In order to first enter the UK, the non-EEA family member of sponsoring EEA national must apply for an EEA family permit. The exception is where the non-EEA family member holds a qualifying EEA State residence card issued in Germany or Estonia or already holds a residence permit or permanent residence card.

Once in the UK, non-EEA family members can find themselves in a vulnerable position if their circumstances change and they do not yet have permanent residence. With Brexit looming, it has become crucial than ever for such individuals protect their status.

Retained Rights of Residence categories

Regulation 10 allows EEA nationals family members that are from outside the EEA retain their right of residence in the UK if:

  • The EEA national:
    • Is deceased – regulation 10(2)
    • Leaves the UK – regulation 10(3)
    • Parent of a child who retains the right of residence: regulation 10(4)
    • Divorces their spouse or dissolves their civil partnership – regulation 10(5)
  • The family member is the parent of a child who retains the right of residence – regulation 10(4)

Regulation 10 only applies on or after 30 April 2006 and cannot be applied if the circumstances happened before that date. For example, if a person married an EEA national and subsequently divorced them before 30 April 2006 they would not be entitled to retain the right to reside.

Below we look at what each of the categories mean and list some of the key documents that must be submitted to UK Visas and Immigration when applying for retained rights of residence.

Death of the EEA national sponsor: regulation 10(2)

If the sponsoring EEA national has died, their non-EEA national family members may retain a right of residence. To do so, the following circumstances must be in place:

  • The EEA national died on or after 30 April 2006 and was a qualified person or had a right of permanent residence when they died
  • the applicant was living in the UK for at least one year immediately before the EEA national’s death as:
    • a family member of the EEA national qualified person, or
    • an EEA national with a permanent right of residence.
  • The EEA national was a worker, self-employed person, or self-sufficient person; or
  • The non-EEA national family member is carrying out activities similar to that of a qualified person and is a worker, self-employed or a self-sufficient person.

Where the non-EEA family member is a student, they must demonstrate that they are self-sufficient to fall within the provisions of regulation 10(2).

Documents

The evidence that a non-EEA family member will need to submit with their application are:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid passport or EEA ID card of the EEA national to evidence their nationality
  • Evidence of their genuine relationship to the EEA national
  • The EEA national’s death certificate
  • Evidence that the EEA national was exercising free movement rights at the time of their death
  • Evidence of the non-EEA family member’s residence in the UK for at least one year immediately before the EEA national’s death
  • That they are a worker, self-employed person or self-sufficient person or the family member of such a person
  • Where applicable, evidence of the child being educated in the UK immediately prior to the EEA national ‘s death
  • Documents showing the child’s continuing education in the UK, for example a letter from the child’s school
  • The child’s or children’s identity documents and birth certificate

The above is not an exhaustive list and will need to be tailored to the individual circumstances of the individuals.

Leaves the UK – regulation 10(3)

A non-EEA national spouse or civil partner will lose their right of residence if the sponsoring EEA-national leaves the UK while they are still married or in a civil partnership. This is because they can no longer be viewed as a ‘qualified person’ exercising free movement or Treaty rights.

Where this happens, the non-EEA family member will need to demonstrate that they instead fall under fall one of the other provisions of regulation 10.

The exception is where the family member of a direct descendant of the EEA national.

Documents

Below is a guide to the documents that need to be gathered and submitted with the application.

  • A valid passport evidencing nationality.
  • Evidence of their relationship to the EEA national.
  • Proof that the EEA national has left the UK, if applicable. This can be in the form of a declaration
  • Evidence that the EEA national was exercising free movement rights prior to leaving the UK
  • Evidence of the child being educated in the UK immediately prior to the EEA national leaving the UK
  • Documents showing the child’s continuing education in the UK, for example a letter from the child’s school
  • The child’s or children’s identity documents and birth certificate.

The above is not an exhaustive list and will need to be tailored to the individual circumstances of the individuals.

Parent of a child who retains the right of residence: regulation 10(4)

A non-EEA family member who is the parent of a child or children of an EEA national may retain a right of residence until the child reaches the age of 21.

It is possible for the non-EEA family member to continue their residence beyond the child 21st birthday if the child has, for instance, a severe physical or mental disability and the non-EEA national’s assistance will allow that child to continue with their education in the UK.

Documents

The evidence that a non-EEA family member will need to submit with their application for retained rights are:

  • A valid passport
  • 2 colour passport sized photographs for each person
  • Birth certificate evidencing the relationship of the non-EEA and EEA national to the child or children
  • The child’s or children’s evidence of identity
  • Evidence of the non-EEA national’s relationship to the EEA national
  • Their relationship to the EEA national
  • Their custody of the child, if appropriate. For instance, a letter that has been officially sworn by a solicitor confirming that the parent has custody.

The above is not an exhaustive list and will need to be tailored to the individual circumstances of the individuals.

Divorces their spouse or dissolves their civil partnership – regulation 10(5)

Separation

Where there has been a separation, the non-EEA national will continue to be a family member with the right to reside in the UK, as long as the sponsoring EEA national continues to exercise free movement rights in the UK, or has acquired permanent residence.

Rights of residence continues until:

  • The divorce is finalised and a decree absolute is issued
  • The marriage is annulled or
  • The civil partnership is dissolved

Once the above papers have been issued, the non-EEA national’s right of residence will come to an end.

Divorce

Most of the queries I receive on retained rights of residence are from individuals whose marriage or civil partnership to the sponsoring EEA national has officially ended.

Where the relationship ends in divorce, the non-EEA spouse or civil partner will lose their right of residence if:

  • The EEA national leaves the UK while they are still married or in a civil partnership. This is because they can no longer be viewed as a ‘qualified person’), and
  • the non-EEA national does not qualify for a retained right of residence under any other part of regulation 10.

Conditions of Regulation 10(5)

To avoid this, the non-EEA spouse or civil partner, and anyone who was related to the EEA national sponsor by marriage or civil partnership, must meet the conditions of regulation 10(5) in order to retain a right of residence in the UK. Those conditions are that:

  • The non-EEA national has been married to, or in a civil partnership with, the EEA national for at least three years immediately before beginning proceedings for divorce, annulment or dissolution; and
  • Has lived in the UK with the EEA national sponsor for at least one year during the time of their marriage or civil partnership.

Documents

The evidence that a non-EEA family member will need to submit with their application for retained rights are:

  • A valid passport for the non-EEA national
  • For the sponsoring EEA national evidence of their nationality, which must be a valid passport or EEA ID card
  • 2 colour passport sized photographs
  • Evidence that the marriage or civil partnership lasting for at least three years immediately before the initiation of proceedings for divorce, annulment or dissolution
  • Evidence of the non-EEA family member and EEA national’s residence in the UK for at least one year during the marriage
  • Evidence of the termination of the non-EEA national’s relationship with the EEA national on or after 30 April 2006. This could be a:
    • Decree absolute
    • Decree of annulment
    • Certificate of dissolution
  • Proof that the EEA family member had permanent residence or had been a ‘qualified person’ (i.e. a worker, student, self-employed person, self-sufficient person or someone looking for work) in the UK

The above is not an exhaustive list and will need to be tailored to the individual circumstances of the individuals.

Other factors

It is important to satisfy the conditions under regulation 10 otherwise the application for retained rights of residence may not only be refused, but their registration certificate or residence card may also be revoked.

Under the Free Movement of Persons Directive 2004/38/EC family members who have a retained right of residence do so ‘exclusively on a personal basis’. In practice, this means that the non-EEA family member cannot be the sponsor for another family member.

In their published guidance, UKVI states the following by way of an example:

‘…if a non-EEA national with a retained right of residence gets married to another non-EEA national, her new husband will not have any rights under the regulations. Her new husband would only be able to enter or remain in the UK if he qualifies under the Immigration Rules’.

It is possible for non-EEA national family members of British citizens (Surinder Singh cases) to continue to remain in the UK. However, this is beyond the scope of this article and will be covered in a separate article.

Conclusion

Non-EEA family members of EEA nationals may continue to reside in the UK under certain circumstances. The circumstances are limited and do require a significant amount of documentation to be submitted along with the application for retained rights of residence.

Brexit Latest: Brexit and Immigration

Brexit Latest: Brexit and Immigration

At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May laid out her position on Brexit. Article 50, the formal mechanism for beginning exit negotiations from the European Union (EU), would be invoked by the end of March 2017.

During the negotiations, Mrs May said that immigration control, and not better trade deals, would be the priority. This was the strongest indication yet of a ‘hard Brexit’ approach, an approach that was reaffirmed by David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, who promised to not only control immigration but to ‘bring numbers down’ when he addressed the conference.

Yet, the hard Brexit approach has already began to cause some friction within in the Conservative party. There are those within (and outside) the party who would like to see the government adopt a ‘soft Brexit’ approach. One that would see access to the single market balanced with free movement of people.

Mrs May also proposed the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA) which gives direct effect to all EU law, and spoke of the introduction of the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ which would enshrine ‘all’ EU law into UK law. She stated:

‘This historic bill, which will be included in the next Queen’s speech will mean that the 1972 Act, the legislation that gives direct effect to all EU law in Britain will no longer apply from the date on which we formally leave the European Union’

Mrs May added;

‘Our laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster. The judges interpreting those laws will sit not in Luxembourg but in courts in this country. The authority of EU law in Britain will end’.

The Repeal Bill’s aim to enshrine all EU laws in UK law seems at odds with Mrs May’s stance on UK sovereignty. The likely aim of the bill to provide much needed assurances to the business sector that little will change immediately post-Brexit.  

Yet, this would still provide little comfort to businesses and UK universities uncertain about not only trade but still confused as to the long term impact to European employees, workforce and students.

In fact, little information was given to recent and longer term

EU residents in the UK. Mr Davis said that the UK, during negotiations, will protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK ‘so long as Britons in Europe are treated the same way’, suggesting that there is still some way to go before EU citizens gain clarity on their longer term status.

Aside from any deals yet to be negotiated, the likelihood is that post-Brexit, EU laws enshrined in law will be diluted and amended over time. Eventually, UK courts will need to interpret immigration laws in keeping with the will of Parliament and not Europe.

For those involved in immigration, we can only hope that vital safeguards are not lost altogether. We will watch this space closely to see how things progress.

 

Immigration Compliance Audit for HR and businesses: 3 ways an audit can help your business

“Immigration Compliance Audit for HR and businesses: 3 ways an audit can help your business” is locked Immigration Compliance Audit for HR and businesses: 3 ways an audit can help your business

For employers and HR professionals sponsoring Tier 2 highly skilled workers from overseas, compliance with immigration laws is crucial.

Immigration compliance does not stop with the initial identity checks made when a candidate starts their employment with a company. Rather, it is a continuing duty. In fact, to test whether employers or sponsors are complying with their continuing duty to prevent illegal working in the UK, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may make announced and unannounced visits to the sponsor’s premises.

Most sponsors and HR professionals are conscientious and take their obligations very seriously as evidenced by the number of UKVI audits that take place without any significant issues.

Get things wrong, and sponsors can face a myriad of penalties including heavy fines of up to £20,000 per unlawful worker, damage to their reputation, the inability to employ their highly skilled overseas staff or hire new staff from overseas, possible closure of their premises for 48 hours and even worse, imprisonment.

What is an immigration compliance audit?

UKVI’s officers will visit a sponsor’s site or sites to confirm the following:

  • The sponsor can offer employment to overseas workers;
  • The information provided by the sponsor is accurate and up-to-date;
  • The company is genuine and lawfully operating in the UK;
  • The sponsor is able to comply with immigration laws and their sponsorship duties.

UKVI may do this by:

  • Reviewing the information held by the sponsor and contrasting this with the information provided in the online application for a sponsor licence;
  • Speaking with the overseas employees, their managers and recruitment managers;
  • Speaking with members responsible for overall day-to-day UKVI online reporting duties;
  • Reviewing the personnel files of overseas workers and sometimes spot-checking the files of resident workers to ensure that those workers have an entitlement to work in to the UK in the role recorded; and
  • Making an overall assessment of the sponsor’s HR systems, data held and record-keeping to meet their ongoing legal obligations.

It should be noted that sponsors are required to cooperate with UKVI during immigration audits.

During an immigration compliance audit with Thomas Chase Immigration, sponsors or those looking to become sponsors can expect the following:

  • Interviews to be conducted with key personnel identified in the online sponsor licence application;
  • A review of the sponsor’s processes and procedures against UKVI’s requirements;
  • A detailed review of sample files held for overseas workers to confirm best practices are being met;
  • Feedback followed by a written report of findings with recommendations to help the sponsor develop good or better systems.

Where necessary, the sample review of files may need to be widened.

3 Ways that an immigration compliance audit can help

So let’s put this into context by highlighting 3 key ways in which an immigration compliance audit with an immigration provider can help businesses.

  • Providing reassurance prior to an announced UKVI visit

An immigration compliance audit can a for an assist with the preparation of an announced UKVI audit by providing reassurance to sponsors and HR that their systems are appropriate and effective.

It is not uncommon for companies to request an audit to flesh out any internal issues and assess any training gaps.

When conducting an audit at one company, it became very clear that the imminent departure of one the senior members of the HR department would leave a huge gap in knowledge. However, to avert this, training sessions on areas such as right to work checks and the Resident Labour Market Test were arranged.

Training, coupled with ongoing support and advice helped the HR department continue to meet its ongoing obligations and demonstrates a clear example of how an audit can pinpoint things that have not yet surfaced.

Also, in few circumstances, I’ve found that sponsors have utilised the audit to review their working relationship with an immigration provider or get a feel for them before contracting their services again in future.

Applying for a sponsor licence

As stated above, UKVI may visit the sponsor at their site as part of the application consideration process for a sponsor licence. To ensure success, it is important to understand who will manage sponsorship of overseas workers within the company to enhance the success of an application.

An audit can reveal if the right roles, such as that of an authorising officer, have been assigned to the most suitable personnel. It can also highlight whether the company has effective HR systems for monitoring their future employees’ immigration status.

Not only that, but following an audit by an immigration provider and proving any recommendations are followed, the company should feel relatively confident ahead of any UKVI audit or queries.

Ensuring consistency across various UK branches

Managing various company branches can be difficult enough regardless if the company has grown organically or merged or acquired other sites.

An immigration compliance audit can identify any gaps in processes and assess whether key changes have been reported in the proper manner.

In one instance, I worked with a university that had joined forces with two other education establishments to form one entity. As you can imagine, this lead to significant restructuring and downsizing of the HR department, with one site taking most of the responsibility for the other sites due on their immigration experience.

This was seen as a good financial and strategic move by the university, but left the HR department at the main site overwhelmed by their additional personnel and immigration obligations.

An immigration compliance audit was secured and revealed that the main site’s processes and procedures were effective, probably because of the ongoing support and systems that we had developed. The other sites had decent systems but gaps were identified for various reasons as well as an incompatibility with the HR systems.  It was reasonable straightforward to suggest a plan of action in the debriefing to address the issues identified; develop consistent systems for monitoring future employees’ immigration status across the 3 sites and schedule dates to meet and track progress.

And…

There is another reason. Having proper HR systems and procedures in place, can provide protection by way of a statutory defence, should a sponsor unwittingly find that an unlawful worker has been hired.

Conclusion

Hopefully, the above points have shown the benefits of securing an immigration compliance audit for sponsors or businesses looking to become sponsors of overseas workers.

Immigration audits can be carried out by UKVI officers at any time in the sponsoring process, be in at the application stage or after a sponsor licence has been in place for a long time. By getting an audit, a sponsor can gain clarity of the extent to which their HR processes and systems is helping them meet their continuing obligation of preventing illegal working or identity areas to address. Be it, applying for a sponsor licence, checking compliance across various sites, seeking help before an announced visit or just seeking assurance, an immigration compliance audit has many benefits. By securing an immigration compliance audit, and following the recommendations, sponsors can focus on what they do best, providing their customers with great products and services.