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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Right to Rent Checks

Right to rent

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

Background

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

Well not quite!

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

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

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

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

Here’s how…

Tenants to be checked

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to carry out right to work checks

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

Obtain

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

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

List A, Group 1

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

List A, Group 1, documents include:

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

Group 2, List A

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

Documents in Group 2, List A include:

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

List B

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

Such documents include:

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

 

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

 

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

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

Check

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

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

So for instance, ask yourself:

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

Copy

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

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

Further information can found on the Home Office website.

Timing of checks

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

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

Follow-up checks

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

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

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

When are right to rent checks not required

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

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

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

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

You will however, require evidence of the above.

The tenant has limited leave but no documents

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

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

Results are normally relayed within 48 hours.

Important

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

And another thing…

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

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

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

The Home Office Code provides more information for landlords.

Conclusion

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

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.

Call to action

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

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Brexit Deal or No Deal

Minimum Income Requirement

Minimum Income Requirement

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

Background

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

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

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

The Supreme Court’s findings

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

  1. Children’s rights must be safeguarded

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

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

  1. Alternative funding

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Brexit, Settled Status & EU Nationals

Thomas Chase Immigration - Brexit, Settled Status

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Settled status, students and the self-sufficient

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

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

Permanent residence and British citizenship

What factors should EU nationals factor into their decision making?

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

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

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

Examples

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

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

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

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

Family members

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

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

Call to action

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

 

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Overseas Visitors and UK Healthcare

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

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

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

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

EEA NATIONALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

The EU Directive route

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

NON-EEA VISITORS

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

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

These include:

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

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

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

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

Changes to Healthcare rules from October 2017

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

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

Reciprocal Agreements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Happy travels!

 

Key information

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

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

 

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

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Brexit & EU citizens in the UK

Thomas Chase Immigration - EU citizens

What is the UK government’s position on the future rights of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom (UK), as Brexit negotiations get underway?

Earlier today, Prime Minister Theresa May updated Parliament on the European Union (EU) summit and her proposals for EU citizens in the UK. Those with 5 years’ lawful residence at the point of cut-off, will be granted ‘settled status’, akin to indefinite leave to remain and current permanent residence provisions

The cut-off will be no later than the UK’s exit from the EU and will be agree with the member states.

After, the cut-off date, EU citizens will be able to bring their family members (dependants) to the UK in the same (very restrictive) way as British status.

For those EU nationals in the UK with less than 5 years’ residence, who arrive before the cut-off, it is proposed that they may remain in the UK until they are in a positon to apply for 5 years’ settled status.

The system of EU citizens’ registration is to be streamlined and will not require comprehensive medical insurance in future!

Contentious areas

Let’s not forget, the proposals were dismissed by the European Council President, Donald Tusk, as falling below expectations’.

Key contentious areas in the UK government’s proposals include jurisdictional issues and dependants.

The UK government’s proposal that EU nationals’ rights should be overseen by a UK body or the Home Office is unlikely to be accepted by the EU member states. They believe that jurisdiction of EU rights should fall to the European Court of Justice.

Another contentious area for the member states will be around settled EU citizens and their family members. The proposal by the UK that EU citizens may continue to enjoy freedom of movement for their family members but this should fall under UK immigration rules after the cut-off date, is unlikely to be supported by the member states. Instead, they will prefer to see such rights continue indefinitely.

Conclusion

The announcement to respect EU citizen’s right to permanent residence in the UK is welcome. Yet, the proposals leave many unanswered questions and is unlikely to be the government’s final position as Brexit negotiations continue. The UK will need to resolve the possible contentious issues, of jurisdiction and dependant rights, with the European Council, to not only to provide clarity to EU nationals, but so it may agree reciprocal arrangements for UK nationals residing in the EU and begin trade talks.

 

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

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

 

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EEA permit applications and processing times

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

 

Apply for an EEA Family Permit

Immigration advice

Applying for an EEA Family Permit is supposed to be straightforward. So it can be a shock to come when an applicant receives a letter from UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) informing them that their application for an EEA Family Permit has been refused. In Part 1 of this series on EEA permits and residence cards, we look at the basics of EEA Family Permits.

Introduction

EEA Family Permits are issued under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 and not the Immigration Rules. The permits allow overseas nationals from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) to enter the United Kingdom (UK) and join their family member as long as they are the:

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

The EEA national must either:

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

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

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

Without an EEA Family Permit, overseas nationals will find it very difficult to secure entry to the UK. The EEA Family Permit should also be used, rather than applying for a standard visit visa, where the overseas family member is seeking to visit the EEA Family member.

Family members

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

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

Extended Family Members

Extended family members are defined under Part 8 of the EEA Regulations and include siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces.

Non EEA, overseas family members must demonstrate they are dependent on the EEA national or are a member of their household, or have a serious health condition and rely on them for their care.

Unmarried partners fall within this category also and must show that they are in a lasting relationship with the EEA national.

Cost

EEA Family Permit applications are free. Regardless, time, effort and care should be taken when preparing the application to avoid delays or worse still, a refusal.

Documents

It is imperative that the required documents are provided in support of the application for an EEA Family Permit.

Whilst not an exhaustive list, documents to be submitted include:

  • Current and valid passport
  • Evidence of the overseas national’s relationship to the EEA family member. Such documents will depend on the nature of the relationship and may include, for example:
    • Marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate
    • Birth certificate
    • Proof that you’ve lived together for 2 years if unmarried
  • Family member’s current and valid passport or national identity card (or a certified copy)
  • Proof of your dependency if you’re dependent on your EEA family member

It is important to demonstrate that the EEA national is lawfully in the UK and that they have either permanent residence or, where they have been in the UK for over 3 months, that they are exercising their Treaty rights.

Additional documents to be submitted, may include:

  • Evidence of employment such as an employment contract, wage slips or a letter from an employer
  • Evidence of self-employed, such as contracts, invoices or audited accounts with bank statements and confirmation of paying tax and National Insurance
  • Proof of studying by way of a letter from the school, college or university
  • Evidence of financially independent such as bank statements

Where the EEA family member is studying or financially self-sufficient, evidence of their comprehensive sickness insurance should also be provided.

Original or certified copies must be submitted and supported by certified translations, where appropriate.

Location

EEA family permits may be obtained from any overseas visa issuing post. As such, the overseas national does not need to be lawfully or normally resident in the country where they are applying form, unlike applications under the Immigration Rules. The overseas family member may be asked to attend an interview if the Entry Clearance Officer, considering the application, has strong grounds for doing so.

Length

The EEA Family Permit is valid for 6 months and is meant to facilitate their entry to the UK. On the expiry of the permit, and following the overseas family member’s arrival, the overseas family member may continue to reside in the UK, as long as they continue to meet the EEA Regulations. That said, many overseas family members of EEA nationals find it advantageous to apply for a Residence Card to prove their status in the UK, especially to potential employers.

The situation is different for extended family members of EEA nationals, who must obtain a Residence Card following the expiry of an EEA family permit or they will be considered an overstayer.

Conclusion

In our other blog, we look at the top reasons for a refusal of EEA Family Permits and how to avoid adverse decisions.

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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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New US Travel Restrictions

UK immigration

Travelling to the US on business or for personal reasons? Air passengers, traveling to the US, on overseas airlines from 10 listed airports in 8 Muslim-majority countries, will find themselves subject to new US travel restrictions issued today, and due to be enforced within days.

Such passengers will no longer be allowed to carry devices larger than a mobile phone in their hand luggage, for security reasons. This applies to items such as laptops, iPads and other tablets, cameras and gaming devices, unless it can be proven that the device is required for medical reasons.

The airports affected are: Queen Alia International in Amman, Jordan; Cairo International in Egypt; Ataturk in Istanbul, Turkey; King Abdulaziz International in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; King Khalid International in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait International; Mohammed V International in Casablanca, Morocco; Hamad International in Doha, Qatar; and the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports in the United Arab Emirates.

The US travel restrictions will not apply to US carriers entering the US from the airports listed, although it appears that US carriers do not do so in any case. However, confusion may arise about overseas airlines traveling into the US from any Muslim majority country.

Airlines were given notification of the new US travel restrictions and are aware of their responsibilities for policing the measures. In fact, airlines have already been updating their websites and informing passengers of this. The consequences to airlines who fail to police the US travel restrictions properly is likely to be inability to operate in the US.

Sources in Germany have indicated that such restrictions will not be introduced, though the UK may implement additional airport security measures and an announcement is expected soon.

If you are due to travel to the US soon but have concerns, contact the airline responsible for your flight for advice.

Information can also be found on the Department of Homeland Security’  TSA’s website.

 

 

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

Thomas Chase Immigration provide immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families by looking at the bigger picture to get the right outcome.

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

You may also like: The US Travel and what we know so far.

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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.

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