British Citizenship Ceremonies

British Citizenship Ceremonies

You have successfully applied to naturalise as a British citizenship, and now you must attend a British citizenship ceremony. What can individuals expect at the and the British citizenship ceremonies and how will this be affected by the need for physical or social distancing due to the coronavirus? We set out the position below.

Timescales

All individuals that have successfully applied to naturalise as British citizens, and who are over 18 years of age, must attend a citizenship ceremony.

British Citizenship ceremonies are organized by the local council and normally take place in groups, though it is possible to have a private ceremony for an additional fee. Private can be beneficial where an individual wish to invite more than the permitted guest allocation which currently stands at two guests.

Normally, the individual must contact the local authority and book a date for the ceremony, within 21 days of the date of their Citizenship Invitation Letter sent by the Home Office.

For individuals that are abroad, yet intending to live in the UK more permanently, they may postpone their ceremony until their return.  If so, they will have up to 3 months to book the ceremony.

Latest position due to the coronavirus

Due to coronavirus, the Home Office has said that individuals will now have 6 months to book their British citizenship ceremonies.

The Home Office advise that any delays in attending the ceremonies, as a result of the coronavirus, will not affect the outcome of the application itself. Therefore, they will not rescind the decision to approve the application to naturalise because an individual is unable to attend an appointment due to the pandemic.

Nevertheless, while it is good to know that individuals will have more time to attend British citizenship ceremonies because of the coronavirus, the downside is that such individuals will not be officially viewed as British until such time as they attend the ceremonies and say an oath or affirmation of allegiance to the Queen, and pledge loyalty to the UK.  

It is at the end of the ceremony, an individual will be presented with their Certificate of British Citizenship and a Welcome Pack. The Certificate will evidence the person’s legal acquisition of British citizenship, and should therefore be kept safe. It is not advisable to alter or even laminate the document.

The Certificate of British Citizenship will also be required as part of an application for a first British passport.  

It is advisable to avoid altering or even laminating the certificate, as HM Passport Office may refuse to accept the document as evidence of citizenship. If so, a new certificate will need to be obtained.  

Conclusion

British citizenship ceremonies allow individuals that have successfully applied to naturalize, to mark the occasion. At the ceremony, individuals will be given official documentation of their status. The coronavirus has impacted those who may not yet have attended the ceremony and the Home Office has provided updated guidance.

We have highlighted some key things to consider, which we hope has been of help.

Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre

If you have a coronavirus and UK immigration query UKVI advise that you contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre at: [email protected]. Emails must be in English.

The Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre will typically respond to emails within 5 working days.

The Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre can also be contacted by phone on: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Calls are free of charge. Please do not call the team if you have already sent the team an email. This will only waste time and slow down response times.

For anyone wishing to seek clarity about their immigration status, we recommend that you seek expert immigration advice.

All the best and please stay safe!


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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

If you have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice, or assistance with your application to naturalise or register as a British citizen, feel free to contact us.

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

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Coronavirus and UK immigration

Coronavirus and UK immigration

Many of our clients have expressed deep concern about their immigration circumstances, in light of the coronavirus or Covid-19. Here we look at UK Immigration and Visas’ (UKVI’s) latest guidance on coronavirus and UK immigration.

Background

Due to the coronavirus, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised British citizens not to travel internationally, unless their travel is deemed to be essential. We have one client, a British national, who is considering travelling to Canada to be with his Canadian wife, as she is now no longer able to progress her spouse visa application

For those wishing to travel, it is important for those individuals to be aware of the latest travel information, as countries continue to review their containment measures and restrict travel. Such measures can be introduced by countries without notice and individuals can be arrested if laws around quarantine and self-isolation are not adhered to. Therefore, travellers are advised to check the latest position with your travel provider or consulate and only travel is absolutely necessary.  

Current UK visa holders unable to leave the UK

There are a number of visa holders in the United Kingdom (UK), whose UK visas are due to expire. Failure to leave the UK on or prior to the expiry of the visa will normally cause significant issues to a person’s immigration history. Our strong advice has, and always will be, to adhere to the terms of the visa. Yet, many individuals are finding it extremely difficult to secure their travel to leave the UK and travel overseas.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to flights being cancelled, and some airlines have ground flights altogether. The Home Office has fortunately recognised the difficulties facing UK visa holders in the UK and and announced, subject to UKVI guidance, that such individuals will receive an automatic extension of their visa until 31 March 2020.

On 24 March 2020, UKVI updated their guidance. The current position (as of today’s date at least), is that visa holders, with visas that are due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, will receive an extension of their stay until 31 May 2020. Initially this had been restricted to Chinese nationals because of the extreme difficulties they faced returning to China but has now been widened.

The extension of the visa length applies to UK visa holders who cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions in place or self-isolation related to coronavirus, so this will apply to a significant number of individuals. Nevertheless, in order to fall within the provisions, UKVI advise that visa holders with visas expiring between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) so that UKVI may update their records.

UKVI state that any emails sent to CIT, seeking an extension of leave, should provide the following information:

Their full name (including any middle names);

  • Their date of birth (in the following format – dd/mm/yyyy);
  • Their nationality; and
  • Their previous visa reference number.

The UK visa holder is also asked to provide an explanation as to why they cannot leave the UK and return to their home country. For example, this may be due to the closure of the border or inability to secure travel arrangements.

UKVI will acknowledge receipt of the email and go on to consider the contents. If satisfied, UKVI will inform the visa holder of the temporary extension of their visa.  

This is a helpful solution for UK visa holders facing uncertainty over the coronavirus and UK immigration status. It may be that coronavirus and UK immigration measures remain in place beyond 31 May 2020. If so, UKVI will no doubt look to extend their measures. UK visa holders that receive an extension or have a visa due to expire soon after 31 May 2020 are advised to pay close attention to any updates from UKVI.

In the interim, it is advisable for UK visa holders impacted by the coronavirus to collate and retain records of any communications with UKVI relating to the extension of their visas, and of any communications relating to cancelled travel or travel difficulties. This includes screenshots of any attempts to book their overseas travel.

UK visa holders wishing to stay in the UK long-term

UKVI had initially advised that Chinese nationals in the UK under the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa category could exceptionally switch to a Tier 2 General visa from within the UK. That is, if their UK visa was due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020.

The requirements for affected individuals to first leave the country and apply from overseas has been set aside for the present time.

On 24 March, UKVI provided coronavirus and UK immigration guidance to UK visa holders who would ordinarily return to their home countries in order to apply for leave to enter the UK under a new visa category. In light of the travel difficulties and coronavirus, UKVI advised that such visa holders may exceptionally apply to switch into a longer term immigration category from within the UK.

This option is available to UK visa holders until 31 May only and applies to individuals whose visas may have already been extended until 31 March 2020.

Individuals seeking to apply for a longer term visa from within the UK must ensure that they meet the visa requirements under the immigration rules, otherwise the application will fail. They must also pay the correct UK application fee and immigration health surcharge, is applicable.

Applications may be made online. However, UK applicants should note that they will not able to book a biometric appointment as per usual, as the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS), Post Office enrolment services and Service and Support Centres (SSCs) are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus.

For anyone that has submitted an application and had managed to book an appointment, or have a biometric enrolment letter, applicants will be contacted directly and told what to do next.

The terms of the individual’s current visa will continue until a decision has been made on the new application. Their immigration status will not be negatively affected as a result of their inability to attend an appointment or enrol their biometric data at a participating Post Office. It is therefore crucial that any new immigration application is properly prepared so as to avoid an adverse decision.

UK visa applicants outside of the UK

There has been little comfort for UK visa applicants awaiting a decision on their application submitted from outside the UK. Even less for UK visa applicants that are in the process of submitting their application or were due to attend a biometric appointment.

UKVI have been slow to issue coronavirus and UK immigration guidance, in the main because they are also reliant upon the third party visa application centres to process the applications in various global locations. In turn, the third party visa application centres have found themselves in a difficult position as they try to ensure the safety of their staff and members of the public.

Due to the pandemic, and mobility restrictions placed in order to control and minimise the spread, many UK visa application centres (VACs) have closed their offices. The few VACs that remain open are providing limited services. For instance, the VAC in Moscow is open as of today’s date, but we are informed that the office will close on 29 March until further notice.

Applicants waiting for a decision on their applications have been advised by UKVI to contact the relevant VAC in their location. That is:

  • TLS contact for UK visa applicants in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East; or
  • VFS global for all other locations.

Where the UK visa applicant had submitted their application and was due to attend a biometric appointment at a centre that is no longer open, the applicant will be contacted directly by TLS Contact or VFS Global and told that their appointment is no longer taking place. We have already seen this with clients that had biometric appointments scheduled in the US, Delhi, Beirut and parts of Europe. This is particularly distressing for individuals facing continued separation from their family members and we continue to assess the situation on their behalf.

In some locations, the VAC have already return the documents to the applicants as the applicant wait for information about the decision making process. Applicants concerned about their original documents or passports will have their documents returned to them by courier, if the courier service was procured and the courier routes remain open.

If the passports are currently with the VACs and the applicants would like to secure their return,  the applicants are advised to contact either TLS contact or VFS global directly. The VAC will assist the applicants in arranging a courier service for the return of the passports.

The VACs will prioritise the return of all documents once centres are reopened. Anyone that remains concerned about the passport should contact the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline.

Prospective UK visa applicants outside of the UK

Individuals that are preparing their applications for submission to the VAC are also experiencing uncertainty. It is presently providing very difficult to secure their English language test or Tuberculosis screening certificates. Applicants are advised to visit the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)’s website or contact their test centre for more information.

As for UK visa holders whose visa were not activated by their travel to the UK, and whose visas have expired, UKVI suggest that the person should re-start the visa application process. So for instance, one person who had been issued with a EU Settlement Scheme family permit 6 months ago, and had not yet travelled to the UK, and can now no longer do so, will have to apply for a new family permit. It will not be possible to extend the terms of the family permit to allow her to enter the UK at a later date.

Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre

If you have a coronavirus and UK immigration query UKVI advise that you contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre at: [email protected]. Emails must be in English.

The Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre will typically respond to emails within 5 working days.

The Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre can also be contacted by phone on: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Calls are free of charge. Please do not call the team if you have already sent the team an email. This will only waste time and slow down response times.

For anyone wishing to seek clarity about their immigration status, we recommend that you seek expert immigration advice.

All the best and please stay safe!

Conclusion

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to have an ever increasing pervasive impact on people’s lives, be it health, the ability to work and conduct your day-to-day affairs, or UK immigration status. It is imperative in these times that individuals follow the medical advice of self-isolating and social-distancing so as to minimise the spread of the coronavirus to ourselves, our family members and wider community.

 Coronavirus and UK immigration advice will differ whether you are a UK visa holder in the UK seeking to return to your home country and cannot do so because of the pandemic; are in the UK and hope to stay longer term, or have applied for a UK visa from overseas. We have highlighted some of the steps that can be taken depending on your circumstances. We hope they help and we will aim to be keep you updated during these tumultuous times.


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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

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

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

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Coronavirus and travel restrictions

Covid-19

A significant number of countries around the world have introduced strict travel restrictions as they seek to control and manage the incidence of coronavirus in their locations. Here, we provide a brief summary of the latest position to help you assess your next steps.

International travel restrictions

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) assessed the novel coronavirus or Covid-19, as a pandemic. At the time, there were 118,000 cases of the virus in 114 countries. And sadly, 4,291 people had lost their lives.

Below is a brief summary of the stringent travel restrictions or border controls, that countries have introduced in order to reduce or contain the spread of coronavirus.

Australia

On March 19, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that all visitors, except for citizens and permanent residents and their close family members, would be prevented from travelling to Australia.

The Department of Home Affairs in Australia has advised Australian nationals and permanent residents against all non-essential travel at this time. For Australian nationals temporarily outside of the country, the authorities advise their citizens to return to Australia, by commercial means, as soon as possible.

For those permitted to enter the country, the Department of Home Affairs states that all entrants must self-isolate for 14 days. In particular, they advise that:

  • A person may board a domestic flight to their intended destination in Australia to self-isolate there;
  • If they are well and not symptomatic, the person may self-isolate in a hotel; and
  • If the traveller does not comply with their 14-day self-isolation requirements, they may face a range of penalties that exist in each State or Territory.

Home Affairs advise visa holders in Australia to apply for a new visa before their current visa expires. However, they may be eligible for a temporary extension or bridging visa in order to protect their immigration position until a decision is made on the visa application.

Contact should be made with Home Affairs as soon as possible.

Bahrain

The authorities in Bahrain have announced that it will be testing all permitted travellers to the country for the coronavirus and requesting that they undertake mandatory self-isolation for a 14-day period.

Citizens and residents have been encouraged to avoid non-essential overseas travel.

Bangladesh

The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh announced, that with effect from midnight on 21 March, scheduled commercial passenger aircraft departing from European and other destinations, will not be authorised to land at any international airport in Bangladesh. That said, the country is servicing flights from parts of the UK.

Travel restrictions will remain in place until 31 March, though are subject to extension and change at short notice.

Canada

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development in Canada has issued a Level 3 warning against all non-essential travel at this time, due to the coronavirus.

Travel restrictions will apply to those seeking entry to Canada who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or immediate family members of Canadian citizens, aeroplane crew members, diplomats and US citizens.

Canadian nationals may sign up to the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.

China

The Chinese authorities have introduced a number of coronavirus containment and quarantine measures across the country.

International travellers permitted to enter parts of China will be quarantined for 14 days and there have been restrictions placed against travel between regions.

On 13 March, the Chinese authorities issued a new order, to ensure compliance with quarantine measures aimed at preventing people spreading the virus across the country.

Anyone deemed to have failed to comply with the new containment or testing measures may face a sentence of up to three years in prison. This applies to both Chinese and overseas nationals.

Finland

The Finnish Government has declared a nationwide state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result, Finland has closed its borders to non-Finnish citizens and non-permanent nationals.

The international airports of Helsinki, Turku and Mariehamn will remain open for returning passengers. Border crossing places in Northern Finland to Sweden and Norway will also remain open to returning passengers.

The travel restrictions will remain in place until 13 April 2020, though measures can be extended at short notice.

In addition, the Finnish Ministry of Transport has announced the suspension of the VR passenger rail service between Finland and Russia.

France

On 16 March, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the closure of the country’s borders with effect from 17 March. That said, French citizens and permanent residents would be permitted to return to France.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises its citizens against all non-essential travel overseas at least until 29 March. This includes travel to the United Kingdom, though it excludes Northern Ireland.

The authorities have taken a number of strict measures to limit non-essential movement within the country, including curtailing non-essential trips and strongly requesting that residents remain in their homes, except in very limited circumstances.

Germany

On March 15, the Government of Germany advised residents against all non-essential overseas travel until at least 29 March. The restrictions apply to travel to the United Kingdom, though it excludes Northern Ireland.

Germany has seen a significant number of cases of coronavirus reported across Germany, particularly in North-Rhine Westphalia, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.  

The authorities state:

EU-citizens and citizens of Great Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and their family members will be allowed to transit through Germany to reach their home countries. The same will apply for foreigners holding a residence permit in one of these countries. Other people may be rejected entry, if they cannot provide proof of urgent reasons for their entry“.

Temporary borders controls have been introduced between Germany and France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Denmark.

Ghana

On 21 March, the Government of Ghana announced the closure of the country’s borders, with effect from 22 March. The restrictions apply to non-Ghanaian citizens and permanent residents.

Mr Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, the Minister of Information, announced that airlines had been instructed not to allow such anyone infected with the coronavirus to embark; and also urged border posts not permit such travellers into their jurisdiction.

Guatemala

As of 16 March, Guatemala has introduced international travel restrictions from the UK, as well as visitors from some European countries, Canada, the United States, South Korea and Iran.

Jamaica

Jamaica has imposed travel restrictions on travellers from Iran, China, South Korea, Italy, Singapore, Germany, Spain, France and the UK, as a result of the coronavirus.

The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton said that anyone arriving from countries where there is community spread will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Dr Tufton stated: “We still maintain [those] restrictions… but for all other persons travelling, once they come from a country, where there is internal spread, they will be required to be quarantined.”

Japan

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recommended that Japanese nationals and residents defer all non-essential travel.

The country has also restricted travel into Japan as it seeks to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Malaysia

With effect from 16 March, the Malaysian authorities has shut its borders to travellers and restricted movement within the country in order to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The measures will remain in place until 31 March, though may be extended at short notice.

Nigeria

On March 18, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control announced that the country would be restricting entry into the country for travellers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the US, Norway, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Self-isolation, for a period of at least 14 days, has introduced for nationals from high-risk countries, including many part of Europe.

On 21 March, the Government widened its restrictions by closing its international airports at Lagos and Abuja from March 23 for one month.

Sierra Leone

As with many other countries, citizens and residents of Sierra Leone have been advised to postpone any intended travel to any country, which has reported confirmed case of COVID-19, unless absolutely necessary.

For UK nationals arriving into Sierra Leone, who may not display symptoms of the coronavirus, including those travelling from countries with 50 or more confirmed cases of coronavirus, they will be required to undergo mandatory quarantine for a 14-day period.

Trinidad and Tobago

On 16 March, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the closure of the islands’ borders to overseas nationals, with the exception of permanent residents, with effect from midnight 17 March.

Nationals of Trinidad and Tobago nationals will be allowed to re-enter the country but will be subjected to quarantine for a 14-day period.

Prime Minister Dr Rowley stated: “We will cease to accept people into this country who are not nationals of this country,” adding “We are basically disconnecting ourselves…”.

Qatar

The Qatari authorities have temporarily suspended overseas nationals from entering the country, until further notice.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Effective from 19 March 2020, the UAE will only allow its citizens to enter the country. All UAE residents who are abroad will not be allowed to re-enter the UAE for a period of at least two weeks, a period that could be extended.  

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) noted: “From 19 March, the UAE will temporarily suspend all visas on arrival with the exception of Diplomatic passport holders”.

In fact, as of 19 March, the UAE have restricted all visitors from entering the countries.

The UAE authorities have stated that any violation of instructions and procedures put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be treated as a criminal offence.

Any non-UAE nationals looking to travel to the UAE are advised to contact the UAE consular services and travel providers for the information about the latest position.

United States of America (US)

On 16 March 2020, the United States had extended their travel ban to the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland, after having initially excluded the UK from the European travel ban announced on 11 March.

And on 19 March, the US State Department had issued a Level 4 warning, the highest level possible, advising its citizens not to travel abroad. It urged Americans: “….in countries where commercial departure options remain available” and to “arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.” 

The US has suspended routine visa services in most countries. Effective 20 March 2020, the US State Department’s passport services will be limited to ” customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours”.

This has a major impact upon US citizens, particularly US citizens in the UK and those seeking to travel to or relocate to the UK.

Conclusion

Coronavirus has had a pervasive impact on people’s lives, be it health, the ability to work and conduct day-to-day activities, social distancing efforts and/ or the ability to freely travel. It is important to reflect on whether any planned international travel is essential, and if so, to be aware of the continuing impact of coronavirus and international travel restrictions.

 We hope that this summary provides a snapshot of the sorts of measures that countries are taking. And we strongly suggest that you check with the appropriate consular services and travel operators before undertaking any travel.

Stay safe!


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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

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

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

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Immigration award winner

Global Advisory Experts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carla Thomas, Managing Director of Thomas Chase Immigration noted:

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

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

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

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

Call to action

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

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

Spouse visa extension

Spouse Visa Extension

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

Requirements for a spouse visa extension

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The couple are 18 years of age and over

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

The relationship remains genuine and subsisting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The couple can adequately maintain themselves

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

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

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

The couple have an adequate place to live in the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have a good knowledge of the English language

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

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

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

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

The suitability requirement

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

Absences

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

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

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

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No deal exit

No deal exit

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

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

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

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

21 August 2019

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

Update on the EU Settlement Scheme

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

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

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

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

Kind regards,

Home Office Communications

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

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

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Need straightforward immigration advice or guidance?

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EUSS Family Permit Applications

EUSS family permit

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

The EU Settlement Scheme

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

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

The EUSS family permit operates alongside the EEA family permit.

EEA nationals

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

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

Non-EEA nationals

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

Family Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents

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

The documents to be submitted include:

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

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

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

It can help to provide additional documents such as:

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

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

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

Cost

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

Location

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

Length

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

Residence

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Call to action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criteria

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

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

Documents

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

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

Additional documents

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

  • Decree absolute
  • Death certificate of a previous partner

Cost

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

Timing

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

Processing times

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

Length of the visa

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

Is the Marriage Visitor visa the right visa?

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

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

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

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

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

Updated post originally published on 19 July 2016.

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

We can assist you with your application.

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

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

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Fiancée visa or Spouse visa? That is the Question

Why we charge for an immigration consultation

immigration consultation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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EU Settlement Scheme Applications

EU Settlement Scheme Application

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

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

Who can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is settled status?

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

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

What does the no-deal scenario refer to?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is pre-settled status?

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

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

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

Who are EU nationals?

The EU countries are: 

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

Who are EEA nationals?

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

What does ‘continuous residence’ mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does settled status expire?

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

What is the deadline for applications?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if I have certified permanent residence status?

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

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

Instead, you must submit one of the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens after I apply to UKVI?

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

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

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

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

What happens if my application is unsuccessful?

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

Call to action

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

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

Or learn more about from our blogs

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

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

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

British Passport Interview

British passport interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reason for a British passport interview

British passport interviews are nothing to fear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can I find a passport office?

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

What to expect at the interview?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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Call to action

Need straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application.

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

Or learn more about from our blogs

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