Fiancée visa or Spouse visa? That is the Question

Fiancee visa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiancée visa

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

The marriage must take place within 6 months of entry.

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

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

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

Fiancée visa requirements

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

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

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

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

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

Spouse visa

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

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

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

Why not get married in California?

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

Spouse visa requirements

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Here’s wishing Louisa and Raj all the best!

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

 

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

 

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

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families secure visas to travel to and remain in the UK.

 

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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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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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EEA permit applications and processing times

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

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.

Call to action

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

 

You may also like:

EEA permit applications and processing times

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

 

Brexit latest: Brexit, Trade, Sovereignty and Immigration

Thomas Chase Immigration - Birexit

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

Background

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

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

The impact to Brexit on Trade and Sovereignty   

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

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

The ONS added:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trading partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigration

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

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

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

Dr Rajan went on the say:

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

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

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

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

Adding:

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

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

Conclusion

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

 

Written by:

Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Call to Action:

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

Statement of Changes: 28-day grace period

Statement of Changes: 28-day grace period

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

The Statement of Changes

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

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

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

Background to the 28 days’ grace period

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has changed?

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

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

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

What does this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

Spouse visa – what are the requirements for a spouse visa

Thomas Chase Immigration - UK Spouse Visa

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

Background

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

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

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

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

Application

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

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

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

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

Key requirements:

Genuine Relationship

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

Earnings

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

The salary threshold currently stands at:

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

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

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

Total = £27,200

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accommodation

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

English language

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

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

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • US

Otherwise, English language can be evidenced by way of:

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

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

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

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

Tuberculosis Testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sponsorship Form

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

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

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

Documents

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

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

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

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

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

How long are processing times?

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

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

Application fees

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

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

How long will the visa be issued for?

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

Can my partner work in the work?

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

Can my partner apply for settlement?

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

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

Conclusion

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

Call to action

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

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