Businesses warned: Avoid the cliff-edge
Employers need to take steps to safeguard their EU workers urgently, or face worsening manpower shortages, experts warn.
The deadline for EU citizens living and working in the UK to apply for settled status here is June 30, a landmark which a new report describes as a ‘timebomb’ and ‘cliff-edge’ after which people and businesses will face ‘imminent problems, pitfalls and risks’.
Any EU citizen who has not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by June 30 will effectively be classed as an illegal immigrant and could face removal from the UK. Organisations employing EU citizens without settled status, or without claims being processed, could also face severe penalties for using illegal labour, despite having made statutory right to work checks in line with Home Office rules.
Companies already struggling with personnel shortages are advised to make sure employees from the EU, EEA and Switzerland register under the EU Settlement Scheme or face further problems.
Visa and immigration expert, Yash Dubal, Director of A Y & J Solicitors, is advising employers who employ EU citizens to familiarise themselves with the new regulatory requirements urgently.
He said: “With many businesses already experiencing acute staffing shortages due to the pandemic, it is important for employers to encourage any staff who wish to continue working in the UK and have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme to do so.”
Mr Dubal also urges employers who rely on migrant workers, or plan to use them in future, to register to become an official Home Office sponsor.
“Businesses and organisations in the UK must be registered sponsor licence holders to employ migrants under the skilled worker route. To qualify for a licence, they must fulfil certain duties such as the proven ability to gather and maintain accurate records for migrant employees. Once registered with the Home Office, employers can then migrant skilled workers,” he said.
Since the settlement scheme launched in March 2019, more than 5.4m applications have been received, more than was expected. However, a new report warns that many more eligible applicants have yet to apply. Titled The status of EU nationals: Emergency measures needed, by the EU Rights and Brexit Hub, a legal research facility at York University, it predicts significant numbers of people will miss the deadline.
It states: “It is now clear that there will be a significant minority of EEA nationals who fail to register by the deadline, and who will thus be ‘left behind’. If they do not qualify as having a good reason for missing the deadline, they automatically and irreversibly lose their right to reside.”
These people will then be exposed to the UK’s ‘hostile’ immigration environment, ‘and potentially to removal’, with complete loss of rights, the report warns.
Report co-author, Prof Charlotte O’Brien writes: “Imagine if you did not renew your passport before it expired, and so lost all right to ever have that passport again. Except instead of just losing your right to travel abroad, you lost your right to stay in your home, with your family and friends.
“Those who miss the deadline will become, overnight, unauthorised/illegal migrants.”
Recent studies from Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and The Social Market Foundation show a considerable number of EEA nationals remain unaware of the settlement scheme. The York University report calls for a more substantive scheme, keeping a meaningful deadline, but avoiding irreversible losses of rights.
Prof O’Brien points out that the UK’s deadline is harsher than the majority of those set for UK citizens residing in other European nations.
She writes: “Thirteen EU Member States including Germany have decided that UK nationals who were resident before 31 December 2020 do not need to apply for a new status, and so have not set any deadline. Of the remainder, only six have set a deadline as early as 30 June 2021, the earliest the Withdrawal Agreement permits. Two have gone for 30 September 2021, and six for 31 December 2021.”
Post-study work’ opportunity for the best and brightest international talents
Under the new immigration route, from 01 July 2021, all international students who have completed an eligible course from a UK university may wish to consider their post-study work career in the UK.
Outline: Graduate visa route
The Graduate route offers ample opportunities to fresh international talents to kickstart their career and begin working in the UK for at least two years. In addition, the PhD students can stay and work for up to 3 years.
The Graduate visa route comes under the “new” points-based immigration system, which will help attract the ‘best and the brightest overseas students and give businesses a golden opportunity to recruit the best-skilled professionals in the UK, building back the UK economy from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Home Secretary Priti Patel announcing the Graduate visa route, said, “ As we build back better, it is vital that the UK continues to be a beacon for talented young people across the globe who want to make a difference. The new Graduate route does just that, giving the best and brightest graduates the opportunity to continue contributing to the UK’s prosperity and the freedom to kickstart their careers in the UK.”
Adding to Priti Patel, the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, said,“ International students are a vital part of our society, and those who graduate from our world-leading universities should have the opportunity to stay and build meaningful careers here, in the UK. That is why we are introducing this new route for international graduates, enabling British businesses to attract and retain some of the brightest, most talented graduates across the globe, and helping this nation build back better from the pandemic.”
Requirements to be considered for a Graduate visa application
Let us take a deep dive into the requirements for a Graduate visa application.
#1: Eligibility to apply for a Graduate visa
You are eligible to apply for a Graduate visa if you meet the following conditions:
- You are staying in the UK
- You hold your current visa as a Student visa
- You have studied a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or another eligible course for a minimum period of time with your Student visa
#2: Education completion requirements
- You must have completed their course
- The education provider must be a ‘licensed student sponsor’ with a ‘track record of compliance’
- The Sponsor must have notified the Government if the applicant has successfully completed the course and received the certificate of completion.
#3: Qualification requirements
- You must have successfully completed the course on your student visa
- Your circumstances during the application process also rely on the type of course, you have pursued, your education provider and how long did you study.
- You must have either of the following educational qualifications
- a UK bachelor’s degree
- a UK master’s degree
- a UK PhD or doctorate
- You will also be eligible if you have completed any of the following:
- a law conversion course validated by the Joint Academic Stage Board in E&W
- the Legal Practice Course in England & Wales, the Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland, or a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland
- Bar Practice Course in England & Wales, or the Bar Course in Northern Ireland
- a foundation programme in medicine or dentistry
- a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)
- a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
- A professional course requiring a UK bachelor’s degree or above in a job with reserved activities that are regulated by UK law or UK public authority
- You must have studied your course in the UK for at least 12 months or the full length of your course, whichever is shorter.
- If the total length of your course is longer than 12 months, the applicant must have studied in the UK for at least 12 months in order to be eligible.
- The applicant must not have been previously granted permission under the Doctorate Extension Scheme or as a Graduate
Applicants will be required to pay a visa fee of £700 and the Immigration Health Surcharge(IHS) at the total rate of £624 per year.
While making the online application you will need the following:
- A valid passport to confirm your identity and nationality
- Biometric Residence Permit(BRP)
- Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
- Certificate of completion from your education provider.
Visa extension or switching your visa category
The Graduate visa is granted for a fixed time, for 2 years if you have a bachelor’s degree and 3 years if you have a PhD.
You cannot extend your Graduate visa. However, you can switch your visa route to another category before it expires. For example, you can switch your visa to a skilled worker visa.
Students do not need to have a job offer to begin applications, giving work flexibility and no minimum salary requirement.
If the students had started their courses in 2020 and cannot travel due to the pandemic, they have been given coronavirus concession and can now enter the UK on or before 27 September 2021.
Students who had started their courses in Autumn 2020 or spring 2021 can also enter the UK as early as 27 September. However, in the case of students starting a course in Autumn 2021 must be present in the UK by 6 April 2022.
The UK Immigration System Strategy Statement
The Secretary of State has recently published a strategy statement outlining the future plans and reform of the UK immigration system in 2021/2022.
The priorities in the coming year will focus on streamlining the existing immigration services, enhancing the points-based system, and introducing new immigration categories to enable businesses and talented individuals to establish a presence in the UK.
Building on the success of the EU Settlement Scheme, the Home Office will aim to speed up the end-to-end processing by utilising its existing technology in the application process. According to their plan, they will be expanding the use of their secure ChipChecker service to allow applicants to scan their passport and capture their facial image on their mobile devices without the need to attend a physical biometric appointment.
This service has been piloted via the Skilled Worker route for EEA nationals and the newly introduced BN(O) route. The application process has been wholly digitalised and proven to be successful. As part of this scheme, the Home Office also plans to eliminate the existing use of Biometric Residence Permit. Instead, employers and landlords will be able to verify migrants’ right to work and right to rent online instead, making it easier for evidence to be retained and demonstrating the individuals’ rights in the UK.
The Home Office also aims to improve a sponsor’s experience by reducing the burden placed on them to maintain their licence by introducing automated checks with the HMRC and Companies House to identify sponsors and users to speed up the processing time.
Most licensed organisations would not that the existing Sponsor Management System is often challenging to navigate, especially for those who seek to manage a licence system without help from a professional. Therefore, we welcome the plan to reduce the sponsor’s burden on maintaining the licence and believe that simplifying the sponsor’s licence will attract more organisations to become licensed.
Notably, a new, unsponsored points-based route has been announced and is due to be introduced in Spring 2022. However, the Home Office has only released limited information on this new route and has confirmed that this particular route is to attract the brightest and best to the UK. Within this route, a ‘scale up’ stream will be introduced to allow the eligible individuals with a job offer to work in the UK without sponsorship.
Another new route that has been introduced is Global Business Mobility, which is due to be in place in Spring 2022. This route will incorporate the existing provisions for intra-company transferees, the sole representative of an overseas business, the UK’s current trade commitments for contractual service suppliers and independent professionals, as well as new provision to accommodate import and export related secondments.
The new immigration routes and streamlining of the existing services will undoubtedly create more opportunities for individuals to work, live and settle in the UK. A Y & J Solicitors strives to provide the most straightforward, easy to understand approach for your immigration matters.
We will provide further updates on the new routes once more details are released. If you require any assistance in your UK immigration matters, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Fast-track visa rolled out as UK races the EU to lure tech talent
A fast-track visa system has been extended across India by the UK government as it races the EU to lure talent to its shores.
The Super Priority visa service – where applicants can pay to have a visa decision made within 24 hours – has been rolled out across eight new locations in India.
It follows the signing of a trade deal with India by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – with hopes pinned on a full Free Trade deal in the future – following the rollout of a new immigration system which makes it easier for non-EU migrants to enter the UK following Brexit.
Significantly, the move also comes after the EU’s trade commissioner met last month with India’s minister of commerce and industry, Piyush Goyal, who Tweeted that it would ‘prove to be a milestone in the future of India-EU Trade’.
UK visa applications usually take 15 days but under the paid for Super Priority service a decision can be made by the end of the next working day. In addition to Delhi, the service has been widened to areas with booming tech hubs including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai (South) and Pune.
And it has been welcomed by top immigration lawyer Mr. Yash Dubal, who says that the UK needs to identify further “hotspots” where this approach could speed up the arrival of world-class talent.
Mr Dubal, director of A Y & J Solicitors, says, “This is yet more good news for the likes of the UK’s tech sector, which will reap the benefits from being able to speed up the process of recruiting the very best personnel. It’s easy to see why UK Visas and Immigration have chosen these new areas in particular as each of them is going through a boom in the skilled technology sector – they are thriving and of course UK industry will want a slice of that.
“But the Super Priority visa service is not cheap. It costs around £800 for a next day decision and, of course, it does not mean that your application has an improved chance of being successful as applicants still need to fulfil all requirements including biometric testing. However, if this is carried out correctly, then it will lead to a much quicker route to starting work in the UK through the Visitor and transit visa, Skilled Worker visa, Temporary worker visa and Student visa routes.
“Personally, I would like to see this service appropriately rolled out to even more locations, especially at this time when the UK needs to rebuild many of its sectors. Many UK businesses are facing a huge shortage of skilled staff and will be looking for overseas talent as the pandemic subsides. Anything that can speed up that process will be welcomed by industry bosses.”
Last month, the Department for International Trade announced the signing of an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) with India.
Foreign Secretary Truss also secured investment from Mumbai-based steel and tech firm Tata – which is already one of the UK’s major employers – to create 1,500 skilled technology sector jobs in the UK. She also agreed to relaunch the UK-India CEO Forum.
Damning report uncovers embarrassing failings in the migrant sponsor licence system
A damning report into the way Home Office inspectors monitor business holding sponsor licences to employ migrants reveals a stretched system beset by operational failures that is unable to meet obligations and open to abuse.
The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) investigation into Home Office monitoring and enforcement of licence holders coincides with a new government TV advertising campaign encouraging more businesses to sign up to the sponsor licence registry.
Immigration experts say the findings illustrate that the licence system is not fit for purpose.
Yash Dubal, Director of A Y & J Solicitors, works with UK firms applying for sponsor licences. He said: “The report shines an unflattering light on a shambolic system. The timing is particularly bad because the government is eager to encourage more businesses to register for licences and is advertising the fact on TV. The report will not give businesses much faith in the system. The failings it reveals show that the licence system is open to abuse from unscrupulous licence holders.”
Businesses and organisations in the UK must be registered sponsor licence holders to employ migrants. To qualify for a licence they must fulfil certain duties such as accurate record keeping of migrant employees. Inspectors from Home Office UK Visa and Immigration assess and monitor licence holders and have powers to penalise non-compliance. Sponsors in breach of conditions are typically given a supervised action plan. Ultimately licences can be revoked.
The ICIBI report covered the period November 2019 to October 2020. It found that the number of visits to assess a would-be sponsor’s suitability have dropped and the department is not staffed enough to visit all licence holders. Even at full strength, the report says, there would not be enough officers to fulfil all the required assessment visits.
Staff described a system that “doesn’t work that well” and “doesn’t always cover travel time” since some Compliance Officers “cover vast areas”.
The report concludes: “From the data provided, compliance visits have been steadily declining, with half the number of pre-licence visits in 2019 that there were in 2015.”
Compliance Managers said that they were under-resourced and “struggling to keep up”. One commented that they “could do with double the staff”.
Officers were also let down by IT systems and had to go to offices to file reports between visits because they were unable to scan or draft reports remotely.
The report reveals that around 70-80% of sponsors visited by inspectors did not meet required standards. Caseworkers responsible for reviewing visit reports and deciding what action to take, made “inconsistent” decisions that lacked common sense. Teams were described as disconnected and there was a lack of intelligence sharing about non-compliant sponsors from Border, Immigration and Citizenship System (BICS).
The report also said lack of contact points for sponsors was ‘problematic’. A UKVI business ‘Helpdesk’ only offers email assistance while a ‘Sponsorship, employer and education helpline’ provides only general advice. In order to have premium level service with a dedicated account manager firms have to pay between £25,000 and £8,000 a year.
Mr Dubal said the end of free movement will add to the woes.
“The investigation shows that the system struggled to cope before Brexit,” he explained. “Now free movement has ended there is even more demand for sponsor licences. We are seeing an increase in inquiries. The government has promised to simplify the visa system, but there will still be requirements that licence holders must fulfil so compliance will continue to be an issue, consequently the pressures on those tasked with enforcing compliance will likely increase.”
The ICIBI reports that the failings leave the system open to abuse.
It states: “By narrowly focusing on the sectors perceived to be “high risk”, and with compliance visits reducing, there is a danger that some employers will believe that they are effectively free from scrutiny, a concern ICIBI has already raised in its 2019 Illegal Working inspection report regarding ICE team illegal working visits.”
Decreasing immigration a cause for worry
During the pandemic, there was a decrease in the immigration applications from South Africa. The recent data published by the UK’s national statistics office showed that there are many immigrants living in the country.
A survey was conducted to see that the number of immigrants that were living in the UK, belongs to which country. The result of the survey shows South African’s rank on number 9. About 2,29,000 people currently live in the UK.
During the pandemic, drops have been seen in the number of immigrants across the globe and not only in the UK. The new points-based immigration system was introduced on 1st January 2021.
There has been a decline in the number of immigrants during the year 2020. The drop has been more considerable ever, especially in the UK, due to two significant reasons: the pandemic and the Post-Brexit transition period.
Since World War II, foreign workers are leaving Britain at the fastest pace, presenting a challenge to an economy already roiled by Brexit and the coronavirus.
London alone has lost 700,000 people over the last year, recent research suggests. The implications are profound for the Treasury, landlords and the chances for a recovery from the worst slump in three centuries.
Health and Care Sector needs to be assessed and added to SOL
Rishi Sunak’s new budget, released on 3 March 2021, brought forth a long list of changes that are being implemented in the coming months. The budget is majorly focused on improving the previous items in the list of the things not working well.
One such change that was announced was the inclusion of 8 new professions from the Health and care sector to the SOL that is the Shortage Occupation List.
The professions that have been added to the list are senior care workers, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, nursing assistants and a few more. This is an attempt to allow individuals working in this field of health and care to obtain a Skilled Worker Visa in their chosen profession.
The list may soon also include some other professions like health directors, managers, day and domiciliary managers, and other unclassified professions like hygiene therapists and audiologists. More details can be found on the government’s website about the professions that have been included or may soon be included.
This has been a bold and required move. The shortage of health and care workers was a concern of the National Health Services, especially during the pandemic.
Commenting on the expansion of the SOL, the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, Kevin Foster, said: “Every year we welcome healthcare workers from across the world to our the United Kingdom, with many having played a key role on the frontline of the NHS during the recent pandemic.” (Source: workpermit.com)
“This latest set of changes, combined with our Health and Care Visa, will ensure they can easily get the immigration status they deserve,” Mr Foster added.
Rishi Sunak’s budget has also planned to transform the currently failing Global Talent Visa and hopes to see a rise in applications over the next couple of years.
A new visa system introduced to make immigration easier for highly educated individuals
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced the new visa system’s introduction. This visa system is particularly applicable to highly educated individuals who work in science, research, technology and finance.
A new fintech visa announced a couple of weeks back, and this new system is an extension to the same. This new system aims to attract more talented and highly skilled individuals in the field of science and technology to the UK, which would make the UK a lucrative market for tech and science giants.
The announcement was made on the same day the budget was released, which is on the 3rd of March 2021. The announcement was worded as follows, “new unsponsored points-based visa to attract the best and most promising international talent in science, research and tech, new, improved visa processes for scale-ups and entrepreneurs, and radically simplified bureaucracy for high-skilled visa applications.”
Even though the individuals applying under this new visa system would not require sponsors, they would still have to fulfil the required number of points requested. However, the new visa category has been criticised and has been described as luxurious.
The people have blamed Sunak for not explaining what the 65 billion euros allocated to deal with the ramifications of covid19 will be used for. They believe that new visa schemes ignore the fact that the average men who is also skilled may be required to help the UK out of the dark phase that covid has pushed them into. They believe there should have been a bit more focus on the businesses flailing in the country.
More information can be expected on the same by July 2021, and further changes will be seen in the immigration laws in the coming year.