Right to work checks necessary for some Tier 2 extensions

Sponsors should be aware that right to work checks may be necessary if a Tier 2 visa extension is applied close to the expiry date.

Tier 2 sponsored staff should usually apply to extend their visas two months before their current visa expires, which in most cases, means they will receive their new visa before, or just after, the previous expiry date.

However, if a last-minute application is submitted by post, and a decision is not made within 28 days of the expiry date, the employer must conduct follow-up right-to-work checks.

Changes at UK Visas

In recent months UK Visas has strengthened its team of OISC accredited advisers – Kevin Carlin achieved OISC accreditation in May 2017 and Garima Arora, who is qualified to the equivalent of OISCLevel 3, joined us in January, so we now have five OISC advisers on the team.

We have also settled in to our new offices close by Horsham station and this provides us with a larger and lighter environment in which to work.

One reason for these changes has been to enable one of our directors, and senior case worker, Sarah Bryant to significantly reduce her working hours. Garima has successfully taken over most of her workload now, although Sarah will be available to cover any particularly busy periods, sickness or holidays.

Kevin Carlin has been promoted to Client Services Manager and he will now oversee the incoming workload as well as take on responsibility for issuing CoS and sponsor licence admin support. With this last point in mind, and as mentioned in our newsletter last year, we will shortly be adding him as a Level 1 user on all clients’ SMS. AO’s will receive notification as and when Kevin is added on their SMS.

Overall 4% increase to Home Office charges

The Home Office have just announced that their charges will rise by, typically, 4% from 6 April 2018.

Visit visas, Tiers 1, 2 and 4 visas, Spouse/partner visas, ILR and British Citizenship all increase by 4%.

There are a very few exceptions to this, such as EEA residence cards and replacement BRP cards which remain unchanged, and the priority service for out-of-country non-settlement (eg Tier 2) goes up 15% to £212 from £184.

So, a three year Tier 2 visa in-country charge increases to £704 by post, £1181 for the 10 day service and £1314 for the same day service. Out-of-country applications will now cost £610 for the standard service and £822 for the fast-track service.

ILR same day service charge increases to £2999 (postal application is £2389).
Suggestions that the Health Surcharge may double have yet to be confirmed (or denied).

Further clarity re Brexit

The UK and EU have agreed on a “large part” of the agreement that will lead to the “orderly withdrawal” of the UK.

The transitional period will last from Brexit day on 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020 and EU citizens arriving in the UK between these two dates will enjoy the same rights and guarantees as those who arrive before Brexit. The same will apply to UK expats on the continent.

As a part of this process, the Home Office need to process huge numbers of people very quickly, from a legal status based on EU free movement to one based on the new post-Brexit category of ‘settled status’. And EU immigrants want to have a simple, hassle-free system for retaining their right to be in the UK.

With 3.7 million EU citizens and tens of thousands of non-EU partners. The Home Office are going to have to process around 5,000 people a day, every day, for two years.

To achieve this the Home Office are developing an app. which the user should find incredibly simple – just three questions: The first will ask if you are an EU national, the second will ask if you live in the UK and the third will ask if you have a criminal record.

Usually visa forms demand that the applicant supply the proof of their rights to stay, but here the work is done by the government.

This system is designed to give settled status to any EU citizen who has been in the UK for five years. Negotiations with the EU are still ongoing, but chances are that that five year period can start at any stage, up to the last day of transition on December 31st 2020. If someone applies before they’ve been here five years, they will be given ‘temporary settled status’ – although the Home Office intends to change this name to make it sound less tenuous. This then transforms into ‘settled status’ once the five years are up.

Croatians to be granted same rights as EU citizens

Croatians will have unrestricted access to the UK jobs market from the end of June, the Home Office has confirmed.

Currently Croatian nationals seeking employment must be sponsored by their employer before they can apply for an Accession Worker Card (aka Purple Card) which usually requires a resident test to be completed prior to a CoS being issued.

From the end of June however, their rights to work in Britain will fall in line with other EU citizens.

The Home Office could have extended the restricted access by a further two years but, with fewer than 10,000 Croatians living in the UK, they have conceded that there is not enough evidence to extend the controls any further.

Shortage of restricted CoS (Change Of Status)

Demand for Restricted CoS has been far outstripping availability since December 2017.

Each month the Home Office sponsor panel meets on 11th to allocate restricted CoS (needed for out-of-country Tier 2 applicants). The monthly availability reduces throughout the year, from 2200 in April down to just 1000 in March.

In December 2017 the demand exceeded supply for the first time in three years, but to such an extent that only those earning in excess of £55,000 p.a. were successful. In January and February, the situation was not much better and in March it was worse again.

Fortunately, April signals the start of a new CoS year so the monthly allocation should go back up to at least 2200. This may still not be enough for those on lower salaries who may have to try yet again in May. Very frustrating for all concerned.

Passport Fee Increase

The Home Office is planning to increase passport fees this year, with postal costing more than online applications.

Currently, a standard adult passport or renewal costs £72.50 regardless of how the application is made.

The fee will rise to £75.50 for online applications and £85 for postal applications.

Charges for children’s passports will go up from £46 currently to £49 online and £58.50 in the post.

The changes are underpinned by new fee-setting powers given to HM Passport Office under the Immigration Act 2016 to give it the resources it needs to process six million applications a year.

The changes have been earmarked to come into effect in just a few weeks.

If they are signed off by Parliament, they will come into force on March 27.

Thinking of lowering the pay of your Tier 2 migrant – sponsors be aware

The Home Office is conscious of the changing nature of employment and remunerations associated with these changes. However, the new rate of pay must continue to meet the appropriate rate requirements. The current minimum gross salary (including any guaranteed bonuses and/or permitted allowances) that a Tier 2 (General) migrant must receive is £30,000 per year* or the appropriate rate of pay for the job as stated in the codes of practice. The minimum Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) salary thresholds are £41,500 for long term staff and £23,000 for graduate trainees. If a sponsor seeks to pay a sponsored migrant below these rates, they will forfeit the right to continue to sponsor them.
The Home Office has modified its guidance to reflect changes and add in exceptions to the rules. These exceptions being:

• Where a migrant is required to undertake professional examinations to assess whether their skills meet UK standards before starting work. For example, where the passing of a Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) examination is a regulatory requirement of the role;
• Where the reduction is due to the migrant taking a period of maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave;
• When a migrant is on long-term sick leave for more than one continuous calendar month;
• Where a doctor is taking (up to six months) authorised unpaid leave to assist in the Ebola crisis; and
• Where the salary paid to a Tier 2 (ICT) migrant has been reduced due to them not being physically present in the UK.

Therefore, if a sponsored migrant wishes to take a long period of unpaid leave, for example a sabbatical, the employer must cease their sponsorship of the migrant and report the change in circumstances to the Home Office via the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

COS (Change Of Status)

Another COS lottery time is approaching, and tensions are high!

Last month, for the third month in a row, and for only the fourth time since a quota was introduced in April 2011, the cap was again hit. This means that many highly skilled workers from outside the EU were unable to take up their posts.

With even less COS available this month, it still looks like it is going to be another frustrating month for the employment sector. at least until the number of applications starts to fall away (if they can hold out that long) or there is a change in the government’s approach.

An apple a day, keeps the doctor away…. but not the Immigration Health Surcharge

Recent reports have suggested that the government wishes to the double, the already controversial, Immigration Health Surcharge. The main rate will go from £200 a year to £400 a year, with students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme paying £300 (up from £150).
Once this increase takes effect, the IHS cost to a family of four securing the right to reside in the UK for 5 years will amount to £8,000.

Here is to hoping that those wishing to relocate are given a few weeks’ notice so that they can start saving up!

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UK VISAS NO WIN NO FEE PROMISE

We provide a ‘No Win – No Fee’ guarantee for all points-based system visa applications unless expressly stated at the time of appointment. We will guarantee our service for these applications by offering a full refund on our fee should it be unsuccessful.

These guaranteed terms are conditional upon the client being able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Home Office that they have earned the income claimed or that they have the necessary funding in place for maintenance or are fully conversant with their business plan in the case of Tier 1 Entrepreneurs.

It also presumes that neither the applicant nor their dependants have previously come under scrutiny or been under investigation by the Home Office for any immigration matter. In order that we can do our job properly the necessary information and details required should be made available and they must genuine as well as accurate.