Can I switch my visa in the UK because of Coronavirus?

European flags fluttering in the wind: we provide advice to EU citizens on permanent residence cards

The short answer is yes. At present there are a number of visa applications which must ordinarily be made from the applicant’s home country, regardless of whether the applicant has existing leave in the UK. Given the current climate many people are likely to find this difficult to impossible, due to the widespread travel disruption and amount of countries on lockdown.

Thankfully the Home Office has indicated that due to these ‘unique’ circumstances that it will allow in country applications for those ‘applying to stay in the UK long-term’, whose current visas run out before 31/05/2020. This would mean applicants in this position would no longer have to return to their home countries’ in order to apply. It is also possible to extend your visa to 31/05/2020 if you are unable to return to your home country, if it expires before this date. Doing this does not exclude you from being able to apply to switch in country.

As the Home Office has not provided any lists of accepted visa switches or further details we are working under the assumption that any switch to a long term visa, could be made. This would include, but is not limited to:

  • Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme to Tier 2 (general)
  • Tier 2 (dependant) to Tier 2 (general)
  • Visit visa to any long term visa.
  • Visit visa to ancestry visa.
  • Marriage visit visa to any long term visa.

Applications are to be made online and can only be made up until 31/05/2020, although this is up for review and may be further extended if the need should arise. You will still need to pay the same fee and meet all the other requirements of your visa.

This presents a chance for people to save money on an expensive international trip, so if you have been planning to apply for a long term visa, have an expiry date before 31/05/2020, and are already in the UK, now might be a good time to make the switch.

We can help you manage the process of switching in country. Contact us at info@ukvisas.co.uk or on 01403 801 801 to arrange a video consultation.

Coronavirus Latest – Your guide to the 24/03/2020 Home Office Advice

On the 24th of March 2020 the Home Office finally released updated advice for those whose UK visas are affected by Coronavirus. While this guidance is by no means comprehensive, and leaves a lot of questions unanswered it will still be helpful for a number of people. As such I have summarised the questions it has answered below.

What if my leave is expiring but I can’t return to my country?

This is a common problem, and one which the previous update did not address for the vast majority of people. Thankfully the government has said if you are in the UK and your leave expires between 24/01/2020 and 31/05/2020 you will be able to extend your visa if you cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self isolation.

This will be a relief for those dreading the prospect of international travel, as well as for those whose visas may have already expired and who may be anxious about the long term implications of overstaying. This process is not, however, automatic.

The government has set up a Coronavirus Immigration Team who should be contacted to update your records. You will need to provide:

  • Your date of birth
  • Your full name
  • Your nationality
  • Your previous visa reference number
  • The reason you cannot go back to your home country (ie isolation, border closure)

Please note that if flights are running back to your country and you are not in isolation, you may run into trouble as this concession only appears to apply to those who are physically unable to return, not everyone.

 

Do I have to return to my home country to switch my visa?

The Home Office insists, for reasons best known to itself, that a number of visa applications must be made from the applicant’s home country, regardless of whether the applicant has existing leave in the UK. These include switching from Tier 5 to Tier 2, and switching from a Tier 2 dependent visa to a Tier 2 general visa. Given the current climate applicants are likely to find this difficult to impossible.

Thankfully the Home Office has indicated that due to these ‘unique’ circumstances that it will allow in country applications for those ‘applying to stay in the UK long-term’. As the Home Office has not provided any lists of accepted visa switches or further details we are working under the assumption that any switch to a long term visa, such as tier 2, could be made.

Applications are to be made online and can only be made up until 31/05/2020, although this is up for review and may be further extended if the need should arise.

 

I’m outside the UK and the Visa application centre in my country has shut. What should I do?

Unfortunately a number of overseas visa centres are now shut and you will not be able to apply until they re-open. If you already have an appointment and it has been cancelled, you should follow the instructions from your visa centre on what to do next.

English Language Testing Centres are also affected, so you should keep up to date with the IELTS website for information on what to do if your test is cancelled.

If your documents are with a visa centre then you may be able to get them couriered back to you, but you should check with your specific visa centre.

If you are British and need a passport to urgently travel to the UK, you will not be able to apply for this if your country’s visa application centre is shut. You will need to apply for an emergency travel document.

 

I’m a sponsor, what do I need to know?

If you are a Tier 4 sponsor, you should be aware that the government has indicated that in these circumstances it will permit distance learning, which is not normally permissible, where students are overseas but wish to continue studying. There will be no requirement to withdraw sponsorship in this scenario.

Furthermore students who wish to commence a course via distance learning will not need to travel to the UK or be sponsored under Tier 4.

If you are a tier 2 or 5 sponsor, there is a good chance that much of your workforce is suddenly working from home. While you would ordinarily need to report this to the Home Office, if it is as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic, you will not need to report this. All other changes of circumstance must be reported as usual.

 

Other questions

There are a number of other questions which remain unanswered, including:

  • Whether those on visas with ‘no recourse to public funds’ will be eligible for wages through the ‘coronavirus job retention scheme’.
  • Whether Tier 2 employees can be ‘furloughed’.
  • How long Tier 2 employees will have to find another sponsor should they be made redundant, or their sponsor go bankrupt.
  • What will happen to people overseas who have been granted visas but now cannot come to the UK within the allowed time frame.

We will let you know as and when answers to these questions become apparent. If you have any other questions, please do let us know in the comments and we will do our best to answer you. You can also contact us at info@ukvisas.co.uk or on 01403 801 801 for a consultation.

The New Immigration System and How it Will Affect You

The New Immigration System and How it Will Affect You.

On the 19th of February the government released its plans for immigration from 2021. Find out what impact this could have on you, your business or your students. It should be noted that EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will all remain non-visa nationals, capable of entering for 6 months without a visa under the normal visitor rules.

Changes to the skills based system

Despite the government’s claims to reduce low-skilled migration, they will be lowering both the minimum general salary threshold as well as the minimum necessary RQF skill level. The new rules will apply equally to applicants applying from both inside and outside the EU, although not to EU residents already in the country who have settled or pre-settled status.

The minimum salary will be lowered to £25,600 from £30,000, with the potential to go down to £20,480 if the applicant has strengths awarding them points in other areas (for example working in a shortage occupation or having a relevant PhD). This appears to lead to an counter-intuitive scenario where the stronger the applicant, the less the sponsoring company is required to pay them. It will be interesting to see how the government reconciles this with their pledge to attract the ‘brightest and best’ and to reduce wage undercutting.

The minimum RQF level of the job will be lowered from RQF6 to RQF3, essentially meaning that the required difficulty level of the job to be offered has gone from one equivalent in experience and difficulty to a Bachelor’s degree, to one equivalent in experience and difficult to A-levels. While this does not cover unskilled entry positions, it is still a big shift in the required skill level in order to sponsor an overseas worker.

The Resident Labour Market Test will be abolished along with the cap on the number of people who are able to come to the UK on the skilled-worker route.

The Global Talent Scheme will be opened to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, allowing highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer. This will also be expanded to be more accessible to those with a background in STEM subjects, although more details on this are not yet available.

The Seasonal Agricultural Visa pilot scheme is due to be quadrupled (from 2,500 to 10,000) as the government recognises this sector is reliant on low-skilled temporary workers to function. This would allow farms to hire workers for a period of up to 6 months, and is intended to ease pressure on the agricultural sector during busy harvest months. There is no other current path for unskilled workers to enter the UK, which does little to reassure employers in other sectors heavily reliant on unskilled or low-paid workers, including care-work, hospitality and construction.

International Students and Graduates

This appears to be largely similar to its current form however there are a few differences. Most obviously the student routes will now be open to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.

Secondly and perhaps most excitingly for those hoping to study in the UK and work here afterwards, a new immigration route will be opening in 2021. This will allow graduates who complete their degree from summer 2021 to stay for up to 2 years after the end of their degree to work or look for work. They can work at any RQF skill level during this period but if they wished to convert their visa to a skills-based visa at the end of the 2 years they would presumably need to secure a job offer meeting the minimum salary and RQF levels described above.

What should I do?

If you are an EU citizen in the UK, we strongly advise applying for the settled or pre-settled scheme as soon as possible to secure your right to live and work in the UK next year.

If you are an employer or educational institute considering sponsoring overseas workers or students in the future, we would advise applying for your sponsor license now. We can assist with this process, so call us on 01403 801 801 or emails us at info@ukvisas.co.uk to arrange a consultation.

No Automatic Deportation After Brexit

“No Automatic Deportation After Brexit”

This has been the latest revelation from Boris Johnson regarding the settlement of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. On the face of it this seems like a very positive message to EU citizens concerned about their future in the UK after Brexit, but let’s examine what it really means for EU migrants and their employers.

 

Does this mean people who fail to apply for settled status by the deadline will be allowed to stay after all?

In short, unlikely. The government has indicated that in order to avoid deportation after missing the deadline, EU migrants must ‘give grounds for why it was not possible to apply in the timeline, if no valid reason is given then the valid immigration rules will be applied.’ It is not clear exactly what the government would regard as a ‘valid reason’ but it is likely to be a difficult threshold to meet given that applicants have got until 30 June 2021 to apply and they have been able to apply since 30th of March 2019.

This would suggest that an applicant would need to provide evidence of a compelling impediment to application which spanned over 2 years. It is unlikely many people would be able to satisfy this criteria. While the wording of ‘valid immigration rules will be applied’ deliberately avoids the term ‘removal’, it is clear that this may be the fate of those who fail to apply in time.

 

Can those who have not yet applied for settled status continue to work in the UK now we have left the EU?

Yes. While a survey by the grassroots organisation ‘the3million’ indicates that 1 in 10 EU citizens have already been asked to provide evidence of their settled status, this is not a legal requirement. EU citizens may continue to work without applying for settled status throughout the transition period. A lack of clarity in government communications has left employers and employees alike confused as to what their duties are, but until the end of the transition period, EU workers can continue to work, although they should still aim to complete the settlement application at their earliest convenience.

 

What kind of proof will people receive of their settled status?

Controversially, the government has elected to provide no physical documentation confirming the settled status of EU migrants. All records will be electronic which the government claims will “future-proof [applicants] rights and is linked to their passport or ID card, replacing physical documents which can get lost, stolen, damaged, tampered with and expire”. 90% of survey participants however indicated they feared discrimination without a form of physical evidence which can be shown to employers, banks or landlords, and would prefer a card.

Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million has warned that the government is setting itself up for another Windrush crisis by failing to provide physical evidence which applicants may be able to later use to prove their right to live in the UK.

 

We will have to wait to see the full impact of the EU settled scheme, but as always, anybody concerned about their immigration status should contact us on 01403 801 801 or at info@ukvisas.co.uk for a consultation.

MAC recommendations – Tier 2 overhaul, revolutionary or recycling?

 

The Migration Advisory Committee has released an extensive report on the Points-Based System and Salary Thresholds. This was commissioned by the Government in July and September of last year.

If you’re wondering how the system might affect you, or your employees, then read on for a brief introduction to the new system as imagined by the MAC.

 

What might change?

The 278-page report advises against a full-scale ‘Australian-style’ points-based system. Instead, it recommends retaining the existing Tier 2 structure with an addition of lower skill-level jobs and a lower salary threshold from the current £30,000 per year.

  • Foreign nationals hoping to come to the UK may now be able to do so without a job offer if they score high enough on the points system.
  • The report recommends the existing tier 2 system remain in place, with a salary threshold, as a route for migrants with a job offer. They do however recommend that this route be expanded to include medium skilled workers.
  • Potentially the threshold for migrants settling under the tier 2 route may be paused and the requirements for settlement reviewed to increase flexibility. This is due to concerns that required pay progression is too steep for settlement.
  • There may be greater flexibility in the salary thresholds for those that come to the UK as full-time workers then transition to part time after having a child.
  • Overhaul the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route and re-design it is using a points-based system but add safeguards to prevent abuse.
  • Introduce a separate pilot visa for ‘remote’ parts of the UK, which could include a lower salary threshold exemption.
  • Review the Shortage Occupation List after the new immigration system is introduced

 

Factors like age, education, work experience and English language ability are likely to be taken into account. It is not yet clear how the government will weight each factor.

 

What about the income threshold?

Until now foreign workers looking to come to the UK to work must have a job offer paying more than £30,000. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) however has just recommended that this be dropped to £25,600 in order to boost recruitment of skilled NHS staff and teachers who are unlikely to meet the current threshold.

The current system is a complex mix of occupation specific thresholds relating to average earnings in a specific sector, worker experience, and a general threshold. The MAC indicated this could be profitably improved by having new entrant rates at 70% of the experienced rate, and using national pay scales to calculate thresholds in sectors like education and the NHS.

They also recommend that differences in average pay across regions should not be taken into account, with one threshold for the entirety of the UK, citing concerns that lower thresholds in certain parts of the UK risk ‘institutionalising’ some parts of the UK as ‘lower wage’, as well as adding unnecessary complexity.

While some stakeholders would prefer no threshold aside from the minimum wage, the MAC justifies the continued wage threshold by arguing that it prevents the undercutting of the labour market (i.e. employing migrants because they are cheaper than British nationals), ensures migrants are making net positive contributions and makes sure that policy supports the current government’s “ambition to make the UK a high wage, high skill, high productivity economy”.

Concerns that sectors such as social care will still fail to meet this lower threshold and may suffer staffing shortages have been dismissed, claiming “the root cause of the problems there is the failure to offer competitive terms and conditions”.

 

We will watch with bated breath to see if these recommendations actually result in any material changes in immigration policy. As we have said  before, the introduction of the “Australian” points based system was never anything ground-breaking, so it will be interesting to see how the current government works to implement these MAC recommendations.

In the meantime, if you have any queries or concerns relating to your visa or the visas of your employees, you should contact us on 01403 801 801 or at info@ukvisas.co.uk for a consultation.

Boris to review earning thresholds for migrant workers

While one of the current government’s selling points has been its pledge to crack down on immigration and to reduce the overall number of people coming to the UK, it has chosen to review the income threshold of 30K which prospective workers would have to meet in order to enter the UK. Let’s explore what this means in practice:

What’s the current system?

The current system for non-EU workers to come to the UK to work requires applicants to meet several stringent conditions. Applicants must currently meet an income threshold, although this varies based on the vocation, as well as the age and experience of the applicant. Applicants must also demonstrate a good knowledge of English.

Companies hoping to employ migrant workers from outside of the EEA also have to prove that they have not been able to find anyone within the UK or the EEA capable of doing the job unless the job is on the shortage occupation list. There is also a cap on the number of workers who can enter if they are not filling a position in a shortage occupation.

What’s Boris proposing?

Boris wants to replace the current system with a more holistic points-based system under which income would be taken into account alongside English ability, occupation, and qualification.  Each contributing factor would be assigned points, and the point total used to decide on whether the person would be a benefit to the UK.

What will change?

Critics of the current system argue that the income cap severely restricts the ability of industries which employ workers who are skilled but not particularly well-paid to fill positions. This includes the NHS, farm-workers and other industries which currently rely on EU workers to do low paid but skilled or crucial work.

Boris has pledged to cut ‘unskilled’ immigration but has not set out exactly who he will class as an ‘unskilled’ worker. This raises concern over the ability of organisations reliant on EU labour, such as care homes, to recruit enough staff, should their staff not be considered ‘skilled’ workers.

Hopefully, the removal of the wage cap will make the UK more appealing to skilled workers in low-paying industries to contribute to the UK economy, as well as mitigating some of the potential labour shortages as a result of Brexit.

What does this mean for me?

If you are a migrant worker or a company hoping to employ migrant workers and you want to find out more about how this might affect you, the team at UK visas can help.

Contact us now to arrange a free consultation and find out how we can support you.

UK Visas charges for 2020-21

We are delighted to announce that our fees for 2020 remain largely unchanged.

 

However, we have decided reluctantly and after much soul-searching, to increase our charges relating to sponsor licence procurement and ongoing administration from 1 April 2020.  This is simply because it is becoming more and more time-consuming to a) prepare a robust licence application in the first place and b) to provide the administrative support and advice to clients and manage/report the increasing number of changes taking place across the four-years licence period.

 

Our fees for assisting with a sponsor licence application, together with the provision of four years administrative support and advice, will therefore increase to £1950 + VAT for small organisations and £2950 + VAT for large organisations.

 

For renewing licences, together with the provision of four years administrative support and advice, our fees will increase to £1450 + VAT for small organisations and £2450 + VAT for large organisations.

 

These increases will now include managing major changes such as takeovers, acquisitions and adding new categories such as ICT to a licence.

 

New staff at UK Visas

 

We are pleased to welcome the following new staff who joined UK Visas in January 2020

 

As our business continues to grow we are delighted to welcome Holly Smith to our case-working team.  Holly graduated in law at The University of Reading in 2014 and then took time out to not only learn Japanese fluently but teach it!  After 18 months working on a major project for Deloitte she has now decided to focus on immigration so joins us here as a Legal Assistant reporting to Garima Arora.

 

Some of you will have had dealings with our accounts controller Nigel VanYperen over the years.  Sadly he became ill in the summer of 2019 and no longer feels well enough to continue working with us, so made the difficult decision to resign shortly before Christmas.  We wish him and his family the very best for the future.

 

To take over his role we have been fortunate to recruit Pauline Baker, a qualified AAT accounting technician with several years’ experience, who is quickly getting to grips with the complex nuances associated with the UK immigration service industry.

 

Changes to the shortage occupations list

 

There has been a radical shake up of the shortage occupation list.

 

the UKVI recently announced a radical revision of the Shortage Occupation List which defines roles that employers can offer to migrants without first checking local labour availability. Its purpose is to expedite recruitment for roles that are traditionally difficult to fill.

In the past, the types of roles on the list were considered specialist, but the latest additions include more commonplace occupations such as IT professionals, nurses, and social workers, further indication that the government has acknowledged the skills shortage is affecting areas of the jobs market that were previously considered well serviced.

A full list of jobs on the shortage occupation list can be found in Appendix K of the Tier 2 immigration rules here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-k-shortage-occupation-list

 

Examples most relevant to our client base include:

  • Physical scientists in the oil and gas industry
  • Civil engineers
  • Mechanical engineers
  • Electrical and electronics engineers
  • Design and development engineers
  • Production and process engineers
  • IT business analysts and systems designers
  • Programmers, software developers and web designers
  • Medical practitioners and radiographers
  • Veterinarians
  • Nurses
  • Architects and quantity surveyors

Employer Right-to-Work checks

All sponsors must ensure that all non-EEA staff or potential recruits have current visas.

If an employee has applied for a new visa or an extension to their current one, and their current visa expires whilst their case is under consideration, it is the employers’ responsibility to check with the Home Office that they can continue to employ that person.

This can be done by logging on to https://www.gov.uk/view-right-to-work If the result is inconclusive it will lead you to a second link which is the employer checking service where further checks can be made: https://www.gov.uk/employee-immigration-employment-status

This enables UK employers to confirm whether a non-EEA national holding either a biometric residence permit or biometric residence card has a current right to work in the UK and whether they are subject to any restrictions.

From the end of January 2019, employers will be able to request either the online check or the existing document-based check; online checks will be a voluntary option whilst migrants and employers develop familiarity with the new service. The digital status checking services will provide a quick and secure verification of status.

Reminders to Sponsors – Keep your records up to date

Updating your records

All sponsors should ensure their records are kept up to date, but here is a three-point reminder for you.

At least once a year, you should ensure that you ask to see all non-EEA workers passports and visas/BRP cards. Please check these are valid and photocopy them (passport outer cover and details page and both sides of the BRP card (or visa in their passport if they still do not have a BRP card).  Then sign and date the photocopies and place on their personnel file.

Check to see if any sponsored workers’ roles or salaries/working hours have changed or if they are no longer working for you. If so please let us know at info@ukvisas.co.uk so we can update the SMS for you or advise you if the change is so significant that a new visa may be required.  Remember, sponsored workers can only carry out the work stated on their CoS.

Please let us know as soon as possible if:

  1. your office address is changing.
  2. sponsored staff are changing their work address (eg: those working at client sites).
  3. your Authorising Officer is leaving or going on maternity leave.
  4. your business has changed its name.
  5. your business has been acquired.
  6. your business has acquired another business.

High Skilled Workers to trump EU workers

Brexit will no doubt have a great impact on the business immigration sector.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s long-awaited report on the effect of European migration to the UK has been published last month.

According to reports, the MAC does not see ‘compelling reasons’ to give EU citizens any preferential treatment over non-EU citizens. Recommendations are made largely to loosen the Tier 2 system itself and have a more open policy like in countries such as Canada.

Below is a summary of the key recommendations for work migration post-Brexit

1. Making it easier for higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK than lower-skilled workers.

2. No preference for EU citizens

3. Abolish the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2 (General).

4. Tier 2 (General) to be open to all jobs at RQF3 and above.

5. Maintain existing salary thresholds for all migrants in Tier 2.

6. Retain but review the Immigration Skills Charge.

7. Consider abolition of the Resident Labour Market Test. If not abolished, extend the numbers of migrants who are exempt through lowering the salary required for exemption.

 

However, if all foreign migrants are bought into the same system then employers will need to become extra vigilant as risk of civil penalties faced by employers will increase significantly.

Hiring costs will increase and if medium skilled jobs are also included as more businesses will require to get on the sponsor licence register meaning increased administrative burden on organisations and a significant effect on businesses which have previously not had any engagement with the wonderful immigration system.

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.

busy office workers walking

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.

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).

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.

Renewing CoS allocations for next Financial Year (April 2018 and April 2019)

Sponsors that are not on automatic annual renewal will receive monthly e-mails asking sponsors to submit their requests for a CoS allocation.

Please feel free to ignore these!

Annual CoS allocations are now so limited that you can only request these if you can prove you will definitely need them. This means providing the name, nationality and DoB of each applicant and, if they are new recruits, full details of the role, salary and resident test details if relevant.

UK Visas will go through every client’s list of sponsored workers over the next few weeks and request CoS for any whose visas expire between April 2018 and April 2019.

So, when you get another reminder at the beginning of February, and again in March, please do not forward them to us, simply delete them.

For those clients on Auto Renewal (about half of you) we have to wait until 5 April and see what you have been allocated and then, if necessary, request extra CoS for you.

Fast-track trial for new CoS requests is extended

The recently introduced £200 premium request service for CoS is set to continue.

Back in November last year the Home Office introduced a Tier 2 and 5 priority change of circumstance service which allows A rated sponsors to get their CoS allocated within five working days. This same service also applies to sponsors wishing to add a Level 1 user, replace an authoring officer or appoint a representative

Initially this service, which costs £200 for each individual CofC request made, was limited to 20 requests per day – for the whole country – so became a total lottery involving back-to-back telephone calling (on a premium-rate number!).

As of 3 April 2017 the UKVI have increased the number of slots available to 50 per day.

Increased HO fees announced 24 hours before coming into effect!

The Home Office has just announced, at 11.13 on Tuesday 4th April new increased charges for 2017/18.

Usually the Home Office provide a month or so’s notice of any intended visa fee increases to enable feedback prior to Parliamentary approval. But not this year!

Nearly all increases are small – see the link below for full details – although ILR has seen a swingeing £512 increase to £2887 for the same day service.

Out-of-country Tier 2 visas increase just £12, to £587, while in-country applications go up £13 to £677.

The 10 day priority service goes up from £375 to £459 and the same day service goes up £90 to £590.

For full details of all of the new HO charges, go to:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/visa-regulations-revised-table

Although a relatively small constituent of visa costs these days, we are pleased to advise clients that UK Visas own fees will remain the same as last year, with the one exception of EEA family permit and permanent residence visas for self-employed applicants.

Changes to Tier 2 (ICT)

A raft of changes has been made to the ICT category over the past 12 months.

The idea that the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer category enables international companies to transfer staff into the UK easily and inexpensively – on the basis that their stay here will be temporary – has changed somewhat and is certainly now a lot more expensive:

The Tier 2 (ICT) Short-term category has now closed so there are now only two sub-categories remaining: ICT Long-Term and ICT Graduate Trainee

The rules for Graduate Trainees remains the same, but the requirements for ICT long-term have changed significantly, so that:

• The 12 months working requirement is lifted for those paid £73,900 p.a. or above.
• 9 years maximum stay now available to those earning £120,000 p.a. or above (was £155,300 p.a.)
• Accommodation cannot be more than 30% of the gross salary and other allowances combined (as previously).
• The new Immigration Skills Charge WILL apply to ICT long-term main applicants whose CoS are issued from 6 April 2017.
• The Health Surcharge will also apply to ICT main applicants and dependants applying from 6 April 2017.

New “Immigration Skills Charge” for employers

No such luck with the proposed Immigration Skills Charge we suspect, as the government continues to press ahead with plans to introduce a new skills charge, with effect from 6 April 2017.

The Immigration Skills Charge will be levied on employers that employ migrants in skilled areas. Set at £1,000 per year for each Tier 2 CoS issued by large organisations, and a reduced rate of £364 for small or charitable organisations, it is designed to cut down on the number of businesses taking on migrant workers and incentivise training British staff to fill those jobs.

An exemption to the charge means that it won’t apply to PhD-level jobs and international students switching from student visas to working visas – a key protection they would say to help retain the talented workers and students who are vital in helping the British economy grow. Neither does it apply to ICT Graduate Trainees.

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No Win No Fee Visa Guarantee logo

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.