On the 24th of May 2021 Priti Patel announced a variety of changes to be made in the immigration. The gist of the move is increased digitisation of the border and more accurate tracking of people who enter and exit the UK, there will also be some changes to existing immigration routes, although these do not seem to be on the same level as the government’s total overhaul of the system last year. A summary of the main changes is as follows:
Electronic Travel Authorisation
The government plans to bring in an electronic pre-clearance system for travellers to the UK, whether they are visa nationals or not. Currently nationals of a number of countries (for example countries in the EEA and the USA) are able to travel to the UK without seeking any kind of prior permission to enter. Under the new system, everyone would need to apply for some form of clearance, whether in the form of a full visa, or in the form of an ETA.
The ETAs will reportedly cost £9, a 6 month visit visa currently costs £95 for comparison, but this is yet to be confirmed. This is not a new idea, and it is not likely to be rolled out in the immediate future.
The government is keen to increase digitisation of the systems which verify foreign national’s right to work and live in the UK. Currently most foreign nationals are issued with a biometric residence permit, a physical document they can use to demonstrate their status to employers and landlords. EEA residents with settled or pre-settled status, and some migrants from the EU who applied using the government’s app, are now not issued with any physical document and all checks must be carried out online. The government is looking to expand this system.
It is the long term plan that eventually the majority of biometric information will be given digitally, and that the current entry clearance vignette system will be replaced with E-visas. In the immediate future the Home Office has made the commitment that all border control staff will be able to check if an individual has settled or pre-settled status. This will hopefully reduce the number of issues arising at the border where EEA individuals.
The Points Based System
The ink is barely dry on the government’s new points based system, but the government is already looking to tweak aspects of the business visas. We are still awaiting details on what exactly this might look like, but the government promises to ‘continue to simplify our Immigration Rules and make them as user-friendly and accessible as possible’ which can only be a good thing.
There are also plans for “Global Business Mobility” visa which is likely to combine several existing routes, including intra-company transfer, representative of an overseas business.
The unsponsored work route for high achievers has also been confirmed, and the current plan is for this to open in early 2022.