The Health and Care Visa and Care workers – What is it and who can apply?

 

With the shortage of health care workers wreaking havoc on care homes across the country in the wake of Brexit and Covid-19, many care homes may be looking for an answer to their recruitment woes.

The government’s answer to this has been the Health and Care visa, an attractive new route touting fast-track entry (15 working days as opposed to the standard 8 weeks for a Skilled Worker visa), cheaper visa fees, and an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge. A number of healthcare professionals, particularly those working for the NHS, are covered but we will be focusing on its application in care homes after it was extended to cover certain professions in the social care sector.

 

Who is Eligible?

For the purpose of this blog, there are a number of Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) codes which are relevant for those hoping to employ staff for care homes. They include:

  • 1242 – Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
  • 2219 – Health Professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 3219 – Health associate professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 6141 – Nursing auxiliaries and assistants
  • 6146 – Senior care workers

Notably absent are care workers below senior or management level. The roles must be at RQF level 3 or above, which is equivalent to UK A-levels. At the time of writing, junior care workers are not considered as having met this threshold.

Applicants under this route will also need to meet all the criteria under the Skilled Worker route including meeting requirements for minimum salary, English proficiency and doing a job on the list of eligible occupations.

In addition they must also be employed by an approved body and which approved body must be made clear on the Certificate of Sponsorship. If the assigning organisation is private, details of the arrangements with the relevant NHS body to which they also provide services must also be provided.

The threshold for income is £20,480 or the ‘going rate’ for the role, whichever is higher. This also excludes many lower paid positions from eligibility.

Applicants and their family members may also need to provide test results from an approved tuberculosis test if they are applying from overseas and resident in certain countries.

 

How do I Employ Someone on this Route?

In order to employ someone under the health and care route, an employer will first need to apply for a sponsor license in the same way as is required for a Skilled Worker visa. We will not go into detail about the process here, but we do offer assistance with applications for both sponsor licenses and the visa application process itself, so if your organisation does not hold one, please do get in touch.

Once the sponsor license has been obtained, the sponsoring organisation will need to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to the applicant, who will use this to apply for the visa. Details of how the role meets the requirements for the Health and Care route must be included on the Certificate of Sponsorship. Where the organisation provides NHS services, it may also be necessary to provide additional evidence of this with the applications.

 

What About Family Members?

Applicants on this route are able to bring dependant family members with them. This may include children under the age of 18, spouses, and unmarried partners living with the main applicant for at least 2 years in a relationship akin to marriage. There is no facility to bring extended family members or adult children in on this route.

Applicants’ dependant family members also enjoy the reduced fees and Immigration Health Surcharge exemption. They must prove their relationship to the main applicant, normally with a birth certificate, marriage certificate or evidence of cohabitation, unless their dependants have had a previous successful application as dependants of the main applicant.

 

How Long will the Visa be for?

The visa can be granted for a maximum of 5 years, with no minimum period, and is indefinitely renewable, the length of the visa is specified when the CoS is issued. If the visa is granted for a shorter period than 5 years, then it will be necessary to renew the visa before it expires in order for the individual to remain working in the UK.

After 5 years on this route, applicants and their dependants will be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK which will grant them the right to stay in the UK indefinitely (subject to some conditions).

 

How Much does it Cost?

The visa itself is comparatively cost efficient, with an exemption from the costly immigration health surcharge and the immigration skills charge.

The fees differ depending on whether the visa is issued for more or less than 3 years. The costing is also the same for each dependant, regardless of age. There may be a £55 fee reduction for the main applicant’s fee for applicants from certain countries.

Application fee: £232 per applicant (3 years and under)/£464 per applicant (over 3 years)

Biometric enrolment fee: £19.20 per applicant

Biometric appointment fee: Variable, may be free or up to £199 depending on the location.

Certificate of Sponsorship: £199

Applicants may also need to demonstrate financial maintenance if their sponsor does not certify this.

 

UK Visas has extensive experience with the Health and Care visa as well as other work visas. If you require support with a sponsor license, or managing applications for employees, we can help. Get in touch on 01403 801 801 or email at [email protected] to talk to one of our experts about the support we can offer.

Covid Right To Work Checks – A Post Brexit Summary

With the closure of the EU settlement scheme, employers of EU staff members will now have to perform right to work checks to ensure that their EU workers have acquired the right to work in the UK whether through application to the settlement scheme or otherwise.

With Covid, however, many employees or prospective employees may be self-isolating, working from home, or otherwise unable to come into the office to perform an in person right to work checks.

In addition to the existing right to work check, which is available here, there are also a number of Covid concessions in place to allow employers to continue to remain compliant throughout the pandemic. The full document is available here but please see below for a summary.

These concessions are valid until 31/08/2021 at the time of writing (15/07/2021).

 

Alternative Ways to Check Applicants’ Documents

  • Checks can be carried out via video call with the applicant. They should hold their original documents up to the camera so you can check the details against the digital copies they have sent you. In the event that the worker has a Biometric Residence Permit or Card or has status under the EU settlement scheme, you may use the online right to work checking service while on the video call. The applicant will need to provide their consent for you to view this information.

 

  • Applicants may send scans or photographs of their documents via email or a mobile app instead of providing the originals.

 

  • Employers should use the Employer Checking Service to check the right to work of any applicant or employee who cannot provide suitable documentation.

 

From September 1st 2021 these temporary adjustments will end, and you will need to see applicants’ original documents or check their right to work online, as was the case before the pandemic. There is no need to re-do these checks on individuals who had their right to work check carried out under the temporary concessions.

 

If you require help with a UK work visa, or a sponsor license application we can help. Call us on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected] to talk to one of our friendly experts.

New Plans for Immigration – A Summary

 

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.

 

Increased Digitisation

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.

How to Avoid Problems at the Border when visiting the UK – A Guide for EU and Other non-visa nationals

 

With Brexit now in full swing, many EU nationals are now coming up against the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy for the first time. Individuals who have previously had no issues coming into the UK have been surprised to find themselves stopped at the border, interrogated, and then promptly detained for removal.

Free movement rights ended on 31/12/2021 at 11pm, meaning visitors from the EU now need to ensure they are compliant with the UK’s rigorous restrictions on permitted activities for visitors. Do not be fooled by the term ‘non-visa national’, just because you do not need a visa does not mean that border control will simply let you into the country to do whatever you want. If you do not hold settled or pre-settled status, you will need to seek entry as a visitor at the border. It is not permitted to enter the country for any other purpose without a visa.

If you are not sure whether you require a visa to visit the UK, the Home Office provides a handy guide here. EU citizens and other so-called non visa nationals do not need to apply for a visit visa in advance of travel (although may find it helpful to do so if they have adverse immigration history to avoid risking being turned away at the border), but they must normally apply for a visa if they would like to work, study or live in the UK.

 

Who is a Visitor?

Visitors normally enter the UK for a temporary period of time, normally less than 6 months although there are exceptions. There are a number of prohibited activities in Appendix V: Visitor which a visitor is not permitted to carry out unless expressly permitted under a separate appendix. These include working, studying, getting married and receiving medical treatment.

If the border officer suspects you are entering the UK to carry out any of these prohibited activities, they have the right to refuse you entry and enforce your return to your country of origin. It is important to be clear on what you are and are not permitted to do in the UK, and to be able to clearly explain at the border what your intentions are, so that there is no doubt about the type of activity you intend to carry out.

Most tourists will have no problems, as tourism and leisure are clearly permitted, but other activities are permitted as a visitor, and this is where things can get a little confusing. Work is a prohibited activity for instance, but what counts as work? Is attending a business meeting working?  Does attending a seminar count as studying? For those with slightly less straightforward purposes, the below list, which is a non-comprehensive summary of some of the more common permitted activities, taken from Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities may be helpful.

  • tourism and leisure
  • visiting friends and family
  • school exchanges and visits
  • volunteering for up to 30 days with a registered charity
  • attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews
  • negotiate and sign deals and contracts
  • site visits and inspections
  • intra-corporate activities
  • interpreting and translation work as an employee of an overseas enterprise
  • tour group work
  • journalism
  • scientific and academic research
  • preaching and pastoral work by religious workers

 

Clearly then there are some scenarios in which work and study related activities are permitted, and if you are unsure we highly recommend you seek expert advice before you travel. The exact nature of work which is permitted is very difficult to interpret as a layperson, and can often fall foul of subjective interpretation on the part of the border officer. If your particular activity falls into that murky ambiguous area between ‘worker’ and ‘visitor’, it may be worth applying for a visit visa regardless of the requirement, to avoid the risk of problems upon entry.

Related to employment there are also no express restrictions on visitors seeking employment or even attending job interviews, although they should under absolutely no circumstances start doing any actual work should they be successful. They will need to leave the UK and reapply under the Skilled Worker scheme in order to take up employment.

It is also not prohibited for visitors to work remotely while in the UK for their overseas employer (for example by responding to emails), however this should not be the primary purpose of the visit as it is not on the list of permitted activities which should form the primary basis for a visit to the UK. This means it would be ok to answer a few work emails while visiting a family member in the UK, but not to visit the UK for the sole purpose of working remotely from the UK.

 

How Do Border Officers Decide?

At the border, a border officer will assess the purpose of the proposed visit and make a decision as to whether it falls within permitted visitor activities or not. They will ask you questions about your reasons for visiting the UK, and it is important to answer honestly and in a way which makes it clear your visit falls within the permitted guidelines.

The decision will be made on the balance of probability and depend on whether the officer thinks it is more likely than not that you are a genuine visitor. This is a subjective decision against which there is no right of appeal, and there is therefore the potential for inconsistencies in decision making between border officers.

If the officer wants to talk to you, they will look at things like the main reason for your visit, your immigration history and any problems you have had, how many visits you have been making to the UK (are you trying to live here by visiting repeatedly), whether you have family in the UK, your ties to your home country, whether you booked a return flight, and how much money you have. These are issues it is helpful to have thought about and have an answer for in advance.

How Long Can I Stay?

As a non-visa national you can stay six months at a time from the date of entry. There is no formal ‘cooling off’ period before you can re-enter the UK, but attempts to live in the UK through repeated visits will arouse suspicion. A good rule of thumb is not to spend more than 180 days in any 12 month period in the UK.

 

If you are interested in a visit visa, or any other category of UK visa, we can help. Get in touch with one of our friendly experts today for a consultation on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected]

Introducing the UK-India Young Professionals Scheme

 

What is it?

As part of a new agreement with India, the UK government has agreed (albeit in a non-binding agreement) to participate in a scheme aimed at allowing increased mobility for a limited number of young people between India and the UK. It has some similarities to the existing Youth Mobility Scheme, and will allow up to 3,000 Indian nationals per year aged between 18 and 30 to come to the UK to live and work for a period of up to two years. In return, 3,000 UK nationals a year will be able to do the same in India.

 

Who can apply?

Unlike the Youth Mobility Scheme, which has no qualification or English language requirements, hopeful applicants under the Young Professionals scheme will have to hold a diploma or degree equivalent to at least three years of higher education and be able to express themselves in the language of the host country.

It is also possible that the visa could require sponsorship or a job offer from a named employer, which would distinguish it from the un-sponsored Youth Mobility Scheme route, however the eligibility requirements have not yet been finalised.

 

How will the 3,000 be picked?

This is not yet clear. It is likely that this visa will be over-subscribed, with millions of Indian nationals meeting the eligibility requirements. In this case it is likely that there will be a lottery for places, as in some countries for the Youth Mobility visa where places are heavily limited. There are also concerns that this category may be dominated by large tech companies, which will gain a monopoly on the limited spaces available, if it offers a cheaper way to bring talent into the UK.

 

Follow our blog to find out more about this visa category and the eligibility requirements as they are announced. If you have a query about your eligibility for any other UK visa we can help. Get in touch with one of our experts on 01403 801 801 or emails us at [email protected] for a consultation.

Applicants for Biometric Residency Permit/Card Replacement Service to be able to use IDV App to submit biometrics

Due to increased demand for replacement Biometric Residence Permits and Cards the Home Office’s commercial partner UKVCAS has been struggling with appointment availability for all applicants. In order to reduce the pressure, it has been announced that as of 22/04/2021 some BRP/BRC replacement customers will be invited to apply through the IDV app.

When applicants submit an application in this category UKVI will assess whether the application can be progressed using the app. If so, they will contact you by email with instructions on using the app, if not, they will let you know and invite you to book an appointment through UKVCAS.

UKVCAS have indicated the assessment process should be carried out within a few weeks of registration with UKVI. This means you should create an account by following the instructions to provide biometrics after submitting the online application. Once an account is created you should await further instructions.

The email will be sent to the email you registered your application with and will be titled “Book your UKVCAS appointment now” or “Download the IDV app now”

In addition to this, UKVCAS have now started sending emails after applicants for all visa categories attend a biometric appointment confirming that supporting information has been sent to UKVI. This email will be entitled ‘Your supporting information has been submitted to UKVI’ and will be sent to the email account you registered to UKVCAS with. It should arrive within 24 hours of the appointment.

If you require a replacement Biometric Residence card or permit we can help. For information on this, or any other UK immigration matter please get in touch for a consultation on 01403 801 801 or send us an email at [email protected]

An Introduction to the UK Start-Up Visa

 

The Start-Up visa was brought in to provide a route for individuals hoping to set up a business to enter the UK who may not yet be eligible for the Innovator visa. The requirements are stringent and the route requires the business plan to be endorsed by an approved body. It is an attractive alternative to the Innovator visa as it does not have such stringent financial requirements. Here are some of the most common questions.

What Requirements Do I Need to Meet?

You need to be endorsed by an authorised body. This must be a UK higher education institution or a business organisation which has a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs.

You need to show that your idea is new, and innovative. This means you can’t start a business providing the same service an existing company is already providing. It also has to be viable. This means that there has to be the potential for the business to grow.

How Long Can I Stay For?

This visa will give you leave for 2 years. It cannot be extended, at the end of the 2 years you will have to switch into another visa category. For most people this is the Innovator visa. If your endorsement is withdrawn your visa may be cut short and you will have to re-apply with new endorsement.

Does This Route Lead to Settlement?

No, you cannot settle on this route, however you can switch from this route into the Innovator visa path, if at the end of the 2 years your endorsing body agrees your business is active, trading and sustainable, and that you have day to day involvement with it. You are allowed to work outside of your business, but you must remain involved.

If you are not able to switch to the Innovator visa, then you may be able to switch to another visa category, such as the Skilled Worker visa.

How Much Does It Cost?

To apply in the UK (by switching from another visa category) it will cost you £493 each for you and each of your dependants.

To apply from outside of the UK it will cost £363 each for you and each of your dependants.

You will also need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 per year per adult applicant and £470 per child applicant per year.

You will not be able to access most benefits or the State Pension while in the UK on this visa category.

Can I Bring My Family?

Yes. You will be able to bring immediate family members such as partners and children under the age of 18 on this visa. Your partner will be able to work in the UK while they are present as your partner.

What Evidence Will I Need?

You will need to provide your passport, proof you meet the English Language requirement, your tuberculosis test results (where applicable), and evidence of your maintenance funds.

 

We recommend everyone takes professional advice when applying for a visa. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you apply for the Start-Up visa, or any other UK visa, please gives us a call on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected] for a consultation.

Meeting the financial requirements for a spouse visa

One of the most onerous aspects of applying for a spouse visa in the UK is meeting the financial requirement. On the surface it looks relatively straightforward with the sponsor or applicant needing to be earning £18,600 a year. If there are children who are not British nationals then the income requirement rises by £3,800 for the first child and £2,400 for each additional child after that.

You must prove you have been in this position for at least 6 months at the time of application and provide evidence to substantiate this in the form of payslips, bank statements, p60s and employer letters. While this is the most common way of meeting the income threshold, there are however a number of other ways it can be met which we will explore below. It is possible to combine some of these categories and for less straight forward cases particularly we would strongly advise you take professional advice.

Savings

Savings must amount to £16,000 plus the shortfall between the salary earned and the amount required, multiplied by 2.5 (this is the length of the visa). So if you earn £17,600 and want to sponsor just your spouse you would need to hold £18,500 in savings (£16,000 + £1000 x 2.5).

You can also rely solely on savings to satisfy the requirement. For 1 dependant this would be £62,500 (£16,000 + £18,600 x 2.5), for a spouse and 2 children this would be £78,000.

Employment Held for Less than 6 Months

It is possible to use employment you have held for less than 6 months if your total income over the past 12 months has totalled at least £18,600 and you will be employed for the foreseeable future. The evidential requirements are more complex, and we would advise anybody pursuing this route to take professional advice.

Self-Employment

You can also use income earned from dividends, stocks, self-employed income and a variety of other sources to satisfy the financial requirements. You must provide extensive documentation to demonstrate how you meet the requirements using this method. Simply providing bank statements will not be sufficient and preparing the appropriate documents is a technically demanding task.

Returning to the UK with your Partner

If you and your partner are intending to return to the UK together there is a provision to allow you to meet the financial route despite obviously not being employed in the UK at the time of application. You (the sponsor) must have a confirmed job offer from a job willing to pay at least £18,600 which starts within 3 months of your planned return to the UK. You must provide evidence of this with your application.

10 Year Route

Should you fail to meet the financial requirements listed under the permitted routes it is possible you may be granted discretionary leave under what is known as the 10 year route. You will still have to demonstrate your partner will have adequate accommodation and be supported without recourse to public funds. How this evidence is provided can take many forms.

Whether you are granted leave despite failing to meet the financial requirements is discretionary and things like the best interests of any children you have, and whether there are insurmountable obstacles to you and your partner making a life together in another country.

 

Meeting the financial requirements for a spouse visa can be incredibly complex and evidence heavy. We strongly advise that you take professional advice when applying for this visa category. Our experts have extensive experience managing family visas and are happy to help. Get in touch on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected] for a consultation.

Child Registration Fee Declared Unlawful

The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court’s previous ruling that the £1012 fee the Home Office charges in order to register a child as a British Citizen is unlawful. The basis of this ruling is that the cost is prohibitively high, does not reflect the actual administrative costs, and results in alienation and ‘othering’ of children with a right to citizenship who are unable to access this due to financial limitations. The actual process of registering a child costs the Home Office £372 and the Home Office claims to use the remaining £640 profit they make to cross-subsidise other parts of the immigration system.

It is difficult to see why it should fall to children and their families to subsidise other aspects of the immigration system and the judge today pointed out that the system failed to consider the impact of this on the children in question’s rights, pointing out that for many families, particularly those with multiple children, it was “difficult to see how the fee could be afforded at all”.

The original judgment was made by a High Court judge in December 2019. The judge ruled that the fee was unlawful on the basis of substantial evidence that there were many children who were unable to register for citizenship as a result of the prohibitively high fee. This made them feel “alienated, second best and not fully assimilated into the culture and social fabric of the UK”.

The ruling indicated that the department had failed to take into consideration the best interests of these children or give primary consideration to those interests when considering the level at which to set the fee. The Home Office appealed unsuccessfully against this ruling, and must now reconsider the fee, taking into account the best interests of the children as they do so.

It has not yet been announced what the new fee might be, or how the Home Office will respond to this ruling, but it is likely this will lead to a reduction in fees for children applying to register as British citizens, so watch this space for further news.

If you would like to find out more about your child’s eligibility for British citizenship, or any other UK immigration matter, we can help. Get in touch on 01403 801 801 or send us an email at [email protected] for a consultation with one of our experts.

What Records Do I Need to Keep for Employees on Skilled Worker Visas?

As of the 1st of January 2021, firms hoping to employ EU workers will now need to apply for a sponsor license in order to employ workers from any country outside of the UK or Ireland. This is because Freedom of Movement from the EU has now ended and these workers are required to apply for entry clearance under the same system as non-EU nationals.

For many companies this will be their first time holding a sponsor license and the duties can seem overwhelming, with serious consequences for even innocent mistakes. One of the most common areas where sponsors are likely to run into trouble is the requirement to keep extensive records for their sponsored workers.

In this article we will provide a brief summary of the document keeping requirements, but there are many other complex aspects to sponsoring overseas workers.

The following is a summary of the documents which you must keep for all sponsored workers. It is not intended to be exhaustive or a replacement for consulting the official immigration rules, which can be located in Appendix D.

We highly recommend you take professional advice when sponsoring overseas workers, as non-compliance can result in your license being revoked, which then results in all sponsored employees losing their right to work for you and indeed to remain in the UK. You may also struggle to become licensed again in the future with a history of non-compliance.

You must keep the following records, and be aware that the Home Office has the right to inspect them so you should ensure they can be accessed easily if requested. You may also be required to keep some other records not listed here depending on your individual circumstances.

  • Records of the migrant’s absences, which may be kept electronically or manually.
  • Copy of their current passport and both sides of the BRP card. This can be a hard copy or a scanned copy in a format which cannot be manually altered, such as a jpeg or pdf document. You should keep the copies securely for the duration of the person’s employment and for a further two years after they stop working for you. You should also be able to produce these document copies quickly in the event that you are requested to show them to demonstrate that you have performed a right to work check and retain a statutory excuse. You must also make a note of the date on which you conducted the check. This can be by either making a dated declaration on the copy or by holding a separate record, securely, which can be shown to us upon request. This date may be written on the document copy as follows: ‘the date on which this right to work check was made: [insert date]’ or a manual or digital record may be made at the time you conduct and copy the documents which includes this information.
  • A history of the migrant’s contact details to include UK residential address, telephone number and mobile telephone number. This must be kept up to date with any changes to these details.
  • Copies of the migrant’s payslips, clearly showing the name, NI number, tax code, any allowances paid, and deductions made
  • A copy of any contract of employment or for services, or a written statement of employment particulars, between the sponsor and the migrant which clearly shows the names and signatures of all parties involved, the start and end dates of the contract, details of the job the migrant has been contracted to do and an indication of how much the migrant will be paid.

 

We offer assistance with record keeping and compliance as part of the ongoing support we offer for the duration of your sponsor license, should you instruct us to manage it. If you will be sponsoring migrant workers we advise you take professional advice. Get in touch on 01403 801 801 or at [email protected] for more information about how our experts can help you with all aspects of the license process including application and ongoing compliance.

Introducing the New Visa for Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas)

As of 31/01/2021 the new visa for Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) will be open for new applicants. In this blog we will give an overview of the eligibility requirements as well as the kind of activities successful applicants are able to undertake while present on this visa.

 

Who Can Apply?

Anyone with British national (overseas) status. You don’t need a British national (overseas) passport in order to apply, and if you have one but it is expired you don’t need to apply for a new one. If you have an expired one however you should submit this with your application.

You will need a valid travel document but this can be a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport. You can apply from inside or outside the UK.

If you apply from outside the UK you and your family must normally be resident in Hong Kong. If you apply from inside the UK you must be normally resident in the UK, Hong Kong, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man.

How Long Can I Stay For?

You will initially be granted 5 years of leave or 2.5 years of leave after which you will be able to extend it for a further 2.5 years. After 5 years on this route you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. After holding Indefinite Leave to Remain for 12 moths you will be able to apply for British Citizenship.

What Can I do?

You can work, study, and use the NHS (National Health Service). If you have children they will be able to attend school for free if they are under 18.

You will not be able access public funds (social welfare benefits and similar)

How Much Does it Cost?

The visa application itself will cost £180 for 2.5 years or £250 for 5 years (although the Home Office has not made it clear under what circumstances an application could be made for 5 years).

You will also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge as a mandatory part of the application. This costs £1,560 for 2.5 years or £3,120 for 5 years per adult applicant and £1,175 per 2.5 years and £2,350 per 5 years per child under 18.

Can I Bring my Family?

This visa category allows for dependants to accompany the main applicant regardless of whether they themselves are British nationals (overseas). Your family must apply at the same time as you, they cannot apply to join you later.

Your family members must normally live with you and may include the following

-Spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner,

-Child under 18

– Adult child born on or after 1 July 1997 (and their spouse, or child under the age of 18)

– Extended family members like parents, grandparents or siblings where there is a high level of dependency and exceptional circumstances.

What Documents Will I Need?

You will need to provide the following:

  • Evidence you can financially support yourself and your family for 6 months (this might take the form of bank statements or letters from friends and family)
  • A TB certificate (If you normally live in Hong Kong or have been living in another country requiring a TB test in the past 6 months OR you are in the UK and your last grant of leave was for 6 months or less)
  • Evidence of where you normally live.

 

We recommend everyone takes professional advice when applying for a visa. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you apply for the British National (overseas) visa, or any other UK visa, please gives us a call on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected] for a consultation.

Graduate Visa Route to Open for Applications From 1st of July 2021

The government has announced today (4th March 2021) that the new Graduate route will be open for applications from the 1st of July 2021. Here’s what it means for you at a glance.

 

Who Can Apply?

International students who have completed a degree at an undergraduate level or higher and have a valid Tier 4 or Student visa at the time of application. Applicants who have previously studied in the UK but do not currently have Tier 4 or student leave will unfortunately not be eligible.

How Much Will it Cost?

Applicants will have to pay a £700 application fee as well as the Immigration Health Surcharge at a rate of £624 per year (so £1248)

How Long Can I Stay?

Successful applicants will be able to stay for 2 years (3 years for doctoral students). This period of time will not count towards settlement but they will be able to switch in country to the Skilled Worker route if they are successful in finding a job with a company willing to sponsor them. They may also be able to switch under the family route if they have a British or settled partner. You are not able to extend your stay under the same visa route.

Can my Dependants Apply with Me?

Any individuals who were present with you as dependants on your Tier 4 or Student visa will be able to apply to remain with you as your dependants, however you will not be able to add new dependants after you have applied.

Do I Need a Sponsor?

No you do not need a sponsor for this route although if you choose to stay in the UK you will need one in order to switch to the Skilled Worker route. Your university will also not have to sponsor you or fulfil and sponsorship duties in relation to your application under this route once they have notified the Home Office that you have successfully completed your course.

What Am I Allowed to do on this Visa?

You can work, rent property, marry and use the NHS on this visa. You may not however access public funds, (for example housing benefits or Universal Credit). You can switch in country to a Skilled Worker Visa.

 

If you think you may be eligible for this visa route, or any other, we can help. Get in touch on 01403 801 801 or at [email protected] for a consultation with one of our experts. 

Can I swap my Tier 2 ICT visa to the new Skilled Worker Visa?

London skyline at sunset which UK Visas serves with its immigration services

With the new Skilled Worker visa now having replaced the old Tier 2 (General) visa there are a number of changes which will be relevant to those present in the UK on the old Tier 2 system. One of the most common questions we get asked is whether individuals currently present on a Tier 2 (ICT) visa will be able to switch to the new Skilled Worker visa.

Under the previous system it was generally not possible to switch from a Tier 2 (ICT) visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa in-country and applicants hoping to make the switch were also subject to a 12 month cooling off period which must be spent outside the UK. Tier 2 (ICT) also contained no route to settlement, unlike the Tier 2 (General) route and the new Skilled Worker visa which allow individuals to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK after 5 years of continuous residence.

Thankfully under the new system the 12 month cooling off period has been abolished and applicants will be able to apply to switch in country provided they have not spent more than 5 out of the past 6 years present on a Tier 2 (ICT) visa. Most applicants present on a Tier 2 (ICT) visa will easily meet the requirements for the new Skilled Worker visa given that they will have had to have been in a role at RQF level 6 (the Skilled Worker visa only requires RQF level 3) and will have had to have been paid a minimum of £41,500 which is well above the Skilled Worker threshold of £25,600.

Applicants hoping to switch will still have to be sponsored in their new role and must meet the English Language requirements, which they may not have had to demonstrate when they applied for their Tier 2 (ICT) visa. It should be noted that time spent on a Tier 2 (ICT) visa will not be counter towards the 5 year residence period required for settlement in the UK on the Skilled Worker route. The clock will start from the date of issue of the Skilled Worker visa.

If you have a job offer in the UK and your company requires help with either the visa application process or the sponsor license application process we can help. Get in touch with us on 01403 801 801 [email protected] for a consultation.

Sponsor Licences – What’s the Difference Between a Small Company and a Large Company?

 

If you want to sponsor overseas workers (including those from the EU after 01/01/2021) you will need a sponsor licence. The fees and costs associated vary depending on whether you are a small, large or charitable sponsor. Here we’ll explain how to determine which category you fall into and what difference it makes.

 

Small Companies and Charitable Sponsors:

Companies fall into this category if they are either registered charities or meet two of the three following requirements:

-They have a turnover of £10.2 million or less

-They have a balance sheet total of no more than £5.1 million

-They have 50 employees or fewer.

 

Medium or Large Sponsors:

Companies that do not meet the above requirements will be classed as medium or large sponsors (for the purpose of obtaining a sponsor licence there is no distinction between medium and large). The following organisations are automatically classed as a large company regardless of actual size:

-Public Companies

-Insurance Companies

-Banking Companies

-E-Money issuers

 

What’s The Difference?

There are a few fees which differ depending on the size of your company:

Sponsor Licence Application Fee – This is the fee you will need to pay in order to apply for your initial sponsor licence. It will cost £536 for a small or charitable organisation and £1476 for a small organisation. The licence will cover you for 4 years after which it will need to be renewed.

Immigration Skills Charge – (Unless the individual is switching from a Tier 4 (student) visa to a Skilled Worker visa, will do a job with a PhD level standard occupational classification, or has a Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainee visa).

Small or charitable sponsors – £364 for the first 12 months and then £182 for each 6 month period after that.

For medium or large sponsors it will cost £1000 for the first 12 months and £500 for each additional 6 month period.

This will be refunded if the worker’s visa is refused or they do not start working with you. You will get a partial refund if they leave their job before the end date on the CoS.

 

In Conclusion

It is important to make sure you have assessed the size of your organisation prior to applying for a sponsor licence and are aware of the costs. For a more comprehensive view of the costs associated with sponsoring overseas workers, please see our blog here.

 

We are experienced in advising both employers and individuals in relation to the sponsorship process. Should you require any further information about this please get in touch with one of our experts on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected].

What does a UK Sponsor License Level 1 User Do?

A level one user is the person within your business who is responsible for the day to day management of your sponsor license. They will use the sponsorship management system (SMS) to fulfil this role.

They might also act as your authorising officer (responsible for all staff and representatives who use the SMS) and your key contact (your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration). You can also appoint an immigration adviser to act as your level 1 user.

If they are employed internally they are normally HR personnel. They must be one of the following:

  • A paid staff member within your organisation
  • An employee of a third party organisation which delivers all or part of your HR function
  • A UK-based representative.

They cannot be independent contractors, project-specific consultants, or temporary staff supplied by an employment agency. They also cannot be bankrupt.

When you apply for the sponsor license the Authorising Officer is normally your level 1 user because you can only assign one person during the application process. After the sponsor license has been granted, they can then add additional users using the SMS.

You can have as many level 1 users as you like but the Authorising Officer is responsible for their conduct, and it can be difficult to oversee level 1 activity for a large number of people. For this reason it is normally best to have 2-3 level 1 users. This ensures they can be supervised appropriately, but also means that in the case of illness or annual leave somebody will be available to perform level 1 duties.

Under normal circumstances at least 1 of your level 1 users must be a settled worker, ie they have the right to reside and work in the UK free from immigration restrictions. They might have Indefinite Leave to Remain or be a British Citizen.

 

If you need help managing your sponsor license or employing overseas workers, we can help. Get in touch for a consultation on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected]

A summary of coming changes to the UK immigration system

 

As of 01/01/2021 there will be a number of changes to the UK immigration system, including the introduction of the new points based system, a summary of which can be found here.

 

Changes to take place from 01.12.2020

  • EU nationals cannot apply for leave to remain under routes other than Appendix EU, Appendix S2 Healthcare Visitor or Appendix Service Providers from Switzerland, before 11pm on 31 December. They can apply for any Entry Clearance before then, but any leave will be granted to start on 1 January 2021.

 

As of January 1 2021 they will have to apply for entry under the same rules as non-EU nationals.

 

COVID 19

 

  • The rules have been amended to allow caseworkers to disregard overstaying between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 as a result of Covid-19.
  • Absences due to a “pandemic” will be added on as an exception to the 180 day rule for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship applications.

 

English Language

 

  • Malta has been added as a majority English speaking country.
  • Applicants will only need to prove English once and will not need to continue to provide evidence of their English language ability for subsequent applications (For example when applying for Set-O after 5 years on a Tier 2 visa which required you to demonstrate English Language. You will only need to demonstrate your English language ability again if the requirements have changed (for example Life Skills A1 for an initial spouse visa application and A2 for the extension)
  • Degrees from Republic of Ireland can be used to demonstrate English Language ability.
  • The rules will allow applicants to rely on GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK to prove English language. This last change will, initially, only apply to applications for students, skilled workers, start-up and innovator migrants.

 

Maintenance

 

  • Skilled Workers, ICT, Students, Tier 2 Ministers of Religion, Tier 2 Sportpersons, Tier 5 (Temporary Workers), Start-up and Innovator applicants will NOT need to meet the maintenance requirement if they have been in the UK for more than 12 months.
  • Maintenance figure increased from £945 to £1,270 and applicants are now required to show they have held the funds for 28 days (rather than 90 days).
  • For most dependants, the maintenance requirement is reduced from £630 to £285 for a dependant partner, £315 for the first child applying and £200 for each subsequent child
  • The maintenance requirement for Youth Mobility Applicants will be increased from £1,890 to £2,530 and applicants are now required to show they have held the funds for 28 days

 

 

Appendix FM (Family Visas)

 

  • Will expand to include new family members of EU nationals with limited leave under EUSS – so family members not covered by the EUSS. We believe this is likely to be limited to spouses, partners and children under 18 only, but are awaiting confirmation.

 

 

Visitors

  • Holders of visit visas can now study for up to 6 months rather than 30 days. The short term study visa will still be available for those wanting to study for 6-11 months

 

 

Skilled Worker route

 

  • Largely this is unchanged from the information summarised here https://ukvisas.co.uk/new-uk-immigration-system-july-update/
  • The 12-month “cooling off period” and six-year maximum length of stay in the route are being removed for both Tier 2 General and ICT.
  • The £35,800 salary threshold for indefinite leave to remain applications is being removed, and replaced with £25,600 or the going rate for the occupation.
  • MAC Shortage Occupation recommendations have been put on hold as the government wants to see how the UK labour marker develops post COVID and after the introduction of new PBS system.
  • For an application to be valid, the COS must have been issued [This means you cannot submit an application now without a COS and then supply the COS later].

 

Tier 2 ICT

  • High earner is now £73,900. Migrants on this route can have leave up to 9 years and do not need to have worked for the business for 12 months prior to application.
  • Time limit – 5 years in any 6-year rolling period or, for high earners, up to 9 years in any 10-year rolling period.

 

Turkish nationals

 

  • Will also need to meet the new Immigration rules from 31.12.2020

 

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme

 

  • San Marino is being added to the list – 1000 spots will be allocated
  • Republic of Korea is also being added.

 

British National Overseas Visa (For those in Hong Kong)

 

Please see our summary here https://ukvisas.co.uk/the-hong-kong-bno-visa-what-is-it-and-how-can-i-get-it/) this route will be opening on 31.01.2021 and there will be two routes available. One will be for holders of British National Overseas Status and one will be for their household members.

 

Skilled Worker category:

 

New Entrants

In addition to having a job offer on Table 1 of Appendix Skilled Occupation (which will replace  Appendix J) the applicant must

 

(a) be under the age of 26 on the date of application; or

 

(b) the job offer must be for a postdoctoral position in any of the following occupation codes: 2111, 2112, 2113, 2114, 2119. 2311 or

 

(c) the job offer must be in a UK regulated profession and the applicant must be working towards a recognised professional qualification for that profession; or

 

(d) the applicant must be working towards full registration or chartered status with the relevant professional body for the job they are being sponsored for; or

 

(e) the application must be for permission to stay and the applicant’s most recent permission must have been as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrant; or

 

(f) all of the following conditions apply:

(i) the applicant’s most recent permission was as a Student: and

(ii) that permission expired less than 2 years before the date of application; and

(iii) in that permission or any previous permission as a Student, the applicant was sponsored to study one of the following courses (not any other qualifications of an equivalent level):

  • a UK bachelor’s degree; or UK master’s degree; or UK PhD or other doctoral qualification; or Postgraduate Certificate in Education; or Professional Graduate Diploma of Education; and

(iv) the applicant has completed (or is applying no more than 3 months before they are expected to complete) the course in (iii) above, or the applicant is studying a PhD and has completed at least 12 months study in the UK towards the PhD.

 

Granting the application must not mean the applicant’s combined permission as a Skilled Worker and/or Tier 2 Migrant would be more than 4 years in total, whether or not the permission is for a continuous period.

 

 

Settlement

In addition, to the salary threshold changing to £25,600 or the going rate for the occupation, the following also applies:

Other salary reductions permitted through tradeable points will not apply to settlement applications. Therefore those sponsored in shortage occupations or listed health or education occupations who may have been paid £20,480 per year, for settlement application, their salary must equal or exceed the going rate for the occupation

 

Allowances under the Skilled Worker category

Allowances can only be included in salary calculations for applicants who are applying before 1 December 2026 and were last granted permission as a Tier 2 (General) Migrant, provided they are still working for the same sponsor as in their previous permission, and the allowances are guaranteed for the duration of the applicant’s permission. If not fitting into the above then the following applies and basically means allowances will not be permitted to be included in a salary:

 

Salary only includes guaranteed basic gross pay (before income tax and including employee pension and national insurance contributions).

Salary does not include other pay and benefits, such as any of the following:

(a) pay which cannot be guaranteed because the nature of the job means that hours fluctuate; or

(b) additional pay such as shift, overtime or bonus pay, (whether or not it is guaranteed); or

(c) employer pension and employer national insurance contributions; or

(d) any allowances, such as accommodation or cost of living allowances; or

(e) in-kind benefits, such as equity shares, health insurance, school or university fees, company cars or food; or

(f) one-off payments, such as ‘golden hellos’; or

(g) any payments relating to immigration costs, such as the fee or Immigration Health Charge; or

(h) payments to cover business expenses, including (but not limited to) travel to and from the applicant’s country of residence, equipment, clothing, travel or subsistence.

 

Tradeable points

For applications made before 24 May 2023, if applicant previously had permission as T2 general migrant with a COS given to them before 24 November 2016, then they do not need to score 20 tradeable points In these cases, 20 tradeable points will be awarded for a salary of £20,800 or above, or, if higher, the going rate for the occupation code.

 

If you have a query about the new rules or require help with an immigration issue, please get in touch with us for a consultation on 01403 801 801 or at [email protected]

How to Get Your Immigration Health Surcharge Refund

 

Can You Get My Immigration Health Surcharge Refund For Me?

As a private immigration firm we are not affiliated with the Home Office and unfortunately cannot manage the process of getting a refund on your immigration health surcharge (IHS) unless we managed your application. If you believe you are owed a refund please check the government website for details of eligibility and how to apply and see our quick guide below.

 

If You Work in Health and Care

You may be eligible to get a refund of any IHS you paid to cover the period from 31/03/2020 but not before this date. You must have been in an eligible role for at least 6 months since 31/03/2020 and have worked at least 16 hours per week. The role must be eligible under the current government rules. If you meet the conditions and dependents will also be entitled to the refund.

You will get £200 for every 6 months you have paid and will need to apply every 6 months. You can apply here.

 

If you’re Eligible for the Health and Care Visa

If you have a Tier 2 Health and Care visa, or would have been eligible for one on or after 04/08/2020 then you should automatically get a full refund if you paid the IHS on or after 31/03/2020. If you have not yet received it please email the IHS refund team with your name, your sponsor’s name, your CoS number and your IHS number. The email you should use to contact the Home Office is [email protected]. The refunds will be paid to the account or card you originally paid with so do not send your bank details. Do not use this email address for other queries as they will be ignored.

 

Other Immigration Health Surcharge Refunds

You will be refunded for your Immigration Health Surcharge if you pay twice, your visa application is refused or you withdraw your application. You will get a partial refund for any refused dependants or if you get less time on your visa than you applied for.

If you are granted a visa but do not come to the UK, leave the UK before your visa ends, are told to leave the UK before your visa expires, or apply for ILR you will not be eligible for a refund.

 

How Long Does it Take?

It should arrive within 6 weeks, although it may take longer if you appeal or ask for an administrative review where your visa application was refused. If you do not receive it within 6 weeks you could contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) https://www.gov.uk/contact-ukvi-inside-outside-uk

 

If you would like help managing a visa application, including the new Health and Care visa, we can help. Get in touch for a consultation on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected]

Immigration Health Surcharge Increase to be Delayed Until October 27th

The Immigration Health Surcharge payable by almost all migrants on a temporary visa was due to rise from £400 a year to £624 as of October 1st. This has however been delayed. The draft order which set the original date for October 1st has now been replaced by a new draft order. The new draft order will still hike up the surcharge but it only comes into force 21 days after it is made into law, as it has now been signed it will come into force on October 27th.

This provides a bit of leeway for those scrambling to get their applications in before the surcharge rises, but individuals should still work hard to ensure their application is in before October 27th in order to avoid paying the higher fee. The new order also sets out that applicants applying under the new Health and Care visa will be exempt from the surcharge while students and their dependents, Youth Mobility Visa holders and anyone under 18 will only have to pay a reduced rate of £470.

How Much Does it Cost to Sponsor Someone for a UK Work Visa?

Readers should note these costs are likely to change in 2021 when the government launches its new points based system. At the time of writing (17/08/2020) the Immigration Health Surcharge is £400 per year, but this will be raised to £624 per year from 01/10/2024.

 

What are the Costs?

Companies MUST pay the following to sponsor a Tier 2 worker

  • Immigration Skills Charge (unless the individual is switching from a Tier 4 (student) visa to a Tier 2 visa, will do a job with a PhD level standard occupational classification, or has a Tier 2 (ICT) Graduate Trainee visa).

 

For small, or charitable sponsors this costs £364 for the first 12 months and then £182 for each 6 month period after that. For medium or large sponsors it will cost £1000 for the first 12 months and £500 for each additional 6 month period. This will be refunded if the worker’s visa is refused or they do not start working with you. You will get a partial refund if they leave their job before the end date on the CoS.

  • Sponsor Licence fee (if not already licensed) £536 for a small or charitable sponsor, £1476 if a medium or large sponsor. (small is defined as £10.2 million or less annual turnover and 50 employees or fewer). This is for 4 years, after which it will need to be renewed.
  • Issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship. This will cost £199 regardless of the size of the company.

 In addition to the above the following is also payable for a Tier 2 visa.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge – £400 a year (going up to £624) 01/10/2020
  • Application fee outside the UK – Shortage (3 years or less): £464. Non-shortage (3 years or less) £610. Inside the UK (extending or switching). Shortage (3 years or less): £464. Non-shortage (3 years or less) £704.
  • Biometric enrolment fee – £19.20
  • UKVCAS appointment fee – £0-£210 (depends on location and time)
  • Expedited processing (optional) – decision in 5 working days = £500, 24 hours = £80

 

Who Pays What?

The Immigration Skills Charge must be paid by the employer, but other costs can be split between employer and applicant. You might for instance decide that you are happy to pay for the application fee but ask the employee to pay for their own Immigration Health Surcharge. This is a matter to work out with your employee prior to applying.

 

What About Family Members?

Family members must also pay their own application fees and Immigration Health Surcharges, meaning these costs increase significantly for every additional applicant. You should ask how many family members your potential employee hopes to bring with them and reach an agreement on who will be responsible for the costs.

 

Case Study: Single Worker

Holly runs a small veterinary practice and is hoping to employ a new veterinary surgeon. One of her employees mentions she has a friend from university, Marcia, who is a Brazilian national and performed top of the class. Holly interviews Marcia and she is perfect for the role so Holly decides to sponsor her for 3 years. Marcia has no partner or children.

Veterinary Surgeon’s are considered a shortage occupation, and Holly’s business is a small family business. As such the cost will be:

  • Sponsor License £536
  • Certificate of Sponsorship – £199
  • Immigration Skills Charge – £1092
  • Immigration Health Surcharge – £1200
  • Application Fee (shortage) £464

This totals £4027, which seems like a formidable amount for a small company, but is very much towards the lower end of the scale. As you can see with our next case study, once you start adding dependants or considering bigger companies, costs can quickly spiral.

 

Case Study: Family of 5

Garima runs a large company with branches all over the world which manufactures luxury cars. She wants to employ Jin, a Chinese national, as a project co-ordinator as he has been introduced to her by an employee of one of the company’s overseas branches. Jin accepts the job offer on the condition that his wife and 3 children are able to travel with him. Garima offers to sponsor him for 3 years.

Project Co-ordinator is not considered a shortage application and Garima’s company is a large multinational outfit so she will have to pay the higher fee for the sponsor license.

The costs will be:

  • Sponsor License £1476
  • Certificate of Sponsorship – £199
  • Immigration Skills Charge (Large company) – £3000
  • Immigration Health Surcharge x 5 – £6000
  • Application Fee x 5 – £3,050

This totals £13,725 even without accounting for any additional fees relating to courier service, priority service, or even fees related with using an immigration firm. This is an amount which many employers will balk at being asked to pay. It is important to discuss with the potential employee exactly how much of the cost each party will take responsibility for paying (for instant perhaps the applicant pays the Immigration Health Surcharge, or all costs associated with their dependants). It might also be useful to work out some sort of repayment scheme with employees that don’t have the necessary savings at the time of application. This is particularly relevant where the potential employee is from a country with an unfavourable exchange rate and/or comparatively low earnings which may have made it hard for them to accrue the necessary savings.

 

If you are interested in employing non-EEA nationals to work for your business (or EEA nationals after 01/01/2021) and would like help with a sponsor license or the application process we can help. Give us a call on 01403 801 801 or email us at [email protected]

The Hong Kong BN(O) Visa – What is it and How Can I Get it?

What is this Visa?

If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately you have undoubtedly heard a lot about China’s relationship with Hong Kong and the controversial new National Security Law it aims to impose upon people living there. The UK considers this law a serious breach of the 1984 Sino-British declaration which also undermines the “one country, two systems” agreement. In response, the UK government has announced it will create a bespoke immigration route which will allow British National (Overseas) citizens who live in Hong Kong to move to the UK with their family to work and study.

If you are not familiar with the intricacies of immigration law or the UK’s role in Hong Kong’s history you might wonder exactly what being a British National (Overseas) citizen means, and why there are so many of them in Hong Kong. To explain simply and without derailing this blog into a long historical thesis is difficult, but in short BN(O) was a nationality status opened to people living in some British Dependent Territories as a result of these locations’ historical ties with the UK. These individuals have no automatic right of residence and have traditionally had to apply for entry clearance in the same way as other non-EU nationals. This new visa greatly increases the immigration rights associated with being a British National (Overseas) citizen in Hong Kong, allowing people with this status to migrate to the UK without a job offer or sponsor.

Who Can Apply?

British National (Overseas) citizens who are normally resident in Hong Kong as well as their immediate family. This can include a spouse, unmarried partner, dependent child and ‘other family members where they can show there is a high level of dependency’. Unmarried partners will have to show evidence they have been living together in a ‘relationship similar to a marriage or civil partnership’ for at least 2 years. This will likely involve providing documents such as tenancy agreements or utility bills in both parties’ names.

Applicants will also need to show a commitment to learning English if they do not already have a good command of the language, as well as be willing to pay an application fee and an Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 a year.

What Can I Do in the UK?

You will be able to work and study in the UK and at this point no restrictions have been announced on the type of work or study you will be permitted to undertake.

You will not be allowed to use any public funds until you achieve Indefinite Leave to Remain or full British Citizenship. You will also have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 a year in order to access the NHS (£400 if you enter on this route outside the rules before October 2020).

Can I Live Here Permanently?

Yes, this visa will offer a route to permanent residency after 5 years continuous residence in the UK, and citizenship after 1 year of permanent residency.

When Will Applications Open?

This route will be officially open from January 2021, made available at the same time as the government’s new points-based system.

What if I Want to Come Now?

The government has issued guidance for those who wish to come to the UK before the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa is available. If you are not eligible under any existing paths it may be possible for you to apply at the UK border for a period of 6 months ‘Leave Outside the Rules’. You will be able to apply with dependants and will need to show your identity, your BN(O) citizen status, that you normally live in Hong Kong, and that you can support yourself financially.

This route might be of interest to anybody who feels like they may be in immediate danger as the result of the new law. In order to prove your residence in Hong Kong you should bring documents to the border with you such as a voter’s card, identity card, letter from the local council, medical card etc. and make it clear that you are intending to make an application outside of the rules as a British National (Overseas) Citizen from Hong Kong.

What Documents Will be Needed?

You will need to provide:

  • A valid passport (Does not need to be a BN(O) passport).
  • Documentation to prove your BN(O) status. This can include an expired or current passport.
  • Evidence you normally reside in Hong Kong.
  • Evidence you can support yourself financially for at least 6 months (there is no guidance at present on how much would be required to satisfy this).
  • A TB test from a clinic approved by the Home Office.

 

If you are interested in this route, or need other immigration advice, we can help. Email us at [email protected] or call us on 01403 801 801 for a consultation.

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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.