Changes to the Sole Representatives of Overseas Business Visa Route

The Sole Representative visa allows overseas businesses to establish a presence for the company in the UK. Under this route, a senior representative from the company can seek to enter the UK to set up a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of the business in the UK.

The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules released by the Home Office last week included tightening of the rules surrounding the Representatives of Overseas Businesses visa category, otherwise known as the ‘Sole Representative visa’.

Some of the main changes are as follows:

  • Tighter restrictions for business stakeholders – Previously, a majority shareholder (51% shareholding or more) could not apply under this route. The rules will now prevent people using this route when they have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control the overseas business.
  • Changes to dependent applications  –the partner cannot “have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control, that overseas business, whether that ownership or control is by means of a shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship or any other arrangement”. Cumulatively, it appears that the partner and representative can together have a majority or more than a majority, but neither can individually. This means a sole representative could not transfer ownership/control or shares to their partner accompanying them to the UK to meet the requirement.
  • Genuine intention – The new wording states that the business’s branch or subsidiary shouldn’t be established solely to facilitate entry.
  • Skills and experience – Applicants must now be able to prove they have the necessary skills, experience, knowledge and authority to represent the overseas business in the UK.

For future applications, these changes mean increased scrutiny and more stringent evidence requirements to prove applicants are not using this route as a personal means of gaining entry to the UK.

These changes take effect from 4th June 2020 and will present many challenges.

If your business is looking to expand in the UK,  legal expertise may be even more beneficial than before with the UK tightening the rules around this route.

Should you require our assistance, please contact our team on 01403801801 or drop us an email on info@ukvisas.co.uk

Free visa extensions announced for frontline health and care workers

Home Secretary had announced on 31 March that around 2,800 doctors, nurses and paramedics with leave due to expire by 1 October would get a free one-year extension. Family members are included and there are no fees involved.

On 29 April, the department announced that it was extending the scheme to cover other “frontline workers, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists” with visas due to expiring before 1 October. There appears to be no comprehensive list of the professions covered.

letter to the Home Affairs Committee on the same date confirmed that the extensions are available to anyone on the list of professions covered — whatever that list maybe — who is subject to immigration control, “not just sponsored migrant workers on Tier 2 (General) or Tier 5 visa”.

My 30 day entry visa has expired – what should I do?

Many of those who applied for a visa outside the UK and were granted their 30 day vignette to enter, but were unable to travel due to the virus, had been left in a limbo of what to do. There was an increasing worry amongst people having to incur extra costs to apply for a replacement.

The UKVI have updated their guidance today and have given much needed guidance on this issue:

If your 30 day visa to work, study or join family has expired

If your 30 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, you can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year.

To make a request, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. You’ll need to include your name, nationality, date of birth and your GWF reference number with ‘REPLACEMENT 30 DAY VISA’ in the subject line. If you’ve already contacted us about this, please let us know in your email.

You’ll be contacted when our VAC’s reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in your passport.

You will not be penalised for being unable to collect your BRP while coronavirus measures are in place.

This process will be in place until the end of 2020.

 

We are pleased that UKVI have taken positive steps to help those stuck overseas and that the process is free of charge. Now the question remains as to when the VAC’s open and how much backlog there will be.

If you have any questions or require our assistance with your immigration matter, please call us on 01403 801801 or contact us on info@ukvisas.co.uk.

Tier 2 workers and Coronavirus: changing employment

Pre lockdown, many Tier 2 employees may have been in the process of changing employment. Due to the lockdown, many have been unable to progress their application. This undoubtedly would be causing many anxiety and fear over their visa status.

The UKVI has now updated their COVID 19 guidance to state the following:

If you’re sponsoring an employee who’s waiting for their Tier 2 or 5 visa application to be decided Sponsors may allow employees to start work before their visa application has been decided if:

  • sponsors have assigned them a CoS
  • the employee submitted their visa application before their current visa expired
  • the role they are employed in is the same as the one on their CoS

The sponsors reporting responsibilities will start from the date of employment, not from the date that their application is granted. If the employee’s application is eventually refused sponsors must terminate their employment.

This will be of some relief to those who were expecting to start new employment. Employment with the new sponsor on the agreed start date, as long as the above conditions are satisfied. Please note that biometrics do not have to have been enrolled.

If you require assistance with any of your immigration issues, please get it in touch with our experienced consultants on info@ukvisas.co.uk or call us on 01403 801801.

Pressing Coronavirus problems the UKVI needs to address

Applicants who have successfully applied for a UK visa from overseas but are now unable to travel to the UK.

This is perhaps the most pressing concern for a lot of overseas applicants. Once being granted a visa, an applicant must enter the UK before their entry clearance vignette expires. While this can be extended, it can only be extended for a further month, and the process is not free. There is no guarantee that travel conditions will be any better in a month which could result in wasted money, and besides, PBS applicants may also be tied to the work start date on their CoS.

The Home Office needs to allow extension of work start dates for overseas applicants until the end of the year as well as make allowances for applicants to enter the UK using entry vignettes which have expired but were acquired during the COVID-19 crisis. Vignettes issued until the end of the COVID-19 crisis could benefit from being granted for a longer period to allow entry into the UK where possible. The current uncertainty for overseas applicants and sponsoring companies, both who have made significant financial investments into the visa, is not sustainable and we hope will be addressed in future updates.

We advise any individuals stranded overseas to take a printout/screenshot of the FCO travel guidance for the country to have as proof when it is time to apply for ILR or BC applications.

Visa-holders who are unable to collect their BRPs from post-offices or register with the police due to self-isolation.

Currently, individuals have a 10 day from arrival or before the expiry of the temporary vignette in which to collect their BRP from the post-office after arriving in the UK. With many people coming into the UK required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival, it is not possible for them to obey government guidelines on social-distancing as well as collect their BRP within 10 days.

This problem could be overcome by either extending the window in which individuals must collect the BRP or allowing another individual to collect the BRP on the visa holder’s behalf, for example, their legal representative. Similar extensions could be applied to registering with the police which must normally be done within 7 days.

 

Visa-holders who are stranded overseas for a period which may invalidate their application for ILR or British Citizenship

Current eligibility requirements for ILR or British Citizenship specify the applicant has not spent more than a certain period (ordinarily 6 months out of every year) out of the UK. This could present problems for those stranded abroad who have exceeded this six-month limit. This is particularly relevant for those hoping to apply for ILR after 5 years on Tier 2 (General) visa, who are unable to renew their tier 2 visa beyond 6 years to clear the period of lengthy absence from their record.

The Home Office should recognise the COVID-19 crisis as an exceptional circumstance and absences from the UK relating to the crisis should not count against an applicant where they can evidence that they were not able to return to the UK due to circumstances beyond their control.

 

Applicants who require IELTS or Life in the UK to make their application

For some individuals, the next step in their visa process comes with added academic requirements. Applicants for spouse visa extensions are required to show their English has improved and must sit A2 if they previously relied on A1 for their first visa. Applicants hoping to achieve ILR must pass the Life in the UK test. As test centres for both these tests are now closed, those whose visas are running out are left wondering whether they should submit their application without these qualifications, which would ordinarily render it unsuccessful, or risk overstaying until the centres re-enter.

The Home Office should clarify whether applicants applying in-country for an extension may also be able to extend their visas until 31/05/2020 to sit their tests, or whether applications will still be considered valid without sitting the tests given the exceptional circumstances

If you have any Coronavirus related issues with your visa, or any issues you feel have not been addressed by the Home Office, please get in touch at info@ukvisas.co.uk or on 01403 801 801 for a consultation.

UPDATE: New Immigration System 2021

The UKVI has updated its guidance on the Immigration system coming into place in 2021.

The key points to note are:

  1. New immigration routes will open from autumn 2020 for applications to work, live and study in the UK from 1 January 2021.
  2. Re-iteration on the process for Skilled Workers. Please see our blog on this
  3. The global talent scheme will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. It will allow highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer.
  4. Student visa routes will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.
  5. A new graduate immigration route will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. You’ll be able to work or look for work, in the UK at any skill level for up to 2 years.
  6. Short-term work visas in specific sectors (the current ‘Tier 5’) and investor, business development and talent visas (the current ‘Tier 1’) will be opened up to EU citizens.
  7. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and other non-visa nationals will not require a visa to enter the UK when visiting the UK for up to 6 months.
  8. If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen living in the UK before 31 December 2020, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.
  9. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will use an online service to view their immigration status and to prove their status to others.
  10. Non-EU citizens will continue to use a physical document to prove their immigration status.

 

In the midst of the global pandemic, when the whole nation has seen how much a country relies on its ‘low-skilled’ workers, the Home Office felt it necessary to state that care workers, nurses, hospital porters, cleaners, logistics personnel, postal workers etc will not be able to apply for the UK work visa from January 2021.

The update to the guidance on the new immigration system reiterates:

“There will not be an immigration route specifically for those who do not meet the skills or salary threshold for the skilled worker route.”

The only “low-skilled” workers that the government envisages letting in are agricultural labourers.

At UK Visas, we have a team of expert consultants who have significant experience in advising clients on all aspects of immigration law. If you would like bespoke advice or answers to any queries on the points above, please contact a member of the team on 01403 801801 or email info@ukvisas.co.uk

Checking Right to Work During the Covid-19 Crisis

Every employer has a duty to ensure that all its employees have the right to work in the UK, either by virtue of their British Citizenship, or as a term of their right to remain. It is a criminal offence to knowingly employ someone who has no right to work in the UK, so it is important that checks are carried out in line with government guidelines. This would normally involve meeting the employee and checking their original documents, however in light of the logistical difficulties involved in this arising from the Covid-19 crisis the Home Office has made some adjustments to make carrying out these checks easier. In order to carry out checks safely during the Covid-19 crisis the following adjustments have been made:

  • You can ask the worker to submit scanned copies of their original documents by email instead of checking in person.
  • You can arrange a video chat over Skype, Zoom or a similar app in which the worker can hold their documents up to the camera for you to check.
  • If the worker has a BRP, Biometric Residence Card or status under the EU settlement scheme you can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call with the applicant. The applicant will need to give their permission for you to view their details.
  • You should record the date you carried out one of the above checks and mark it as ‘adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19.

If the worker cannot show their documents you must contact the Home Office Employer Checking Service which will provide you with a ‘Positive Verification Notice’, giving you a 6 month statutory excuse if the person is found to have the right to work.

 

When the Covid-19 measures end you will have to follow the checking process set out in the government’s right to work checks: an employer’s guide. You will have to perform retrospective checks on employees who started working for you or required a follow-up check during these measures unless you did the check in the manner prescribed in the employers guide with no adjustments. This check must be performed within 8 weeks of the Covid-19 measures ending. If you find during a retrospective check that your employee does not have the right to work you must then end their employment.

Furloughed Tier 2 Workers

Many employers and employees were left in the dark over the impact of furlough and Employer Retention Scheme and how it applies to Tier 2 works as the immigration status of Tier 2 workers is tied to employment at a minimum salary.

 

On Friday, the UKVI finally confirmed the below:

 

  1. As a business, if you are unable to pay the salaries of your sponsored employees because as a company you have temporarily reduced or ceased trading, then you can temporarily reduce the pay of your sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is lower.

 

  1. The reduction in salary will only be justified if it is a part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and to enable the equal treatment of all workers.

 

  1. The reductions must be temporary and therefore the salary level must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements come to an end.

 

It seems that the UKVI are indicating that the salary can fall below the relevant SOC code salary threshold minimum while the Tier 2 worker is furloughed, without this negatively impacting the sponsorship as long as the salary level returns to at least the previous level once the arrangement comes to an end. This will be comforting news for many employers and employees in this uncertain time.

The UKVI guidance is mute on the point of whether the salary changes need to be reported.  Our expert advice is that all sponsors continue to report this via the SMS and provide an explanation for the change in salary and also report once the salary returns to its normal level. All changes are to reported within 10 working days. Further to this, they should retain evidence of their firm-wide policy on the same as justification. This will also safeguard the sponsor’s position in the event of a UKVI audit in the future.

If you have any coronavirus related visa concerns please do get in touch at info@ukvisas.co.uk or on 01403 801 801 for consultation.

Free One Year Visa Extension for NHS Workers and their Families

 

Good news for those on the front line of the Coronavirus battle as the Home Office announces a free, automatic one year extension to all NHS workers and their family who have visas expiring before 01/10/2020.

The scheme will apply to doctors, nurses and paramedics and will affect around 2,800 NHS workers. The extension will also apply to their family members as a gesture of goodwill and to demonstrate ‘how valued overseas NHS staff are to the UK’. This means NHS workers will not have to endure the added stress and uncertainty of a visa application on top of the incredible amount of pressure they are already enduring on the front line and will allow them to focus fully on combating Covid-19, without the distraction of uncertainty about theirs or their families’ visa statuses.

There will be no fee attached to the extension, and it will also be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is normally charged to all migrants in the UK on a temporary visa to allow them to access the NHS. Given that these migrants are risking their safety and working around the clock to support the NHS it seems only fair that this fee has been waived for them, and it would be nice to see more recognition of their contributions in the future given that the Home Office raised the fee these workers would have to pay to use the NHS by nearly double just a few weeks ago.

In addition to the extension, the Home Office has made several other changes with the hope of improving NHS capacity. These include lifting restrictions on the amount of hours student nurses and doctors can work in the NHS as well as giving more time to pre-registered overseas nurses to pass their exams so they can spend their immediate time working to combat Covid-19.

While this is a big relief for NHS key workers, there are still many other people who’s visas will be impacted by Covid-19. If you have any coronavirus related visa concerns please do get in touch at info@ukvisas.co.uk or on 01403 801 801 for a video consultation.

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.

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.

New “Australian style” immigration policy

There is actually nothing new about the UK adopting an Australian style points-based system – we have this already.

 

The UK introduced the PBS (points-based system) in November 2008, with five tiers:  Tier 1 for highly skilled migrants, who were allowed to be self-employed or work for any business; Tier 2 for skilled migrants who had to be sponsored by their employer so needed a Certificate of Sponsorship; Tier 3 for lower managerial and blue collar/agricultural workers (this has never been opened up); Tier 5 for temporary workers and, finally, Tier 4 for students.

 

Steadily over the intervening 12 years or so, rules and conditions have been tightened up to the point that now Tier 1 is limited to a few exceptionally talented, or rich, individuals, whilst Tier 2, the arena in which we work together with you, the businesses that power this country, is restricted to highly skilled workers who, apart from a few exceptions, have to earn at least £30,000 p.a and are restricted in numbers from entering the UK.

 

There are a couple of recent changes which suggest there may be light at the end of the tunnel: nurses and doctors are excluded from the 20,000 annual cap and the list of shortage occupations has been increased significantly so reducing the number of resident labour market tests that need to be carried out and speeding entry for those candidates.

With the publishing of the MAC report today it is good to see that the new “Australian style” PBS Tier 2 (General) is envisaged to apply to both EEA and non-EEA citizens and to be expanded to medium-skill jobs with the cap and Resident Labour Market Test abolished and a simplified process introduced. It is proposed that the minimum salary levels will fall in line with this to £25,600 for experienced workers and £17,920 for new entrants.

 

 

 

Six top reasons why UK visa applications get rejected

Every year, thousands of UK visa applications are rejected by the Home Office as a result of mistakes made either by the applicant or their sponsor. Something as seemingly trivial as submitting a photograph in the wrong format can lead to the application being rejected and the process having to be started again.

Has the government made the process deliberately difficult? Possibly. Considering its pledge to reduce net migration, this could indeed be the case, but one thing is for certain – for those responsible for the recruitment and employment of overseas workers in their organisations, the prospect of having a visa application refused should be a major cause for concern.

The application process is far from straightforward, requiring in-depth knowledge of the immigration rules and complicated documentation. For small and medium-sized businesses without their own dedicated immigration teams, the time and subsequent cost involved in securing working visas for employees is significant, and a rejected application can have further serious financial implications.

To help demonstrate the wide range of potential pitfalls, here are some of the most common reasons why UK visa applications are rejected:

1. Problems with Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

Employers need to issue a valid Certificate of Sponsorship, or CoS, if they’re to employ an overseas worker legally. Assigning an incorrect or invalid CoS to a prospective employee could lead to the application being rejected or, even if approved, a potential fine of up to £20,000 for the employer, and the loss of their sponsor licence for employing a worker illegally.

2. Failure to carry out Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)

Before they can hire a Tier 2 visa worker, employers may need to show they were unable to find a suitable worker from within the UK. Failure to meet the requirements of the RLMT may result in the application being rejected or their subsequent removal from the UK if identified during a UKVI compliance visit.

3. Inadequate supporting documentation

Supporting documents with missing or incomplete information or that are incorrectly formatted are a common reason why visa applications are rejected.

4. Incorrect SOC code

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes are used to define the skill and salary level for occupations. Assign the wrong code and the application could be delayed or rejected.

5. Insufficient maintenance funds

The application will be rejected if the applicant can’t show they’ve enough money to support themselves when they arrive in the UK.

6. Mistakes in the application form

Something as simple as an incorrectly typed digit in a contact number can be enough to result in rejection.

As you can tell from this by no means comprehensive list, the ways in which a visa application can fail are many and varied, and the potential penalties can be devastating for a business. To avoid falling into one of these traps, we recommend securing the services of an immigration expert to take care of the application process for you.

At UK Visas, our team of specialists manages over 400 employee visa applications every year. We have the knowledge and experience to ensure applications are correctly prepared and submitted, and provide a full No Win, No Fee guarantee on all PBS visa applications.

So don’t leave it to luck; to arrange a free consultation with our team and learn how we can help your organisation with its immigration process, contact us now

UK labour: new Shortage Occupation List proposals

According to the Office for National Statistics, the first quarter of 2019 saw the number of EU nationals employed in Britain hit an all-time high of almost 2.4 million. Despite ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, UK businesses have continued to invest in recruitment, creating 100,000 new jobs in the first three months of the year, and EU nationals have helped them to fill those positions. However, impending changes to immigration rules are almost certain to affect this trend and create challenges for UK recruiters.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, as of October 31st, EU nationals are likely to become subject to the same restrictions other overseas nationalities currently face when seeking employment in Britain. This means UK businesses who wish to continue employing EU workers post-Brexit are likely to need to hold a valid sponsor licence, and ensure sponsored applicants obtain a valid working visa.

The additional complexity of the recruitment process could lead to UK employers experiencing difficulties in filling vacancies. However, one measure that seeks to avoid this situation is the recent update to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).

The list defines occupations that are especially under-recruited, and therefore subject to exceptions from immigration employment laws. In anticipation of the possible impact Brexit could have for UK recruiters, the government engaged the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the SOL for the first time since 2013. Published in May 2019, the proposed list includes the additions of such diverse occupations as veterinarians, web designers, and secondary school teachers.

Employers recruiting for roles on the SOL can benefit from the following advantages:

  • No need to pass the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), which shows an attempt has been made to recruit domestically. This makes a saving for employers in terms of vacancy advertising and recruitment time
  • These jobs are automatically granted a high level of points in the visa system, so a migrant cannot be turned down for sponsorship, even if the annual cap on the Tier 2 scheme has been reached
  • The job does not need to meet the minimum salary threshold required for settlement after five years
  • Visa application fees are lower if the occupation is on the SOL, making it more attractive to foreign applicants and their dependants

If you are involved in recruitment and want to find out more about how Brexit and the changes to the SOL may affect the process, the team at UK Visas can help.

Contact us now to arrange a free consultation and find out how we can support your organisation in recruiting from outside the UK.

SPONSOR DUTIES: CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCE AND WHEN TO REPORT

You must inform the Home Office within 10 working days about the following:

1. If your sponsored migrant does not turn up to work on their first day. You must report the reason, for example, sickness, or a missed flight.

2. If your sponsored migrant worker is absent from their job for more than 10 consecutive working days without your permission. Your report must be made within 10 working days of the 10th day of their absence.

3. If a sponsored migrant’s employment ceases earlier than originally intended. You must report their last address and contact number, as well as the name of their new employer, if appropriate.

4. If your migrant worker’s visa status changes, but they are going to carry on working for you (for instance, if they switch to a partner visa from their original Tier 2 sponsored status).

5. If there are significant changes in the particulars of your sponsored migrant’s job. For example, they gain a promotion; take maternity or adoption leave; change their job title; or their salary becomes markedly different from the level that was set on their Certificate of Sponsorship.

6. If the sponsored migrant’s job location changes. For instance, they continue to work for you but are on secondment to a different branch of your business.

7. If your sponsored migrant worker breaks the condition of their leave to remain in the UK for whatever reason.

In addition, you must also inform the Home Office about the following changes to your company’s role as registered sponsor:

1. If you sell all or part of your business, are involved in a takeover or merger or stop trading altogether.

2. If you have used the services of any third party or intermediary to help you recruit your migrant staff, whether in the UK or abroad.

3. Any personal differences to your licence, for instance, a change in address, or in the name of the key contact or authorisation officer.

Our dedicated team of UK immigration specialists will ensure that you maintain ongoing compliance. Should we identify any issues in regard to non-compliance, our staff will work with you to improve your processes. For more information on how we can support you, contact us.

Home Office – “Sponsorship is a privilege, not a right.”

On 17th July 2019, the Home Office added an Addendum to their Tier 2 & 5 – Guidance for employers 03/19 which applies with immediate effect to all Tier 2 & 5 sponsors, including all current and future applications seeking to apply for or renew a sponsor licence.

The Home Office states that it “will not license organisations whose actions and behaviour are non-conducive to the public good”. The non-exhaustive list of examples includes:

•             fostering hatred or inter-community division;

•             fomenting, justifying or glorifying terrorism; and/or;

•             rejecting the rights of, or discriminating against, other groups or individuals on the basis of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, race, religious belief (including lack of belief), or any other protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

Compliance action can be taken against those who have engaged in the above behaviour or actions, which could result in the refusal to grant/renew a licence or the revocation of an existing licence.

It remains to be seen how the Home Office will implement these changes. Previously, it has been seen that the term ‘non-conducive to public good’ has been applied in non-terrorism-related immigration cases, which includes discrepancies with the HMRC.

Although the above issues need to be tackled in the workforce in general and the wider community, it will be interesting to see how the Home Office tackles these and whether a FTSE 100 company will face the same repercussions as a small business. 

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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.