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Home Office Bank Account Immigration Checks Start Today

The Home Office plans to close the bank accounts of illegal immigrants has been rolled out today. This is part of the “hostile environment” initiative that was launched by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary in 2012.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes has said: “This will not affect those who are in the UK legally but we must be firm with those who break the rules, as illegal immigration impacts the whole of society.” She also blames those living and working in the UK illegally for driving down wages and putting pressure on public services.

The scheme was first announced last year, but little has been said about how the checks will take place. We now know that banks are set to receive a list of the names of illegal immigrants and those who have absconded from detention centres. If any names match those of bank account holders, banks and building societies will be required to refer these to the Home Office for further investigation. These people will then face having their bank accounts closed or suspended.

According to the Home Office, only those who are liable for deportation or have absconded from detention centres will need to be concerned. They have reassured the public that anyone with an outstanding appeal applications won’t be affected. Neither will those with asylum applications currently being processed.

Campaigners against the scheme have warned against the risks of innocent people being caught up in the problems. As banks have been advised not to speak to account holders if their accounts are frozen or suspended, there are fears that people may be left unable to access their money until they can sort out the issue with the Home Office.

Chai Patel, the legal policy director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants raised concerns about the possibility of mistakes. He said: “What is shocking about this system is that people’s bank accounts, which they rely on for their jobs, their homes and every aspect of life, can be closed with no clear means of redress or compensation in case of errors. This places people affected at even greater risk of exploitation and of being driven into a cash-only economy at the mercy of unscrupulous employers and landlords.”

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A Year In Review: Immigration Law In 2017

It’s been a turbulent year for immigration law. With Brexit on the horizon and the Home Office continuing with efforts to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants, it can feel we’ve seen nothing but bad news all year. However, there have been plenty of victories and positive changes to immigration law.

Here are some of the highlights – the good, the bad, and the ugly – from 2017.

Settled Status Confirmed for EU Citizens

After months of uncertainty, the government has now confirmed how EU citizens will be able to safeguard their position in the UK after Brexit. EU citizens living in the UK will be able to apply for “settled status” which is a variation of EEA PR. This will mean that they will be able to stay in the UK for 5 years, after which point they will need to apply for another visa category, apply for indefinite leave to remain or return to their home state. It’s a huge relief for many that their lives won’t be turned upside down after the UK leaves the EU.

Spouse Visa Changes

The Supreme Court ruled that the Home Office would have to soften it’s approach to spousal visa requirements – in particular, the minimum income threshold. It was determined that the Home Office should consider other forms of income available, not just income from employment, as ignoring other forms of support was an unnecessary obstacle. This is great news for anyone who has had their spousal visa denied.

EU Citizens to Retain Rights After Naturalisation

This case came about after a Spanish woman with dual British and Spanish citizenship through naturalisation had her spousal visa denied. She tried to bring her Algerian husband to the UK but failed to meet the strict spousal visa guidelines.

Under EU law, she would be allowed to bring her non-EEA partner to live with her without restriction, but under UK immigration law she was subject to spousal visa requirements. The Court of Justice for the European Union ruled that EU citizens should retain their rights, even if they are naturalised in the UK.

Banks and NHS to Carry out Immigration Checks

Perhaps the worst news of the year is that UK banks and the NHS are set to start immigration checks. New guidelines from the Home Office mean that medical professionals will now be able to ask to see a passport to confirm residence status before offering non-urgent treatment. Banks in the UK are also set to start checking details of the holders against illegal immigrant and overstayer lists in an attempt to make it more difficult to live in the UK illegally. Banks will also be instructed to freeze assets as an incentive for people to leave the UK quicker. This is set to come into play in January 2018.

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London Mayor Calls for New Post Study Work Visa

During a recent visit to India and Pakistan, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for the introduction of a new post-study work visa for international students. In 2014, reforms to the Tier 4 visa led to the closure of 900 fake colleges. The decision to end the Tier 1 post study work visa also had an impact on the number of students coming to the UK.

The changes were made when Theresa May was Home Secretary under the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. Khan blamed May directly for the fall in international students coming to the UK. He said: “The British prime minister, Theresa May got it badly wrong with her decision to close this route a few years ago. It’s not only led to a substantial drop in Indian students coming to our universities, it’s in danger of starving my city of great talent.”

A Home Office Spokesperson issued a statement about the decision to end the Tier 1 post work visa programme. The spokesperson said: “The Government recognises how important our immigration system is in ensuring that the UK is a place where talent thrives, and we are committed to creating an immigration system which best serves the people and businesses of the UK.”

In light of this, Khan proposed a new category of post-study work visa that would encourage students to stay in the UK after studying. The number of Indian students choosing to study in London has fallen by 40% since 2010. There were fewer than 5,000 Indian students in London between 2015-16.

In a speech to Indian business leaders, Khan set out his vision for encouraging more young people from India to study in London. It is hoped that this would form the foundation of a new special relationship and encourage more trade and investment between the two countries.

India is considered to be a key target for trade after Brexit. However, one senior Indian diplomat has already spoken out about the expectations of a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK. India’s High Commissioner has said that the UK would have to be open to accepting higher levels of immigration from India if there is to be a favourable trade deal. Y K Sinha warned that a free trade deal could take decades to negotiate and that freedom of movement would be a key component of the deal.

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Government Doubles Number of Exceptional Talent Visas Available

The number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas available to individuals in science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology or the arts has been doubled. These visas are available to individuals recognised as world leaders in their field and endorsed by one of the following organisations:

  • Tech Nation
  • Arts Council England
  • The British Academy
  • The Royal Society
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering

A Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa allows the holder to live and work in the UK for up to 5 years and 4 months. After this time, Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa holders can either apply for a renewal or apply for settlement. The number of visas available under this scheme has now doubled from 1,000 to 2,000. According to Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, “The UK’s innovative industries, including the thriving digital technology sector, are at the centre of our industrial strategy and making sure that businesses in these fields have access to exceptional talent from across the world is vitally important.”

This move comes at a time when many industries are concerned about the future of hiring post-Brexit. It is hoped that the tech industry in particular will be reassured about the future of hiring EU and non-EU nationals. Reports on the potential impact of Brexit on the tech industry are varied. While some have pointed out that the majority of tech companies hire from outside the EU, and therefore they won’t be as negatively impacted as previously thought. Others are pointing to the lack of confidence in the UK as a global destination for tech companies to put down roots. When we consider that the tech industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK, in increase of 1,000 visas per year

However, prominent groups in the music industry are calling for more to be done to ensure the future of touring after Brexit. The head of UK Music has called for steps to be taken to ensure touring artists can still travel without visas after Brexit and has called for the introduction of a EU Touring Passport for musicians. This would allow visa free travel throughout Europe. The cost of touring for musicians has increased greatly in recent years and this could be set to get worse after Brexit. Gaining work permits and visas for every country on a tour can be a prohibitively high expense.

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Net Migration to UK Is Lowest Since Records Began

There is now clear evidence of the impact of Brexit of immigration. The latest figures show that net migration to Britain fell by 106,000 in the 12 months before June of this year. According to the Office for National Statistics, EU citizens returning to their home states was the primary drive behind this “Brexodus”. EU citizens returning home made of three-quarters of this 106,000 fall in net migration. This is the highest level of EU citizens leaving the UK since the 2008 recession.

The quarterly migration statistics also show a reduction in the number of people coming to Britain to find work. This could be the result of improved opportunities elsewhere in the Europe and the weaker pound, which makes the UK a much less attractive destination for EU nationals.

According to Nicola White, the head of migration statistics, “the number of people immigrating for a definite job has remained stable but there has been a 43% decrease in the number of people immigrating to look for work over the last year, especially for EU citizens.” This drop in migration to the UK has been mirrored by a 13% drop in new applications for national insurance numbers.

There has also been increased uncertainty for the EU nationals living in the UK. 168,198 EU nationals were granted documents certifying their right to permanent residence in 2017, which was four times more than were granted the year before. The number of EU nationals applying for British citizenship has also more than doubled in the past year.

According to Jonathan Portes, an economics professor from King’s College London, this is bad news for the UK economy and he urges the government to take steps to reverse the decision. He said: “it cannot be good news that the UK is a less attractive place to live and work, and that we will be poorer as a result. If the government wants to make Brexit a success, it needs to reverse this.”

However, immigration minister Brandon Lewis was quick to claim the statistics as evidence that Brexit was working and “our system is delivering for business needs in the UK.”. He pointed to the tech industry as one area where the number of visas available has doubled.

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What to Expect During the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Interview

If you want to set up your business in the UK, you will need to obtain a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa. You can read more about this visa category here. You will need to have access to substantial start-up funds not less than £200,000, or £50,000 if you are switching from a post-study work visa. In addition to this, you need to be able to demonstrate that you intend to start a business in the UK. This is often established through the entrepreneur visa interview, which takes place with an immigration official.

Throughout the entrepreneur visa interview, you will be asked questions about your work history and business plan to help determine if your business idea is genuine. In rare situations, you may not be asked to attend an interview, but this is not a common occurrence, therefore everyone applying for a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa should be prepared for the interview stage.

How to prepare for your entrepreneur visa interview

You will be asked a series of questions on the following topics:

  • Your work history and experience
  • Your business plan and how you intend to set up a business
  • Your immigration history

In order to prepare for your entrepreneur visa interview, you should make sure you have thought about all of this information. The questions might not only be about your own business plan but might include more practical questions about how businesses in the UK operate. For example, you might be asked to demonstrate your knowledge of how commercial leases work, or you could be asked to state the minimum wage and offer an outline of how you intend to hire workers. For this reason, it’s important that you have an in-depth business plan, as this will help you to plan your answers for many of the business based questions.

What questions will they ask?

The exact questions will be based on your application and business plan, so it’s difficult to know what might be asked. The best way to prepare is by rereading your application and ensuring you are very familiar with the content of your application and business plan.

Get help with your entrepreneur visa interview

If you need assistance preparing your application or preparing for your interview, get in touch with the IAS immigration team. They will be able to advise you on how to prepare for the interview process to ensure success.

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EU Citizens to Retain Freedom of Movement After Naturalisation

The Court of Justice for the European Union has ruled that EU citizens who settle in the UK and become British citizens by naturalisation should retain their rights to freedom of movement. The court also found that the Home Office has been wrongly refusing to acknowledge freedom of movement for EU citizens naturalised in the UK since 2012.

This case is of significance to EU citizens who have chosen to naturalise in the UK following the Brexit referendum. While these rights might be lost following the Brexit proceedings, it is still significant for those already living in the UK. Specifically, the courts ruled that EU citizens who naturalise as British citizens do not lose their right to bring non-EU spouses to the UK.

The case concerns a Spanish woman who moved to the UK in 1996 and acquired permanent residence and later naturalised as a British citizen. She held dual British and Spanish citizenship. She later married an Algerian national and he moved to the UK to live with her. The issue arose when the Home Office wanted her to meet the strict requirements for a spousal visa, rather than allowing her to bring her partner to the UK, as a Spanish national would be allowed to.

The courts ruled that the Home Office could not deport her Algerian partner as his rights were covered under Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU which states: “Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in the Treaties and by the measures adopted to give them effect.”

If you are an EU national who has naturalised in the UK and had an application denied, you should consider reapplying. The Home Office will now have to adjust their stance to these cases and applications should now be successful. At the moment, not much is known about what will happen to third-country nationals after Brexit, but we will strive to update our readers when we find out more.

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Guidance on English Test for UK Visa

In April 2015, the Government updated the rules around which English language tests are acceptable for different applications. From 6 April 2015, all applicants who are required to demonstrate knowledge of the English language for a UK visa have to take the IELTS SELT. This is the International English Language Testing System and Secure English Language Test. The secure English Language Test (SELT) is a test administered by an approved provider.

English Test for UK Visa Guidance

Before booking your SELT test, it’s important to make sure you are taking the correct level of test for your visa category. There are tests available that will assess your reading, writing, speaking and listening abilities while others will only assess your speaking and listening ability.

If you are applying for any of the following routes, you will need to take a test that assesses all four abilities.

  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 2 (General)
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
  • Tier 4 (General)

If you are applying for any of the following routes, you will only need a test that assesses your speaking and listening abilities.

  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
  • Representative of an overseas business
  • Partner
  • Parent
  • Settlement
  • Citizenship

You can follow this link to find out where you can take your IELTS SELT test.

What if my English test for UK visa isn’t on the list?

Any test taken after 6th April 2015 will need to be on the list in order to be accepted. If you cannot find your test on the list, you will need to take the test again in order for your test to be accepted as part of your UK visa application. Your test also needs to be taken at an approved test centre or it will not be accepted.

What documents do I need to take the test?

In order to be able to sit your test, you will need to provide a valid identification document. The document has to be original, in-date and include a photograph that is a true likeness of the candidate. The details you use to book the test will also need to match those on the identification document. If you provide a photocopy or an out-of-date document, you will be turned away and will have to rebook your test.

What happens if I pass my English test for UK visa?

If you pass your test, you will be given a unique reference number which should be used to make your UK immigration application. The majority of tests are valid for up to two years, so if you do not make your UK immigration application within this time frame, you may need to take another test.

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Government Hides Immigration Controls in Data Protection Legislation

New laws will give the government powers to circumnavigate data protection laws in the interest of “immigration control”. The clause was included in recent data protection legislation and campaigners have raised concerns about what this means for privacy rights.

If the legislation is allowed to continue, millions of migrants could have their information stored and shared without their knowledge. This data might be inaccurate or out-of-date, but they will not be able to access it to correct it or delete it. It also won’t be clear who has processed their data and why.

The civil rights group Liberty has condemned the changes as a “shameless attempt” to strip millions of their privacy rights. They have described it as “brazen discrimination”. In a statement on their website, it says: “If passed, this clause would strip migrants of the right to have their personal information processed lawfully, fairly and transparently when it is being processed for immigration control purposes, regardless of their immigration status.”

Liberty also talk about the risks of how this clause could be used moving forward. They warn: “This broad exemption may have been inserted in anticipation of increased monitoring of EU nationals after Brexit.”

This is the latest move from the government to create a “hostile environment” for those living in the UK illegally. In October, a highly controversial policy was rolled out that would require health workers in the NHS to check the immigration status of those seeking treatment. And at the start of 2018, banks are scheduled to check the accounts of 70 million individuals in order to put pressure on illegal immigrants to leave the country.

A spokesperson for the Government said that the proposed changes will ensure they can support criminal justice agencies and national security agencies. If you’re concerned about any of the issues mentioned in this article and want to clarify your position, get in touch with our team. If you’re concerned about how the Home Office plans to create a “hostile environment” might affect you and your family, our team of expert immigration advisors may be able to help.

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Government Refuses to Publish Results of Brexit Impact Analysis

The government has refused a freedom of information request to publish analysis into how Brexit will impact on 58 different sectors. The freedom of information request was made by Labour MP Seema Malhotra and is accompanied by a letter signed by 120 cross-party MPs urging the government to make the findings of their extensive analysis public.

The government has only gone as far as to publish a list of the industries that have been investigated, which includes the steel and aerospace industries. According to the Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU), “There is a strong public interest in policymaking associated with our exit from the EU being of the highest quality and conducted in a safe space to allow for design and deliberation to be done in private.”

This is being interpreted as an effort to keep parliament out of the negotiations, but there is also speculation that the findings might embarrass the government. Malhotra said: “Parliament is not here to give the government a blank cheque on Brexit, but to assist in achieving the best deal for our economy and society.”

Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato has threatened legal action against ministers following the decision to keep the information private. Speaking to the Independent, she said: “If the government think that producing a list of sectors will satisfy, they can think again. This will do nothing to reassure businesses, public services or the public or help them prepare for life outside the EU.”

This is unfortunate timing for the Department for Exiting the European Union as Brexit Secretary David Davis is set to brief the cabinet on the possibility of a “no-deal” Brexit. A spokesperson for DexEU said: “The Department for Exiting the European Union, working with officials across government, continues to undertake a wide range of analysis to support progress in the negotiations and ensure we ready for Brexit whatever the outcome.” There is increasing fear that the Brexit talks are not progressing and that the only option might be to leave the EU without a formal deal in place.

The implications of this could be far-reaching. According to Chancellor Philip Hammond, this could result in flights being grounded, although this has been disputed by the boss of British Airways who remains confident that a deal with be reached on air travel, even in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit. Other industries likely to be affected include the finance sector, which warned of the long-term loss of up to 75,000 jobs in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit.

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