New changes have recently been announced to the UK’s immigration rules. These affect all applications made after 19 November 2015 unless otherwise stated. Applications made before 19 November 2015 but which have not been concluded will be decided on the basis of the system in place at the time of application.
The main changes imposed on the UK Immigration system are outlined below.
Applying for asylum – overview
You have to apply for asylum if you want to stay in the UK as a refugee. To be eligible you must have left your home country and be unable to return due to fear of persecution (be that due to your religious beliefs, your sexual orientation or for other reasons). You must apply as soon as you arrive in the UK, or as soon as you consider it unsafe to return to your own country.
The application takes the form of:
- 1 – An application form setting out your background and the basis of your application
- 2 – A screening meeting with an immigration officer
- 3 – An asylum interview with a caseworker.
During the application process you will not usually be allowed to work. You may however be allowed to live in the UK in certain circumstances, and also receiving housing and money to support you and your family.
It is important that your asylum application is truthful and accurate, as you could be deported or face up to two years in prison if you give false information in your application. If you need help with your asylum claim, you can find a regulated advisor at here, or speak to a local Citizens Advice Bureau who will be able to point you in the right direction.
Asylum claims from EU nationals will now be invalid unless exceptional circumstances apply. This is to recognise that the UK does not consider any other EU country to be dangerous or persecute its citizens. Also, EU nationals are entitled to live in the UK as part of the free movement of EU citizens in any event.
The tier system
The UK has a points based five tier system to assess visa applications for those from outside the EU who want to come to the UK to work, train, invest or study.
The five tiers are:
- Tier 1: Those with exceptional talent – Includes entrepreneurs, investors and those recognised as world leaders in their fields, or who have demonstrated exceptional talent and are likely to become future world leaders in their particular field.
- Tier 2: Skilled workers – Those with particular skills that are desired to aid the UK economy such as writers, composers, artists and lawyers. All applicants under Tier 2 need a Certificate of Sponsorship from their employer to confirm that the applicant will fill a genuine vacancy in the UK that cannot be filled with a suitably qualified or skilled worker already in the UK
- Tier 3: Low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages. Note: No visas have ever been allocated by the government under this scheme and so currently you are unable to apply under Tier 3
- Tier 4: Students – Applicants must have a place at a registered educational establishment before they can apply.
- Tier 5: Temporary workers – There are six sub-tiers covering sport players, charity workers, religious workers and those under the youth mobility scheme which enables approximately 55,000 young people every year to have working holidays in the UK.
In most cases, spouses and dependants will be allowed to stay in the UK with a successful applicant. Usually spouses will also be allowed to work in the UK as well as the main applicant, unless they have permission to remain in the UK for less than 12 months.
The criteria of those who qualify under Tier 1 has been extended to include those skilled in the digital technology sector. Also nurses and four digital technology jobs have been added to the list of jobs which require filling by Tier 2 applicants.
Indefinite leave to remain
Those travelling to the UK with a Tier 1 or 2 visa may later be eligible to apply for UK permanent residence providing that they meet the permanent residence requirements at the time of their application.
A minimum salary requirement was introduced in 2012 for Tier 2 visa holdings seeking to remain permanently. From 6 April 2016, this minimum salary will be increased to £35,000. Those seeking to rely on an English language qualification will going forwards be required to take the test in a secure setting, in an attempt to stop “test takers for hire” who seek to exploit the system.
The changes to the UK Immigration system are on the whole minor and designed to provide more clarity to the process. However given recent events making immigration such an important but also controversial issue, we can expect further restrictions to be considered by the government over the next year. We will of course keep you apprised of any further changes.