Immigration Update - December 2015

18 December 2015

In this month's update we cover net migration statistics, Tier 2 news, Tier 4 maintenance, seasonal workers and travellers and planning for 2016.

Net migration statistics

While the government looks into different ways to significantly reduce immigration to the UK, latest statistics show that net migration for the year ending June 2015 hit an all-time high of 336,000. This is an increase of 82,000 on the previous year. We’ve taken a brief look behind these figures:

  • Sponsors
    There are now 29,594 UK organisations listed as registered sponsors of Tier 2 and 5 migrant employees. This is slightly fewer than this time last year and is perhaps a direct result of the Home Office clampdown on sponsor compliance.
  • Work
    In the year ending June 2015, a total of 294,000 people immigrated for work-related reasons, a significant increase from the previous year. Of those, 64% (187,000) came with a definite job to go to and 36% (107,000) came to look for work. Provisional estimates from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) show that 58% (162,000) were EU citizens (excluding British citizens), and 24% (67,000) were non-EU citizens. The figures show that most work visas (non EU) went to applicants working in the professional, information, communication, financial, scientific and technical sectors.
  • Study
    The second most common reason for immigrating to the UK was formal study. In the year ending June 2015, 192,000 people immigrated to the UK for formal study. Provisional estimates from the IPS show that the majority (131,000 or 71%) were non- EU citizens while 47,000 (24%) were EU citizens (excluding British citizens).
  • Dependants
    In the year ending June 2015, 80,000 people arrived in the UK to accompany or join others. This remains relatively unchanged from 82,000 the previous year. Provisional estimates from the IPS show that the majority (45,000 or 58%) were non-EU citizens, while 23,000 (30%) were EU citizens (excluding British citizens).
  • Visitors
    9.15m visit visas were granted in 2014, which is a 6% increase on 2013. The geographic areas leading the visit visa tables are the US and East Asia.
  • Family
    36,724 family route visas were granted in the year ending September 2015. This is 6% more than during the previous year.
  • Settlement
    998,506 people were awarded the right to remain in the UK on a permanent basis over the year ending September 2015. This is a drop of 12% on the previous year’s figures.

Tier 2 news

We now have more detail on the changes to Tier 2 announced last month.

One of the most relevant involves changes to the requirement for a resident labour market test (RLMT) for those switching from Tier 4 into Tier 2. The previous rules allowed those who had completed a degree in the UK or had undertaken at least 12 months of PhD study to switch in the UK into Tier 2 without the need for the employer to demonstrate that they had tried and failed to recruit within the resident population. Since 12 November 2015 this option only exists where the Tier 4 migrant is sponsored by a UK recognised body or a body in receipt of UK public funding as a higher education institution, by an overseas higher education institution to undertake short-term study abroad in the UK, or by an Embedded College offering Pathway Courses. The list of recognised bodies can be checked here.

Students who do not meet the new criteria will need to apply for a Tier 2 visa from outside the UK and an RLMT will be required.

We also reported that four jobs in the digital technology sector have been added to the Shortage Occupation List for SMEs with between 20 - 250 employees. Any potential sponsor wishing to employ migrants under this provision must indicate on their sponsor licence application that they intend to sponsor migrants in these jobs and supply extra evidence in support of the request. Those who already hold a sponsor licence will need to apply via a change of circumstances application on the SMS, using the ‘Request any other change to your licence details’ function and provide appropriate documentation. There is a maximum of ten migrants who can be sponsored under this provision by any one sponsor at a time.

Tier 4 maintenance requirements

Since 12 November 2015 Tier 4 Students renewing their visa in the UK can no longer rely on having an established presence here to reduce the funds held for maintenance. Depending on the length of the new visa, they must demonstrate that they have funds to cover up to nine months of living costs. The funds must have been held for at least 28 days prior to applying for the visa. The rate of funds has also increased, from £820 to £1,015 per month outside London.

’Tis the Season to be …. careful

We know that many employers will need to take on extra staff over the busy Christmas period and in the rush to hire staff, often at short notice, it is often easy to overlook those important right to work checks. So just a reminder, that you must establish a prospective employee’s right to work before their employment commences, if you are to avoid a civil penalty for employing someone who subsequently is shown to have been working illegally.

At present the penalty amount varies to when the breach took place:

  • £15,000 per illegal worker for the first breach in a three year period.
  • £20,000 per illegal worker for a second or subsequent breach in a three year period.

To carry out the checks correctly, you must obtain original documents, such as passports and Biometric Residence Permits, before employment commences, examine them in the presence of the individual, take clear copies of the documents in a format that cannot be altered and record the date on which the check was made.

Remember, if you are employing international students you should carefully check their right to work. University students can work full time during school/college vacations, you will need to confirm their academic term dates for any periods where they may be required to work full time.

Driving home for Christmas...

With airports and ports likely to be busy in the next few weeks, it may be time to consider the Registered Travellers Visa which is available for frequent travellers. The Registered Traveller service can be used to get through UK border control faster and there is no need to complete a landing card.

You can apply if you’re 18 or over and you’re a national of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand or the USA. One of the following must also be true:

  • you’ve got a visa (but not a Tier 5 concession (Creative and sporting), EEA family permit, discretionary leave or leave outside the rules) or
  • you’ve visited the UK four times in the last 52 weeks, e.g. for business, education, tourism, education or medical treatment.

The Visa will allow you to use the ePassport gates if you have a biometric passport and faster entry lanes at Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, London City, Luton, Manchester and Stansted airports, and Brussels, Lille and Paris Eurostar terminals.

It costs £70 to apply to use the service for one year. If your application is unsuccessful you’ll get £50 back. If you’re already a member and you get a new passport, you’ll need to pay £20 to update your passport details. Updating your visa information is free.

With the year drawing to a close, it is time to look and plan ahead for the New Year. 

  • Consultation on health reforms

Jeremy Hunt has announced a consultation to look at extending health care costs to more non-EEA nationals. If the proposals are implemented, certain foreign nationals would no longer receive government coverage for services such as prescriptions, dental care, ophthalmic care, assisted reproduction, ambulances and out-of-hospital care. If you would like your say on the consultation, you can find more information here.

Tier 2

The changes, which were first announced in February 2012, will affect anyone here on a Tier 2 visa who entered the country on or after 6 April 2011. This means anyone applying for settlement on or after 6 April 2016 must meet the new salary requirements.

The exact requirements are that you must meet one of the following requirements.

  • Earn at least £35,000 a year (with this amount rising to £35,500 in 2018, and again in later years)
  • For jobs requiring PhD or other high-level qualifications, earn the salary rate as set out in Standard Occupational Codes list during your residence period.

Note that if you worked in a shortage occupation or PhD level job during your residence period but then moved on to another role before applying for settlement you don’t have to earn £35,000. If you have changed job like this, the higher threshold doesn't apply. Instead you have to have met the salary requirement for the job you were originally sponsored to come to the UK to do.

The maximum time a Tier 2 migrant can spend in the UK without applying for settlement is six years. If they have not gained permanent residence in that time they will need to leave the UK for a period of at least 12 months before being able to return to the UK as a Tier 2 Migrant.

For more information on any of the matters covered in this update, please contact Clare Hedges or Janice Leggett in our immigration team.