Immigration Monthly Update – August 2022
26 August 2022
End of COVID-adjusted remote Right to Work checks
Employers are reminded that from 1 October 2022, employers are no longer permitted to conduct an adjusted Right to Work check for British/Irish employees under the Home Office COVID guidance.
Employers are required to either return to an in-person manual check or engage with an approved IDV technology provider. It is recommended that you review your processes now and if you wish to use the new IDV technology, that you engage an approved technology in good time, to ensure a statutory excuse is maintained.
Visa Processing times
The visa processing times for both in country and out of country applications are continuing to experience disruption as a result of the UKVI’s prioritisation of Ukrainian Family Scheme Applications.
The Home Office is working to reduce processing times and has recently advised the following updated processing times for applications submitted from outside of the UK:
Work visas: an average of 4 weeks
Visit visas: an average of 7 weeks
Student visas: an average of 3 weeks
Family visas: an average of 24 weeks
In our experience, these processing times are however taking much longer than advised – with Skilled Worker visas taking more than 12 weeks to process on many occasions. The Home Office cannot guarantee processing times, so applicants are advised not to book any international travel (unless it is a flexible ticket) whilst their application is in process. In addition, businesses are advised to expect to be flexible on work start dates due to likely delays.
Re-instatement of priority visa services for work and student visas
From 12 August, the Home Office reintroduced priority and super priority visa processing services for work and student visas filed outside of the UK. This is really positive for business recruiting international talent to fill vacancies, and will shorten the lead time between an offer and on-boarding.
However, there remains no indication of any return in priority service for family visas.
Priority options will only be available to new application submissions and it is not possible to upgrade an application that is already under consideration. Applicants could withdraw and re-submit if they wanted to use the priority options.
Increase of priority processing slots for Sponsor Licence applications
On 23 August, the Home Office announced that it was increasing the number of priority sponsor licence processing services from 10 slots per day to 30.
The priority service is especially useful for businesses seeking to recruit international workers – as standard applications can take from 8–18 weeks to process, whereas in contrast, priority applications are processed in just two weeks. The fee for priority processing is an additional £500.
The Home Office had indicated that it was receiving 400-500 sponsor licence applications a week, so the extra volume of priority processing slots will aid processing and recruitment of workers.
Priority and super priority services for Visit Visas made outside the UK
The UKVI have made changes to the availability of Priority Services for new visit visa applications.
From 15 July, the volume of Priority appointments available for visitor visas outside of the UK will be reduced to enable UKVI to process more standard applications, gradually reducing the overall processing time back to the usual three weeks. The appointment availability for Super Priority services for new visit applications will not be reduced.
Priority and Super Priority services remain temporarily suspended for all family visas, so individuals are encouraged to apply for their UK visa well in advance of their intended date of travel. The Home Office will continue to review this in accordance with the current circumstances.
Poultry Worker – Seasonal scheme re-introduced for 2022
Following the success and demand for work visas for poultry producers in winter 2021, the Home Office has announced that it will re-introduce temporary visas for Poultry Workers under the existing Seasonal Worker visa route for 2022–2024. This will allow 2,000 temporary migrants to work in the UK poultry sector (a decrease on the 5,500 poultry work visas that were made available in 2021). Poultry workers can come to the UK from 3 October–31 December and must apply prior to 15 November.
This is beneficial, as it will enable temporary pressures on the work force to be alleviated but at a lesser cost than utilising the Skilled Worker route and having to go through the sponsor licence process. The downside is that this remains a temporary visa and doesn’t facilitate permanent recruitment. Additionally, Seasonal Workers cannot bring their dependent family to the UK during their period of employment.
Employers are recommended to start their recruitment process so that there is time to maximise the benefit of using this scheme.
Abolition of requirement to register with the police
Effective from 4 August, the Home Office has abolished the requirement for certain visa applicants to register with the police on arrival in the UK.
The Home Office statement advised that it was “abolishing the requirement to register with the police as the police registration scheme in its current form is outdated and no longer provides any public protection benefit to either the Home Office or the police. The data a migrant provides to the police on registration is already captured by the Home Office at the visa application stage, and is available to the police on request via Immigration Enforcement, so there is no need for it to be provided twice”.
The Home Office has confirmed that “migrants who have been issued with a visa with the requirement to register on it do not need to go to a police station to register” and “If a migrant has previously registered with the police, they do not need to do anything”.
It is expected that this will be reflected in a change in the Immigration Rules via the Autumn statement of changes and currently is only confirmed in public policy guidance.
Delay of ETIAS registration requirement for travellers to Europe
The EU has advised that there will be a delay in the roll out of the ETIAS traveller registration scheme until November 2023 – a planned delay of circa six months.
The ETIAS registration scheme is a security process whereby travellers including British nationals will, like the ESTA scheme for the USA, need to register their security details prior to travel into the EU and will require payment of a fee for the registration which is proposed will last for three years at a time.
Home Office announced launch new Scale Up visa
On 22 August, the Home Office launched a new visa category. A Scale-up Worker visa allows you to come to the UK to do an eligible job for a fast-growing UK business. Like the Skilled Worker route, there are a set list of approved occupations, and a minimum salary requirement, with the route leading to indefinite leave to remain.
The scale up visa route only ties the employee to the business for a six month period and thereafter will allow the individual to become self-employed if they wish.
The minimum salary under the scale up route is higher than the Skilled Worker – set at £33,000 (compared to £25,600 per annum under the Skilled Work route).
For a business to be eligible to be recognised as a ‘Scale Up’ business it will need to provide evidence that they are:
“an eligible fast-growing business (sometimes called a ‘scale-up business’) which requires that: In the three year period immediately before they were approved by the Home Office to sponsor scale-up workers, they must have:
- grown by 20% on average in each year in either employment or total sales (turnover)
- had at least 10 employees at the start of the three year period”
Initial review of this route suggests that it is unlikely to be a heavily utilised route compared to the Skilled Worker route already available.
Whilst the route does offer better flexibility for employees, there is less incentive for businesses to favour this route. The main advantage is that there is a reduced visa application cost with the route not subject to the Immigration Skills Charge. However, existing sponsors will not automatically be able to assign certificates of sponsorship and will need to apply to add the Scale Up route to any existing licence held.
Statement of changes
The Home Office released a new Statement of Changes which are set to take effect on 10 August 2022.
On 22 June 2022, the UK government announced that it is expanding the Homes for Ukraine Scheme to allow children who are not applying with or joining a parent/legal guardian in the UK, to be granted a visa. The requirements are the same for children who are applying alone, without their parents or legal guardians, or with other adult relatives.
The child’s parent will need to provide notarised parental consent and the child’s sponsor will need to have been pre-approved by their Local Authority before making their application. Sponsors cannot have been refused sponsorship by a local authority previously. More guidance will be published by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in due course, including the requirement that the sponsor should, except in exceptional circumstances, be someone who is personally known to the parents.
To protect the security interests of these children, sponsors will be asked to commit to hosting the child for up to three years or until they are aged 18 (whichever is soonest). Where the child is due to turn 18 before the end of their three years leave, sponsors will be required to consider from the outset how they will support the child’s move into independent accommodation.
To ensure the wellbeing and safety of these children, councils will be required to approve sponsorship arrangements before any visa is issued; to do this, they will consider the individual needs of each child and conduct relevant DBS checks, in person visits and accommodation checks on prospective sponsors. Councils will also be expected to conduct post-arrival and ongoing safeguarding checks.
Section 4L of the British Nationality Act 1981
On 28 June 2022, section 4L was introduced into the British Nationality Act 1981, which introduces possibilities for individuals to secure British citizenship through UK ancestry. In particular, Section 1a allows an applicant of full age and capacity to be registered as a British citizen if they would have been able to become a British Citizen but for ‘historical legislative unfairness’. According to Section 2, ‘historical legislative unfairness’ includes circumstances where the individual would have become a British Citizen if an Act of Parliament or subordinate legislation had, for the purposes of determining a person’s nationality status:
a) treated males and females equally;
b) treated children of unmarried couples in the same way as children of married couples;
c) treated children of couples where the mother was married to someone other than the natural father in the same way as children of couples where the mother was married to the natural father.
This has the potential benefit of improving diversity and equity under the British nationality rules and gives the Home Office broader discretion to award citizenship where appropriate.
For more information on the topics discussed in this article, please contact Sacha Wooldridge.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at August 2022.