Jobs that qualify for travel exemptions, visa application requirements, financial concessions for spouses/partners of British citizens, priority service for sponsor licence applications, early settlement concessions and data protection are all covered in this month’s immigration round-up.
Jobs that qualify for travel exemptions
On 1 November 2021, pork butchers were added to the list of jobs that qualify for exemptions from quarantine. The full list and requirements can be found on the Government website.
Closure of the temporary visa route for poultry workers
With pressure to protect the food supply chain in the run up to Christmas, the Home Office had, earlier this year, launched a temporary work visa scheme for poultry workers. Applications under this route closed on 15 November.
Applications under the HGV concession will also close on 1 December.
Changes to visit visa application requirements
From 17 November, the Home Office have amended their evidential requirements for visit visa applications to the UK. Previously all visit visa applicants would need to submit evidence of a pre-booked (provisional) flight booking and pre-paid return ticket. Due to changing COVID restrictions on travel the Home Office have now updated their procedures so that pre-booked travel is not longer mandatory.
An end to financial concessions for spouses/partners of British citizens
A key eligibility criteria for spouses/partners of British citizens/individuals with Indefinite Leave to Remain status, applying for a visa to either enter or extend their stay in the UK is the financial/earnings requirement. Nominally this requirement is that a household income of at least £18,600 per annum must be demonstrated to be eligible for the visa status. During the pandemic where earnings were hard hit for many, the Home Office had introduced temporary concessions to support individuals in financial hardship as a direct result of COVID.
In-line with the end of the Government backed furlough scheme, the Home Office have also brought these concessions to an end from 31 October 2021. Now “any income loss after this date will not be taken into account within the financial concessions listed and applicants will be expected to meet minimum income and adequate maintenance requirements as per pre-pandemic levels”.
Limited availability of priority service for sponsor licence applications
As the economy starts to recover from the pandemic and many business resume hiring at pace, an increasing number of business are now looking to the international workforce to fill rising job vacancies in the UK. Following the end of freedom of movement many business including SMEs are therefore now applying for immigration sponsor licences.
The Home Office have indicated that they are typically receiving 300-400 applications per week. Standard processing times are typically eight weeks for the licence to be issued but can be as much as 18 weeks. With demand to on-board staff quickly, many are seeking to leverage the priority processing service to reduce this process to just two weeks (for a fee of £500). However there remains limited availability of this service – with just 10 slots per day available. The Home Office have confirmed that they don’t expect to be able to increase priority service capacity until early 2022.
Early settlement concession for 18-24 year olds
The Immigration Rules allow people aged between 18-24, who were born or entered the UK as children and who have spent at least half of their lives living in the UK continuously, to apply for permission to remain in the country on that basis. This “half of life” rule put young people on a ten-year path to settlement. A recent BBC Panorama documentary actually explored the emotional and financial impact of this decade-long wait for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
On 25 October 2021, the Home Office introduced a new and much welcome concession to these Rules which will allow young adults aged between 18-24 to be granted Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years rather than ten. The Home Office accept that children brought to the UK by their parents, or born here without official immigration permissions, “cannot be considered responsible for any previous noncompliance with immigration laws and are fully integrated into society in the UK”.
Once the application is submitted, the Home Office will check that various eligibility requirements are satisfied (as standard) but also will consider the applicant’s personal circumstances including the age they arrived in the UK, the length of their residence, the strength of their connections and integration in the UK, and previous immigration history. These factors will then be considered against public interest factors and although meeting the basis eligibility requirements does not guarantee ILR, this concession is very welcomed nonetheless as it creates the possibility of a shorter path to settlement for young adults who have spent a big part of their lives in the UK.
Data Protection Act 2018: Court of Appeal declares immigration exemption is unlawful suspended until 31 January 2022
At a hearing on 8 October 2021, in the case of R (Open Rights Group and the3million) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and others  EWHC Civ 800 (26 May 2021), the Court of Appeal announced that the Immigration Exemption in paragraph 4 of Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act 2018 is incompatible with Article 23 of the General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679) (GDPR), and therefore unlawful, but will be suspended until 31 January 2022.
The Immigration Exemption was enacted by the UK as a derogation from specific rights and obligations set out in the GDPR which served to exempt any controller from complying with certain provisions of the GDPR and DPA 2018, where personal data was processed for the maintenance of effective immigration control, or the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control.
The effect of this announcement is that the UK Government has until 31 January 2022 to pass legislation to amend the exemption in paragraph 4, failing which the exemption will be declared unlawful and become invalid from the end of January 2022.
These articles are from the November 2021 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact a member of Birketts’ Immigration Team.
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 November 2021.