18-09-19 – Home Office 'rushed to penalise' students accused of cheating

The Home Office “rushed to penalise” international students accused of cheating in English language tests without checking the reliability of evidence, parliament’s spending watchdog has concluded. A report from MPs has concluded the Home Office responded with a “flawed reaction”, revoking visas before verifying evidence, which led to “injustice and hardship for many thousands of international students”. About 2,500 students have been forcibly removed from the UK after being accused of cheating in the exam run by third parties on behalf of non-profit organisation the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Another 7,200 left the country after being told they faced detention and removal if they stayed. Many have tried to prove their innocence in court: 12,500 appeals have been heard and at least 3,600 people have won their cases.  “It is shameful that the department knows it could have acted against innocent people but has not established a clear mechanism for them to raise concerns,” the report said. The report also criticised the department for having “insufficient recourse to claim compensation”.

11-09-19 – Return of two-year post study work visa announced

The Home Office has announced the two-year post study work visa. This visa was originally introduced in 2004 and banned by Theresa May in 2012. The date of implementation is not entirely clear yet, but the announcement suggests it will be available to students starting in the next academic year, September 2020. It is unknown whether current students already on courses in the UK will also benefit from the rule change. An estimated 14% of all university income is from the substantial fees paid by foreign students.

09-09-19 – Statement of changes into immigration rules presented to Parliament

Administrative review In some circumstances, an applicant may challenge a decision on their application or in respect of their leave by applying for administrative review. This instrument mandates online applications for administrative reviews where the original application was made on line. This is in line with the Government’s wider modernisation programme of ‘digital by default’. Paper applications for administrative review will remain possible for those who made their original valid application on paper. Minor amendments relating to the Start-up and Innovator categories The Start-up and Innovator categories were introduced in March 2019. They are for people seeking to establish an innovative, viable and scalable business in the UK, whose business ideas are supported by an authorised endorsing body. The following changes are being made to these categories: • A change is being made to the Tier 4 (General) rules to allow students who have submitted a Start-up application supported by an endorsing body to commence their business activities whilst their application is being considered; • An exemption from the requirement for ‘start-up’ applicants not to have previously established a UK business is being added for Tier 4 (General) students on the doctorate extension scheme; Minor amendments to the Tier 1 (Investor) category The Tier 1 (Investor) category is for high net worth individuals making an investment of at least £2 million in the UK. The following changes are being made: • The changes made in March 2019 to closing dates are being flexed to allow applicants to make extension or settlement applications after these dates, provided that they move their qualifying investments out of UK Government bonds before either 6 April 2023 in the case of extension applications, or 6 April 2025 in the case of settlement applications. Minor amendment to Tier 1 rules – Exceptional talent criteria The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category is for talented individuals in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology to work in the UK without the need to be sponsored for employment in a specific post. Applicants must be endorsed by a Designated Competent Body. At the request of one of the Designated Competent Bodies, Tech Nation, a number of changes have been made: • There must be three, rather than just two, letters of support provided by established organisations in the digital technology sector to permit more in-depth consideration of an individual’s skills and the contribution they would make to the sector; Minor amendment to update the accepted English language test providers and Exemptions to the English language testing requirement. An amendment is being made to Appendix B and Tier 2 (General) requirements to exempt doctors, dentists and nurses and midwives, when making a Tier 2 (General) application, from having to sit an approved English Language Test if they have already passed an English test accepted by the relevant professional regulatory body 5. A corresponding amendment is also being made to provide that Tier 2 doctors, dentists nurses and midwives who have passed such a test are treated as having demonstrated sufficient knowledge of the English language for the purpose of settlement. Amendments are being made so that applicants are no longer required to provide documents showing that they have sat an approved English Language Test but need only to provide the English Language Test unique reference number for checking. Minor amendment to Knowledge of language and Life (KOLL) Amendments are being made to Appendix KOLL so that applicants are no longer required to provide original documents as proof of passing the ‘Life in the UK’ test but need instead only to provide the unique reference number for checking. Tier 4: Switching into Tier 2 Tier 4 students studying at degree level or above are now permitted to apply to switch into the Tier 2 route within 3 months of the expected end date of their course, to facilitate such students taking up skilled work in the UK following the successful completion of their studies. A corresponding change is being made to the Tier 4 conditions of leave to allow such students to commence work with their Tier 2 sponsor if they have applied to switch into the Tier 2 route within 3 months of the expected end date of their course.

30-08-19 – Calls for nationality profiling to stop sham marriages ‘very worrying’

The Home Office defines a sham marriage or sham civil partnership as 'one where the relationship is not genuine but one party hopes to gain an immigration advantage from it. There is no subsisting relationship, dependency, or intent to live as husband and wife or civil partners. Sham marriages are frequently arranged by intermediaries for payment. In 2018, a sham marriage gang was jailed after its members made more than £500,000 by setting up immigrants with European brides so they could stay in the UK. Women from Eastern Europe are known to have been trafficked to the UK and exploited as sham brides for immigration offenders. The Home Office has said it considers sham marriage to be ‘one of the most significant threats to immigration control’. Such marriages can provide UK residence rights to an entire family who would otherwise have no right to be here. There was a fivefold increase in reports of suspected sham marriages by registrars over the past decade and a 50% increase between 2012 and 2018. Previous measures requiring a 'certificate of approval' from the HO for marriages involving non-UK partners were abolished in May 2011 after being struck down by the courts on the grounds that they contravened Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to marry and to found a family). MigrationWatch UK, the organisation, which campaigns for tougher restrictions on immigration, made the suggestion to start profiling by nationality after claiming there had been a rise in reports of sham marriages over four years. Calls for nationality profiling to be carried out in a bid to detect sham marriages have been branded “very worrying” by immigration lawyers. Poppy Firmin, a caseworker in immigration and public law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, told the PA news agency: “The Home Office are doing a very good job already of interfering and delaying with interviews” and “They are subjecting genuine couples to really degrading questions”. The 2014 Immigration Act included new provisions, which came into force in March 2015. In particular, the gap between notifying intent to marry and the ceremony was extended from 15 to 28 days and could be further extended to 70 days in order to allow the Home Office enough time to investigate the genuineness of the relationship.

23-08-19 – New Innovator visa attracts just four applicants in first three months

According to Home Office there have been only four applications for the new Innovator visa for foreign entrepreneurs since its introduction in April 2019. Two of those applications have been resolved, of which both were granted. What is interesting is that the visa it replaced on 29 March 2019 — Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) — had 1,900 applications in 2018. These figures will raise questions about the viability of the Innovator route. Aimed at experienced foreign entrepreneurs who have at least £50,000 in capital behind them, it requires applicants to be endorsed by one of a limited number of endorsement bodies. Experts had warned that the design of the Innovator visa scheme is flawed. Issues include the frequent need to participate in a business accelerator programme to secure endorsement; having to give up equity in the start-up; and the “extremely high” bar for getting settlement. The model is perceived as unattractive to the calibre of people who would meet the criteria for an Innovator visa, which include being able to bring their start-up business into international markets. The Home Office said in the past that it expects to grant fewer visas under the new Innovator and Start-up routes than under the schemes they replace, however, it seems unlikely that such an insignificant number of applications would make the cost of designing and administering the route worthwhile. The Start-up visa is off to a slightly better start. It attracted 32 entry clearance applications in its first quarter of operation, of which 25 were decided on and 23 granted. However, these numbers are still very small.

21-08-19 – Home Office update on EU Settlement Scheme

The Home Office published the update on the EU Settlement Scheme today, according to which the EU citizens and their families can stay in the UK and there are no changes to the deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. This scheme covers all EU citizens and their families living in the UK by 31 October, and EU citizens have until at least 31 December 2020 to apply. EU citizens will still be able to come to the UK on holiday and for short trips, but what will change is the arrangements for people coming to the UK for longer periods of time and for work and study. Details of other changes immediately after 31 October and improvements to the previous government’s plans for a new immigration system are being developed. Boris Johnson has announced that he wants to introduce an Australian style points-based immigration system. The Home Secretary is commissioning the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to examine this.

21-08-19 – Migrants working illegally still have employment rights

In the high profile lawsuit “Okedina v. ChiKale” [2019] EWCA Civ 1393, Ms. Okedina arranged for Ms. Chicale to move to the UK as a domestic worker and made an application for her British visa. Ms. Okedina was not able to extend the visa of her domestic worker, hiding this fact from Ms. Chikale. In the end, the relationship between the employer and the employee was broken, and Ms. Cicale demanded compensation from Ms. Okedina for various violations of employment law, including illegal dismissal, racial discrimination and illegal deductions of wages. Ms. Okedina's position was that Ms. Chikale did not have any employment rights because she worked in violation of UK immigration laws. This argument failed in the employment tribunal, the employment appeal tribunal and, most recently, in the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice Underhill noted that he could not interpret the current legislation in favor of Ms. Okedina, stating that often in cases of illegal employment the employee himself was not at fault.

19-08-19 – Online asylum appeals to be rolled out nationwide in 2020

According to the courts and tribunals service for England and Wales asylum appeals will be filed and managed entirely online from 2020. The online appeal system aims to make the process of challenging an asylum system more efficient and less paper-bound. The focus is on electronic document upload, digitised case management and early online resolution rather than the final hearing on a webcam. In accordance with HMCTS “appeals will be submitted electronically by legal representatives and will be received instantaneously by both HMCTS and the Home Office. The appeals will then progress digitally via the on line service from initial application, through to hearing and judicial decision”. Digital asylum appeals are currently being piloted at Manchester and Taylor House immigration centres with the involvement of six solicitors’ firms. The pilot will be expanded to Bradford and Newport in September 2019, and further rolled out to Birmingham and Hatton Cross by the end of the year. The further national rollout will only be for cases where the appellant has legal representation. According to HMCTS a separate service is being developed for unrepresented appellants, which will begin pilot testing in early 2020.

15-08-19 – Asylum seeker was not “feminine” enough to be gay according to an immigration judge

An asylum seeker’s immigration claim was rejected because the judge came to the conclusion that the claimant did not have a gay “demeanour” and did not “look around the court room in an effeminate manner”. According to Leila Zadeh, a CEO of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) there have been other precedents when asylum seekers’ claims were rejected based on stereotypes, such as that a female claimant did not have short enough hair to be a lesbian or judges did not believe claimants’ sexual orientation because they did not have sex with multiple partners. In 2017 only 33% of asylum appeals based on sexual orientation were successful which was below the average for all asylum appeals which was 40% last year.

13-08-19 – A significant increase in Home Office fees

Application fees for British citizenship have increased significantly over the past 5 years. The Times have stated that the Home Office profits have increased by nearly 91%. The applicants must pay £1012 and the Home Office receives profits in the amount of £640 from each application. According to the critics, the profits received by the Home Office show that it still continues to operate a hostile policy despite the fact it abolished it after the “Windrush scandal” when thousands of illegal immigrants’ bank accounts were heavily scrutinised. The increase in fees had a particularly significant effect on the children of migrant parents who were born in Britain or moved here when they were young. Boris Johnson has appealed to review the system and warned that thousands of applicants are at risk because of the potential repeat of the “Windrush scandal”.