Top Three Changes To Immigration Law In 2019
2019 was an eventful year for Britain. We had a new Prime Minister, not to mention the first December election in 60 years. Brexit was supposed to happen in March, and then it didn't. It was also supposed to occur on Halloween, but again, it didn't. The minimum wage rose and South Africa beat England in the Rugby World Cup final.
The EU/EEA Settled Status scheme opened
On 30 March 2019, the UK government opened the EU Settled Status scheme for EU/EEA nationals living in the UK.
Most of the 3.4 million EU/EEA nationals living in the UK who wish to remain after Brexit must apply for Settled or Pre-Settled Status. Although most applications are approved without incident, serious concerns surrounding the scheme developed throughout 2019.
In December, the Public Law Project (PLP) released findings from a series of Freedom of Information Requests. They showed 89.5% of Settled Status decisions subjected to Administrative Review were overturned.
In 2016/17, before the Settled Status scheme being opened, the success rate of Administrative Reviews was 3.4%.
Following the release of the figures, the PLP raised concerns that the high success rate of Administrative Reviews relating to Settled Status applications indicated immigration caseworkers were making many mistakes.
Failing to gain Settled Status could affect an EU migrant's ability to find housing, employment, and access healthcare, even if they have lived in Britain for decades.
There is also concern that the scheme could result in another Windrush scandal in the future. Research collected from churches, schools, homeless day centres, and other similar organisations from EU nationals who are elderly, disabled, under 18, homeless, lack key life skills, isolated due to where they live or work, victims of modern slavery, or members of the Roma community show that many are disengaged from the Settled Status Scheme process. Many do not have smartphones or access to the Internet or have criminal records and are therefore fearful of applying for Settled Status.
"We found that people are sometimes disengaging from the app when it fails to find any data on them. This mainly applies to women who stay at home to look after children and struggle to supply any obvious additional evidence - such as tenancy agreements and bills held by their working partner - so their advice needs are much more significant. The app also does not allow users to go back and correct any mistakes in the application."
These people are at high risk of not only being deported once the Settled Status scheme closes in June 2021 but of being exploited by 'cowboy' advisors charging extortionate amounts for legal guidance.
Launch of the Startup Visa and Innovator Visa
In March 2019, with almost no warning, the Government announced that the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa and the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa were closing. At the same time, it was announced that the Innovator Visa and the Startup Visa would replace these entry routes.
The replacement of the Tier 1 entrepreneur routes was preceded by recommendations from the Migration Advisory Authority (MAC) in 2015.
Since its launch in March 2019, there has been a low take-up of the Innovator Visa. One of the reasons is that many of the official endorsing bodies have been unable to accept applications due to lack of readiness and/or government information. For example, Tech Nation, which is charged with endorsing applicants wanting to launch a technology business in the UK, is not accepting Innovator Visa endorsement applications until April 2020.
On the face of it, the Innovator Visa looks more attractive than the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, especially given the fact an applicant must only provide £50,000 in investment funds rather than £200,000. However, there is concern that the lack of support endorsing bodies have received means that people who have the brains, energy, and ambition to launch a successful start-up, create jobs, and grow their business in both national and international markets will look elsewhere. After all, the UK is not the only country that wants to attract bright entrepreneurs.
Despite the initial negativity, it should be noted that most of the applications received under the Start-up and Innovator visa scheme have been granted. We feel that if endorsing bodies receive the guidance and support required, the new scheme will provide greater flexibility for talented entrepreneurs entering the UK.
Two Year Graduate Visa Announced
One of the biggest controversies of former Home Secretary/Prime Minister, Theresa May's immigration figures was that they included international students. This was especially misleading given that those on a Tier 4 Student Visa currently only have four months to obtain a job with an employer who holds a sponsor license and apply for a Tier 2 (General) Visa.
In 2016, the Prime Minister of India was especially dismissive of Theresa May's attempts to discuss a post-Brexit trade deal with unless rights for Indian students and workers wishing to come to the UK were improved.
India's High Commissioner, Dinesh Patnaik, stated:
"Students, tourists and short-term visitors are not migrants under any definition.
"Post-Brexit, you need Indians. Our tourists... don't come to Britain due to difficult visa conditions."
To entice more international students, the Conservative government announced late last year that a new scheme would be brought in allowing graduates to stay in the UK for two years after completing their studies. During this time, graduates can either work or look for work. Once they find a position, they will have the opportunity to switch to a Tier 2 Visa.
Two years is a more realistic timeframe for students who do not want to leave Britain immediately after their course ends to find a suitable job
Details of the new graduate visa have yet to be announced; however, we will update you as soon as more information is made available.