The Prime Minister’s Open Letter to EU citizens in the UK

Ahead of EU Council, Theresa May wrote directly to EU citizens in the UK.

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and The Rt Hon Theresa May MP Part of: Brexit Published:19 October 2017
Last updated: 19 October 2017,

As I travel to Brussels today, I know that many people will be looking to us – the leaders of the 28 nations in the European Union – to demonstrate we are putting people first.

I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority. And I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU. I want to give reassurance that this issue remains a priority, that we are united on the key principles, and that the focus over the weeks to come will be delivering an agreement that works for people here in the UK, and people in the EU.

When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips. Nothing could have been further from the truth. EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.

But this agreement will not only provide certainty about residence, but also healthcare, pensions and other benefits. It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK system – and UK nationals into the system of an EU27 country – can benefit from what they’ve put in. It will enable families who have built their lives together in the EU and UK to stay together. And it will provide guarantees that the rights of those UK nationals currently living in the EU, and EU citizens currently living in the UK, will not diverge over time.

What that leaves us with is a small number of important points to finalise. That is to be expected at this point in negotiations. We are in touching distance of agreement. I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals for finalising the agreement with an open mind. And with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident that we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.

I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented. People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome. I want to provide reassurance here too.

We are developing a streamlined digital process for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind, and we will engage with them every step of the way. We will keep the cost as low as possible – no more than the cost of a UK passport. The criteria applied will be simple, transparent and strictly in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement. People applying will not have to account for every trip they have taken in and out of the UK and will no longer have to demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance as they currently have to under EU rules. And importantly, for any EU citizen who holds Permanent Residence under the old scheme, there will be a simple process put in place to swap their current status for UK settled status.

To keep development of the system on track, the government is also setting up a User Group that will include representatives of EU citizens in the UK, and digital, technical and legal experts. This group will meet regularly, ensuring the process is transparent and responds properly to users’ needs. And we recognise that British nationals living in the EU27 will be similarly concerned about potential changes to processes after the UK leaves the EU. We have repeatedly flagged these issues during the negotiations. And we are keen to work closely with EU member states to ensure their processes are equally streamlined.

We want people to stay and we want families to stay together. We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK. And I know that member states value equally UK nationals living in their communities. I hope that these reassurances, alongside those made by both the UK and the European Commission last week, will provide further helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures.

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Talley and Barrow assists EU Citizens to become British Permanent Residents and British Citizens.  Call us today for a consultation.

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American Immigration Issues

American Immigration Issues

Immigration in America is changing quickly under new president Donald Trump. Though overall immigration policies have yet to change, his proposals are having considerable effect.

What’s changing for American Immigration?

Fast processing for H-1B visa’s allowing highly skilled workers to quickly take up important roles in the US economy for a period of one to three years was suspended for a time. Standard processing can take six months and the suspension caused concern for medical institutions and technology companies across America who rely on H-1B to fill skills gaps.

The new president has also signed an executive order to review the H-1B visa program, potentially replacing it with a more merit based system with the aim of favouring American workers and reducing immigration.  More recently Donald Trump is supporting the RAISE act which although stalling in congress, if passed would bias towards financially stable English speakers, and reduce American immigration by 50 per cent.

Though Trump’s repeated attempts at travel bans for citizens of certain countries was not targeted at those who had already gained visas, the controversy and treatment of these citizens is certainly beginning to deter migrants and skilled workers.

The proposed wall on the Mexican border, and clampdowns on illegal immigrants is affecting individuals and families who have lived in the US for years and now facing possible deportation.

This September, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, passing it over to congress to find a legislative alternative. The announcement and the potential effects on the 800,000 young individuals under DACA is controversial and far reaching.

What is DACA?

Barack Obama created DACA in 2012 to allow those brought to the UK illegally as children the temporary right to live, study and work in America. The program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) covrtd a group now known as “dreamers”, most of whom know America as their home country and have little or no knowledge of their birth countries culture or language. “Dreamers” see themselves as Americans. The DACA program allows those who have completed school or military service, and have passed criminal and security vetting, a two-year deferral on any threat of deportation. After which they have opportunity to renew. During the two-year period they are granted rights to a driving license, college access, and a work permit.

What will ending DACA mean?

DACA protects 800,000 between the ages of 15 to 36. Trump has indicated that current “dreamers” if generally law abiding, will not be subject to any action. However new applications will not be affected. Trump touts his plan to make the deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants in the USA a priority for his government.  Though current DACA protectees should be safe right now, they are rightly terrified for their future. As are many other young people who will miss this opportunity yet know only America as their home country.

For most “dreamers” their status under DACA will lapse by March 2020 and it’s unclear what will happen to them then. For the first DACA citizens, their two-year deferral expires in 2018, the rest in 2019 and 2020. Immigrants with DACA permits expiring before March 5, 2018 can apply for a renewal.

Currently 15 states have joined together in a lawsuit protesting the decision to rescind DACA and California has announced its own lawsuit against the process.

More resist Trump’s policies – who are the sanctuary cities?

Sanctuary cities, places of protection and respite, go back thousands of years. For the US they have gained in number and reputation over the past 10 years, accelerating with the newest presidential administration and its policies.  New York was the first to speak out with a letter the week of Donald Trump’s inauguration defending the right of every student in New York City to school. It explained school staff do not check if children’s parents had visas and would not permit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to enter schools without proper legal authority. New York has an estimated 1.2 million undocumented immigrants.

Sanctuary cities are considered to have adopted laws, policies or practices which may impede some immigration enforcement efforts. The Sanctuary counties and cities in the US currently include Oregon, with 31 counties, Washington with 18 counties, California with 15 counties. Massachusetts has 6 cities, California 3 and there are many more.  A list can be found here: http://www.10news.com/news/list-of-sanctuary-cities-2017

How have the recent hurricanes affected undocumented immigrants?

In Texas and Florida there are many undocumented immigrants affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. They are deeply concerned about being deported under the government’s new and proposed policies. Despite some of them being entitled to aid from the federal government, most are too afraid to draw attention to themselves by asking for help, and are instead turning to churches and private charities. Federal Emergency Management Agency rules allow people in the country illegally to apply for disaster assistance on behalf of their children who are under 18 and have legal status in the USA. Undocumented immigrants are concerned applying for FEMA aid will expose their information and lead immigration authorities to them.

Trends in US immigration – a quick look at some interesting statistics.

America is changing. Immigrants, even if not yet affected by new policy are worried. They are concerned about changing attitudes, both from the government and American citizens. Some can’t cope with living in fear. There are increasing numbers of Mexican nationals voluntarily choosing to return to Mexico, even though their children were born in the US.

It’s easy to forget that America is a nation of migrants, in 1890 14.8% of the population were non- US born. Today that figure is still only 13.4% of the total population.

In the period 2009 to 2014 more Mexican nationals returned to Mexico than entered America. 1 million returned, and 870,000 went to the US. Recent reports are that more and more Mexicans are leaving America each week.

Other groups of immigrants are either leaving or turning away from the USA. The changes in H-1B and some student visas are discouraging students and highly skilled migrants from India, China and other countries. Last year the growing rate of foreign student admissions to the US grew at its slowest rate since 2009. Canada however, is actively seeking to attract international students and highly skilled workers to fill a skills gap in its economy. The number of international students in Canada has grown 92% since 2008.

A recent Ivy League study predicts 4.6million jobs will be lost by Donald Trump’s policies and the US economy will be 2% smaller by 2040. The article from CNN makes for interesting reading http://money.cnn.com/2017/08/10/news/economy/trump-immigration-jobs/index.html

 

Spousal & Fiancé Visas for the UK

If your partner or spouse has a long-term visa or residence in the UK you may be able to apply to join them as a dependent on a Family Visa for a spouse or partner.  A visa is needed if you are planning to live with a family member for more than six months. If you are already in the UK you may be able to apply to extend your visa.

 

However, if you have a visitor visa of less than six months you will not be able to apply for a family visa from within the UK. If your partner, fiancé or spouse is a student or temporary worker, you will not be able to gain a family visa.

 

The Family Visa process has stringent criteria. There are lots of reasons why you may qualify but a number of incidences where you might not. Family visas are something which need to be investigated fully for your individual circumstances.

 

The UK government publishes the criteria and process here https://www.gov.uk/uk-family-visa

 

Refusal of family visas does happen and can lead to difficult choices for families and relationships. We look at a few scenarios in this article.

 

Spousal visa difficulties experienced by couples

 

Currently partner visa applications are falling, from 46,906 in June 2006 to 27,345 in June 2015, when 66% of applications were granted favorably.

 

Case 1: David Kiff of the UK, and Wanwan Qiao of China

 

Wanwan lived in the UK for three years, initially on a student visa, and met David in April 2016. For a visa to be granted to a non-EU spouse any couple needs to be earning a combined income of £18,600, or be facing significant difficulties to live outside the UK. Their first application was denied as David was self-employed and could not properly demonstrate his income. The Home Office stated they were declining their second application based on immigration rules, and saw no reason why the couple cannot live in China. Wanwan is heavily pregnant, but has been granted exceptional leave to remain with an extension for four months, and can re-apply after she has given birth.

 

Their full story can be found here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-41012762

 

Case 2: Toni Stew of the UK and Mohamed El Faramawi of Egypt

 

Again, this couple’s issues began with them not earning the combined £18,600 per year requirements. They met in Egypt in 2009 and married six years later. They have a 17-month-old son Ali who lives with mum Toni in the UK. As Toni doesn’t earn the income threshold requirement, Mohamed is not allowed to come to the UK, and has only seen his son a handful of times. Toni works part-time while caring for her son.

 

Thousands of couples are said to be affected by the minimum income requirement introduced in July 2012.

 

Case 3: Lauren Segan of the UK and American, Spencer Russ

 

Both students, Laura and Spencer have been married for less than a year. Laura is still studying and feels it’s unfair of the UK government to expect her to earn the £18,600 threshold, whilst studying, in order to bring Spencer back to the UK. They met when they were both teaching English in Russia.

 

Both couple’s stories and more can be found here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35552289

 

What exactly was the change in law for income requirements for couples?

 

Under the family migration policy British citizens, foreign nationals who are settled in the UK and those with refugee status can apply to sponsor their partner’s visa. They must also show they have sufficient funding to support them. The minimum income requirement was introduced in July 2012.  For a non-European partner and child, the amount is £22,400 with an additional £2,400 for each additional child. Applicants who receive the status of “family of a settled person” cannot claim benefits or public funds.

 

The minimum income requirement policy was challenged in the High Court in 2013 and the Court of Appeal in 2014 as being discriminatory, and not compliant with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. Article 8 is the right to a private and family life. The Supreme Court ruled the immigration policy lawful, but it continues to separate and cause pain to many couple and families.

 

What is the “Surinder Singh” route?

 

Some applicants who were unable to meet the income threshold have taken the “Surinder Singh” route to bypass the law. They work in another nation in the European Economic Area for three months or more. When they return to the UK they are treated as an EEA citizen, instead of a British citizen. This means they can bring their spouse to the EEA country, then on to the UK without having to meet the income threshold. The Home Office must be satisfied that any applicant following this route did not do so just for immigration purposes.

 

Why is the American show “90-day Fiancé” so popular?!

 

The American TV show “90-day Fiancé” and its spin-offs follow the stories of American citizens moving abroad to be with partners, often that they have recently met online. Or American’s who bring their partners to the USA. These relationships often result in quick marriages, which some see as a route to immigration or monetary gain, and not real love stories. For some the stories are true romance and show individuals adapting to new countries and relationships. For other participants in the show there are obvious issues, visible one-sidedness, or a need for love or gain not shared by the spouse to be.

 

Lastly, can simple mistakes on visa applications cause problems for couples?

 

Yes! Simple errors on any visa and immigration application can cause huge problems, even the rejection of the visa itself. It’s vital that anyone completing an application is 100% confident they meet the requirements and criteria and can demonstrate this. Submitting an incomplete or incorrect application will almost certainly cause problems. Any attempt to hide details or submit fraudulent applications is likely to cause both immediate and future refusals. If you are not sure about any part of a visa application – take advice, it may seem expensive, but is likely to save money and heartache later.

Change and Concern for UK Student Visas and Migration

Change and Concern for UK Student Visas and Migration

The UK government under Theresa May has made changes in recent years to student visa rules as part of a wider strategy to reduce immigration within the UK. Theresa May has been extensively criticized for including international students in immigration figures. Brexit and the planned new immigration strategy for the UK, as part of the Brexit deal, is also likely to affect both EU and Non-EU students considering studying in the UK.

What are the UK visa criteria for International or Non-EU students?

Non-EU International students must meet certain criteria to study in the UK and must obtain a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa.

To apply for a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa you must:

  • have been offered a place on a course with a licensed Tier 4 sponsor
  • be able to speak, read, write and understand English
  • be able to support yourself financially, and pay for your course
  • be from a non-EEA country or Switzerland
  • apply no sooner than 3 months prior to the start of your course

Tier 4 Student Visas are usually decided quickly, often within 3 weeks, and currently cost £335.  There are additional fees for dependents, and a healthcare surcharge for you, and any dependents. There are rules about dependents, the type of course, the institution you are studying with, work and access to public services.

After you graduate, if you are considering taking a permanent job in the UK, to do so you would need to move to a Tier 2 Visa with an eligible employer and role.

What are the criteria for EU citizens wanting to study in the UK

EU citizens are currently free to study in the UK with the same criteria as other EU citizens visiting, working and living in Britain. They can take advantage of a cap on tuition fees, and tuition fee loans in the same way as UK students. Non-EU students do not have these advantages.

In April 2017, the government confirmed EU students applying for university places in the 2018-2019 academic year will remain eligible for financial support. The financial support comes in terms of the fee caps, loans, and grants available and would be valid for the period of study even if that continues, and ends, after the Brexit break. There are certain criteria for eligibility to financial benefits, depending on the length of time students have lived in either the UK or EEA.

What happens for potential EU students after the 2018-2019 intake remains to be decided. Students beginning their studies after the 2018-2019 period may be subject to the post-Brexit immigration changes, and policy, which have yet to be created.

What do the statistics say? Originating countries of students studying in the UK.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency’s latest figures on International student statistics were released in January 2017 for the year 2015-2016. The complete figures can be found here:

https://institutions.ukcisa.org.uk/Info-for-universities-colleges–schools/Policy-research–statistics/Research–statistics/International-students-in-UK-HE/#International-(non-UK)-students-in-UK-HE-in-2015-16

Of the figures, in the order greatest first, the top ten EU sending countries were: Germany, France, Italy, the Republic of Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria and lastly Poland. For non-EU students, again greatest first, the top ten reads: China, Malaysia, the USA, India, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand and Canada.

Britain has always been a first choice for many international students, however less welcoming government policies, Brexit, and the threat of stricter immigration rules means that many students are looking elsewhere. America, Canada and Australia are popular destinations. Though the USA is falling in popularity under the Donald Trump presidency.

By December 2015 the number of non-EU student arrivals had fallen to a nine-year low of 167,000.  Thought provokingly, the estimated figures are that international students add £7 billion per year to the UK economy. Not to mention the benefits to UK industry of attracting the world’s top talent within reach of employer’s skill shortages.

UK PM Theresa May draws criticism as actual figures for student visa over stayers are released.

Theresa May has been determined to include foreign students in the government immigration figures and planned reductions. The UK government, in explaining the reasoning behind this, seems to have overestimated the number of students who illegally overstay their student visas. Estimates for years prior to 2016 were close to 100,000. Actual figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for 2016 showed that just 4,600 students overstayed their visas.

Those opposing Theresa May believe students should be excluded from the immigration figures and targets, as most return home after studying. They also believe the benefits of international students, both whilst they are studying and when they reach industry, whether in the UK or not, far outweigh any concerns.

Some wonder if the damage to the UK economy and its universities has been done as total immigration figures post Brexit have halved.

Should applicants expect problems in obtaining a student visa in the UK?

Generally, the UK application and visa process is known to be a positive experience. Conversely, there have been recent reports of International students finding their UK student visa application problematic.

Study International broke a story on September 5th of unexpected visa delays for students from Hong Kong. Actual figures are undetermined but comments from lawyers and the British consulate in Hong Kong indicate hundreds of students may have been affected by late granting of their visas. Though UK universities have been accommodating, some students missed important first classes.

Find the full story here: https://www.studyinternational.com/news/visa-delays-leave-hundreds-hong-kong-students-risk-losing-place-uk-unis/#VAsxeRQvdU8LqOSb.97

Earlier this month the Guardian published the story of Oxford student Brian White, who won his right to stay in the UK and study after a long battle. There had been concern over his immigration status. This led to a national campaign and an eventual grant of indefinite leave to remain. Brian feels the visa processing system is confusing for those without legal help. Brian’s personal case made for a potentially more complicated visa application than some. However, cases like Brian’s serve to highlight the changes occurring within Britain’s immigration policies to potential new students and migrants to the UK.

Find the full story here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/sep/10/oxford-student-stay-uk-visa-process-transparent-brian-white

What does Brexit mean for UK immigration and EU citizens living in the UK?

What does Brexit mean for UK immigration and EU citizens living in the UK?

Though little has progressed with Brexit since the UK voted to leave the EU, now 15 months ago, the concerns of EU citizens living in the UK remain. UK PM Theresa May made the biggest step towards actual change with Article 50, triggering the two-year process of withdrawal from the union in March this year. There is now a lengthy period of negotiation for the EU and UK to agree terms of the separation. The UK is faced with the choice to step away from, or remain with,  EU legislation which currently governs the UK, including the Free Movement of Labour for EU citizens.

What rights does the Free Movement of Labour give EU citizens in the UK today?

Currently, citizens from EU member states can work and reside in the UK as long as they are employed, or able to support themselves without an undue burden on public funds. EU citizens also have access to public services such as healthcare and education. Employers must treat EU citizens in the same way as UK citizens. Family members of EU citizens are allowed to accompany their relation. This applies to dependents, spouses, parents, grandparents and grandchildren. An EU citizen can start or run a company in the UK without any additional permissions.

Should European citizens in the UK be concerned?

Possibly, it is certain is that there will be changes. What the changes will be is not yet decided. Causing extensive worry for Europeans currently living or working in the UK. There are over 3 million citizens living in the UK today from EU countries. Some EU citizens worry about the possibility of deportation. However, the UK must consider relations with EU member states and the European Union as a whole. The negotiations for Brexit will include a strong desire for the UK to retain trade links and trade deals with the EU. The UK also needs to consider and protect UK citizens, and their rights, living in other EU member states also under the Free Movement of Labour. Deportation, as such, is not likely to happen. We look next at what might.

How will the status of EU citizens change after Brexit?

There is much negotiating to be done before the status and rights of EU citizens in the UK, and travelling to the UK, is finalised. It’s expected the government will produce a post-Brexit immigration policy to be announced in the next year.

Meanwhile, the government has taken steps to reassure EU citizens with the release of a “UK settled status” offer in June this year. The “settled status” will give EU citizens who have spent five or more years in the UK equal rights to healthcare, education, benefits and pensions. Individuals must apply for “settled status”, and can also apply for British Citizenship. A cut-off date will be set between the date article 50 was triggered, and the date the UK actually leaves the EU. Those who arrived before the cut-off date, but who have not lived in the UK for five years, will be able to apply once five years have expired. Those arriving after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain in the UK under the post-Brexit immigration rules yet to be set. Family dependants who are living with EU citizens in the UK before the exit from the EU will again be able to apply for “settled status” after a period of five years.  Applications will be to the Home Office. An online application system is expected to be launched in 2018 giving EU citizens time to apply before the UK leaves the EU.

Rumours abound as to what the rules will be for EU citizens visiting, or wanting to live and work, in the UK after the actual split from the EU occurs. The Guardian reported on August 17th that EU citizens would likely be allowed to visit without a visa. But, new migration restrictions would apply for those wanted to work in the UK.

Speculation around the new immigration system includes the possibility of quotas, or a set number of work permits becoming available for EU workers with certain skillsets. It’s unlikely that any form of complete continuation of free movement will happen post-Brexit. The UK government announced late July that free movement of people between the EU and the UK would end in March 2019. Any EU workers arriving after that date would need to at least register, whilst a permanent immigration solution was put in place.

So, what do the statistics say?

Current trends in European immigration to the UK.

Uncertainty and concern across the UK and EU is starting show in current migration statistics. Trends are showing how Brexit may affect the UK and it’s labour market now and in future years. The Independent in the UK reported on new Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures. The figures show net migration to the UK having fallen by a quarter mainly due to uncertain EU citizens leaving the UK. Concern is the figures constitute a “brain drain” from the UK as skilled labour reliant industries lose vital workers.

Net migration is the number of people moving to the UK minus the number who are leaving over the same period. The number of new arrivals to live and work in Britain fell by 81,000 compared to the previous year. Out of the 51,000 non-British leavers from the UK, 44,000 were EU citizens. Of entrants, there was a significant fall in the number of Polish and Czech migrants, down to just 7,000 from a previous 40,000.

Some politicians, and many business leaders, are worried about the impact to industry and the labour market in the UK. Unemployment is currently at it’s lowest ever for the UK, just 4.5 per cent. A continued departure of EU citizens, who make up a demographic of 3 million in the UK, could seriously detriment workforce figures.

The number of international students, which includes students from the EU, also declined by 27,000 in the past year. Despite studies not being available, the general consensus is that international students add value to an economy through their spending, social, and academic contribution. International students often go on to fill high-skilled gaps in the labour market within their new country, in this case the UK.

These are not the only labour market issues. The Independent also led with a story recently on UK Trade Unions and Labour party MP’s plans in favour of continued free movement of labour within the EU. They cite warnings over the impact of workers, with less rights post-Brexit, being exploited by employers. The group suggests EU workers who will in the future have less rights, may receive less pay and benefits, driving down wage rates in the UK economy. They warn the end of free movement may lead to worker shortages, which would affect sectors of industry in the UK.