The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
With two months left to the end of the transition period a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules has been released on 22nd October. These changes to the fast approaching new UK Points-based Immigration System sit at just over 500 pages which is significantly longer than usual. However this is a result of many routes being re-written with little changes for easier reading, such as a number of Tier 2 and Tier 5 routes.
Most of the changes introduced will take place on 1st December 2020, a month before the transition period ends. Some of the major changes include; Refusal grounds, Students, Concessions due to COVID-19 and Skilled workers.
These amendments are the most restrictive part of the recent Statement of changes, most do not apply to routes such as the EU Settlement Scheme, Armed Forces, Family routes and Service Providers from Switzerland.
Firstly, the changes introduce further grounds for refusal or cancelation of temporary immigration status for custom breaches, being involved in a sham marriage and most significantly Is rough sleeping. Now, this introduction has already been significantly criticised due to its harsh impact, especially with the direct result of the Home Office’s hostile environment policies pushing people to homelessness. This includes many rough sleeping migrants having no access to public funds or state support, which denies people a safety net that would prevent them from becoming homeless in the first instance.
This new policy change to deport rough sleepers has already been previously introduced, however the High Court in 2017 ruled that it was unlawful.
Although this policy change is clearly a result of ignorance and misinformation due to the current hostile environment created by the UK Government. A poll carried out by YouGov which was answered by 3,000 Individuals currently resident in the UK, reveals that 37% of those who took part in the poll strongly agree with it and 25% somewhat agree. Although this is a very small pool it is a hint to the impact of the Governments anti-immigration language on public opinion.
Secondly, there is a mandatory ground for refusal for any EEA or Non-EEA citizens who have been convicted and sentenced to at least 12 months imprisonment. Furthermore, there is a mandatory ground for refusal for those who have caused serious harm and persistent offenders. This is a change from the previous policies that provided discretionary grounds for refusal for persistent offending and serious harm. Additionally, those who had a previous 12 month imprisonment, would have their applications refused for 10 years only.
Although the most significant changes for students happened on 10th September 2020, there has still been some welcomed updates in the most recent Statement of Changes. Firstly, the change to the maintenance level, is now at £1,334/M for those students inside London and £1,023 for all those students outside of London.
Secondly, a positive change for parents of child students will remove the need to re-apply for leave every 12 months. Parents of students who are children will be granted leave that will expire at the same time as the child, or on their 12th birthday, whichever one comes first.
Concessions due to COVID-19:
Over the current COVID-19 Pandemic the Home Office have reiterated their stance that those who did not leave the UK due to the Pandemic would not be categorised as an over-stayer. This has now been placed in policy, which will allow caseworkers to disregard those who have overstayed between 24th January 2020 and 31st August 2020 when applying for an immigration route.
Furthermore, changes have been introduced in regards to Continuous Residence and the rule of 180 days absences in any one year, which would break continuous residence. This will create an exception for those who have been absent from the UK due to the Pandemic. This is a welcomed addition as many travel restrictions have impacted those entering and leaving the United Kingdom.
Finally, there has not been any revolutionary changes to policies in regards to Skilled workers. However there has been a reconfirmation in this Statement of Changes. The Tier 2 route has been replaced by the Skilled worker route with changes such as;
The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) threshold has been reduced from Level 6 (Bachelors Degree) to Level 3 (A level).
The general salary threshold has been reduced from £30,000 to £25,000 which can be further reduced with exchangeable requirement points.
Finally, the removal of the Resident Labour Market Test. However the Home Office refused to make changes to the Shortage Occupation List which replaced a non-existent route for ‘Low Skilled Workers’. This decision to make no changes to the Shortage Occupation List goes against the Migrant Advisory Committees (MAC) recommended changes, in a bid to wait until post COVID-19.
There are a number of positive updates set out in the recent Statement of Changes, however not so surprisingly with the current Conservative Government there is a hint of anti-immigration within the Immigration policies. Over the coming months with discussions between the UK and Europe we should expect ever changing updates that is one thing that is certain during these uncertain times. However, we are still unclear about where we will stand in regards to the UK and EU relationship once we hit 12am on 1st January 2021.