spousal visas – Supreme Court could knock down Tory anti-love rule

The fate of thousands of children forced to live apart from their parents is about to be decided by the Supreme Court. It will hear today from couples separated by an income benchmark on spousal visas. If it decides in their favour, tens of thousands of Brits on low incomes could win the right to live in their home country with their loved ones.

This is how the system works: with little warning the Coalition government brought in an £18,600 income benchmark for spousal visas. If a Brit married someone from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), they needed to show six months of that level of income to be able to bring them over to live with them. The benchmark was £22,400 if they had a child and an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child.

The supposed purpose of the rule is to stop these spouses claiming benefits or generally demanding cash from the Hard Working British TaxpayerTM. But people on spousal visas have no recourse to public funds anyway. And the system is despairingly arbitrary. You can’t, for instance, include the spouses’ income. So if a millionaire marries a junior English nurse, he won’t be allowed in, despite the fact his presence would contribute considerable sums to the economy. Only the junior nurse’s salary counts.

You also can’t include third-party support, such a promise from parents or other family that they’ll offer help if the visa-holder runs into financial trouble. You can’t include property either, so retired people are forced to sell their property to satisfy these bizarre Home Office demands.

Anytime people complain about the policy, the Home Office replies that “family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense”, but the restrictions go well beyond that. What the law means is that 43% of the British population is banned from living in their own country with the person they love, if they happen to be from outside Europe. As with many Tory policies, it’s people in the north, the young, ethnic minorities and women who are particularly badly affected.

It didn’t have to be this way. The Home Office, as it was advised by experts, could have set the income benchmark at the level of a 40-hour working week on the minimum wage – thereby allowing anyone to bring over their spouse if they were prepared to work. It could have allowed savings to make up for a shortfall in earnings, and included the spouses’ income or support from third parties. And that’s what the appellants are demanding: recognition that the system is so demanding, so inflexible and so arbitrary that it contravenes the right to family life.

The high court accepted this argument, saying the rules presented “a disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship”. The court of appeal didn’t, although it said the rules constituted “a total ban on the entry of non-EEA partners where the UK partner cannot reach the required minimum” and acknowledged “this ban could be life-long”. Now the Supreme Court has an opportunity to strike it down.

The Children’s Commissioner and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) estimated that “at least 15,000 children have been negatively affected”. These children often call their parents ‘Skype-mummy’ or ‘Skype daddy’. Researchers reported “stress, anxiety and difficulties for the children and their families.” It’s high time this cold-hearted policy was discarded, before it can do any more damage to children or their parents.


‘Absurd’ visa rules on income force UK citizens into exile, court told

UK citizens are being forced into exile by the Home Office’s “irrational and absurd” minimum-income visa requirements, with some couples having no hope of ever being able to live together in Britain, the supreme court has heard.

UK nationals must earn more than £18,600 to bring over a non-EU spouse, rising to £22,400 if they have a child who does not have British citizenship, and by an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child.

Seven supreme court justices including the court’s deputy president, Lady Hale, will decide after a three-day hearing whether the rules contravene article 8 of the European convention on human rights, covering respect for private and family life.

Opening the case on Monday in a courtroom packed with dozens of families affected by the rule, including babies in prams, the appellant counsel, Manjit Singh Gill QC, said the law barred up to 47% of the working British population from living with a non-EU spouse in their home country.

“It has been said that death and taxes are certain; for some it is also certain they will never meet the threshold,” he said. “For many, £18,600 is completely unachievable. It is not like the case of the English language test where you can put in so many hours. This is effective for life, for half the British population. Parliament cannot have intended the law to be used in that way.”

The supreme court challenge, brought after the case was dismissed by the court of appeal last year, has multiple appellants. Two of them, Abdul Majid and Shabana Javed, are British and married to Pakistani nationals; a third, known as MM, is a Lebanese refugee. A nephew of MM, known as AF, is also an appellant, as well as SS, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gill described the lengthy application process for a spousal visa, including costly appeals, as “torture” and impossibly complex for many families. The threshold is the highest in the world bar Norway, a country that has a far higher minimum wage that Britain, Gill said.

The aim of the minimum-income rule, as stated by the government, is for families to be self-sufficient, but Gill said the evidence was extremely uncertain that foreign spouses, who have no recourse to public funds, would be any additional drain on the taxpayer.

“An applicant earning £250,000 with a £3m property, where the partner is a British woman who is a full-time mother to children, would not be allowed,” he pointed out.

Referring to the so-called Surinder Singh route – whereby couples and families can move to an EU country for several months and re-apply to return under EU free movement laws, circumventing minimum-income requirements – Gill said the current law forced British citizens into temporary or permanent exile.

“The absurdity is quite staggering,” he said. “People being forced to leave the country and then come back. What on earth is the point of doing that? People are being forced into that situation and we are talking about British citizens – half the working population would face that absurd scenario. The gravity of the interference here [by the state] is particularly high.”

Gill questioned why the support of third parties, such as British relatives of the divided couples, could not be taken into account. “The other side say it is difficult to predict the continued support of third parties. One could say that the support of third parties may be more dependable than income from a job where a business may not tell its employers if it is struggling. It is completely irrational and without logic.”

The hearing continues for two more days with lawyers for the Home Office as well as those representing the children’s commissioner and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants will also submit evidence. A decision is expected within six months.


Families to challenge minimum income visa rules in supreme court

The families of UK citizens denied the right to live in Britain because of the minimum income visa requirement for non-EU partners are to challenge the rules in the supreme court on Monday.

They argue that they have been denied the right to a family life by the rules condemned by migrant rights groups and family campaigners, including the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, who has said rules are creating “Skype families”.

British citizens must earn more than £18,600 to bring over a non-EU spouse, rising to £22,400 if they have a child who does not have British citizenship, and an additional £2,400 for each subsequent child.

Critics argue that the law, introduced in July 2012, penalises 43% of the UK population and means British citizens in full-time employment on the minimum wage cannot enjoy the right to live with their families in the UK.

The supreme court challenge, brought after the case was dismissed by the court of appeal last year, has three appellants: two of them, Abdul Majid and Shabana Javed, are British and both married to Pakistani nationals; and the third is known as MM, a Lebanese refugee.

Before the court of appeal dismissal, Mr Justice Blake had ruled at the high court that the financial requirements were “a disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship” and suggested a minimum income closer to the minimum wage would be more appropriate.

In September, research by Middlesex University and the charity the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found about 15,000 British children are either separated from one parent or forced to grow up outside the UK because of the rules.

In response to the the study, Longfield said: “We are not talking about having unrestricted access but we need to put the heart back into this policy and consider the profound impact the rules have on this group of British children and their families.”

Last year, the Conservative thinktank Bright Blue called on the government to change the rules, noting the “significant contribution millions of low-paid Britons make to our economy and society, as well as the value of having families living together in the same country”. It recommended family visas also be granted as long as the British partner had paid income tax for the past two-and-a-half years.

The Home Office said it was determined “family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense.The level of the minimum income threshold reflects the income at which a British family generally ceases to be able to access income-related benefits.”

Sonel Mehta, the founder of the campaign BritCits, which gives support to divided families, said the government was keen to crack down further on family reunification because it was one area where policy was having a real effect on keeping immigration numbers down.

“Families are an easy target, they aren’t big business or universities that can do big lobbying to get in students or workers from abroad,” she said. “You can’t replace your husband or wife with a British substitute if the visa is denied.”

More than 40 people from BritCits plan to attend the supreme court hearings this week, many of them who have sons and daughters forced to live abroad or have non-EU spouses cut off from their children. A ruling is not expected for a number of months.

Don Flynn, director of Migrants’ Rights Network, said he hoped at the very least that the supreme court would acknowledge that there should be more flexibility for individual cases.

“In any case I have ever been involved with, the Home Office has not once exercised any discretion. You have to earn over that amount or it will be refused. I would hope the supreme court will acknowledge that, perhaps draw up some guidelines for when that discretion should be exercised in order to make sure the right to a family life is protected,” he said.


Draft EU rules could tighten migration loophole for foreign-born spouses

Hundreds of British citizens with foreign-born partners who depend on an obscure legal loophole to allow them to live together in the UK could see their chances of family life made even tougher by the EU renegotiation, campaigners and lawyers have warned.

Current rules insist a British spouse must earn more than £18,600 for their loved one to be allowed to join them in the UK, regardless of the income of the foreign spouse or the family’s assets.

As a result, many have relied on a bizarre workaround known as the Surinder Singh route, in which a British citizen moves temporarily to another EU country with their foreign partner, before both enter the UK under EU freedom of movement laws.


However, the draft deal from the European commission, aimed at keeping Britain in the EU, includes a paragraph that seems intent on shutting down the loophole, agreeing “to exclude, from the scope of free movement rights, third-country nationals who had no prior lawful residence in a member state before marrying a union citizen or who marry a union citizen only after the union citizen has established residence in the host member state”.

The draft deal also says member states should be able to use the “abuse of free movement rights” as a reason to deny a visa, if the couple “had the purpose of evading the application of national immigration rules”.

Critics argue the current law on spousal visas penalises around 43% of the UK population, particularly mothers of young children, public sector workers and those living outside London and the south-east, who are more likely to be low paid. Families have challenged the Home Office over the minimum income rules, with the final appeal set to be heard at the supreme court on Monday.

Don Flynn, director of the Migrants’ Rights Network, estimates there may be about 100 families currently in the process of attempting the Surinder Singh route – although there is no official record – who will now have to apply for permanent status in whichever EU country they go to, before returning to Britain.

“The reality is that even when the income has been only just below the threshold, or if the British partner has a young child, or a foreign partner has a cast-iron guarantee of earning more, the Home Office has never once, in cases I’ve been aware of, exercised any discretion,” he said.

Sonel Mehta, founder of campaign group BritCits, which works with divided families and gives advice on the Surinder Singh route, said families felt they were again bearing the brunt of a government crackdown on immigration numbers, but had no one to lobby for them.

“People are panicking,” Mehta said of the draft deal. “It is yet another way to target families. And British citizens feel upset because this is driven by their own government. And this draft could close down another window when the door is already bolted shut.”

Couples who have attempted to use the loophole will have to leave any jobs or homes in Britain and set up home in another EU country, most usually Ireland, for at least three months, but more often six to 12 months. “We usually say to people the longer the better,” Mehta said. “We actually advise people to make as much of a go of it in that country as they can, to build a life.”

Danielle and her American husband, Michael, who met in California in 2008 and spent a few years living together in both the US and UK, were travelling in South America in 2012 when they found out the rules on minimum income had been brought in. Danielle had planned to return to the UK to train as a teacher.

For Danielle, this technicality, which hinges on EU freedom of movement rules, was the only way she could continue to live with her husband, despite the couple having been married for several years.


The couple had to give up plans to move to the UK and instead spent time working in Germany in order to then apply to bring Michael to the UK as the spouse of a EU citizen, exercising free movement rights, rather than comply with the British rule.

“It didn’t matter that we had been married and had already lived together for more than three years, including some of that time being in the UK,” Danielle told the Guardian. “There was no point even applying for a spouse visa as we couldn’t remotely meet the criteria.”

Danielle said she never considered spending time in the UK, away from Michael, to look for a job that would earn over the minimum as it would mean a separation of at least six months. “We got married because we wanted to be together,” she said. “It was a real challenge not succumbing to depression and anger. Why could I not do the simple thing that most couples take for granted – live together on the same patch of the Earth?”

The couple looked for jobs teaching English across the EU, with Danielle eventually finding a job in Germany, where she had spent part of her childhood. “I will be forever thankful to Germany for being so welcoming to us,” she said. “Every aspect of the German state that we interacted with was efficient and we were treated very courteously.”

The couple did contemplate staying in the country, where they had made friends and had built a life, but separation from family in the UK meant they decided to try again to return. “I got through every day by reminding myself that every single person goes through challenges at various times in their lives and that I was doing this for love,” she said. “Despite my best efforts the stress really started to take its toll on my health.”

Colin Yeo, a barrister specialising in immigration at Garden Court Chambers, is sceptical whether the draft deal will be able to effectively shut down Surinder Singh. “It is part of the draft which comes under ‘clarifications’, not treaty change, and Surinder Singh is a right which comes under the EU treaty,” he said. “Whether that ‘clarification’ will have any legal effect is questionable.”

After spending more than a year in Germany, Michael and Danielle now have a family settlement visa that allows them to set up home in the UK. “I feel like we belong somewhere for the first time since we’ve been married,” she said. “There is something about being away from a place for a long time that magnifies your love for it.”

It is the monetary value placed on her family life that Danielle said she found the hardest to accept. “People and planet are inherently more valuable than money,” she said. “It overlooks the fact that money is a human creation that should enable us to take better care of each other and the world we live in, and not be used as the prime motivator for tearing families apart.”

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/

migraton non eu spouse visa uk

More than 40 percent of British workers are too poor to marry a non-EU citizen and live together in the UK under government rules, according to new report from Oxford University.

The data revealed that women and young people are disproportionately affected by the £18,600 threshold. According to the university’s Migration Observatory, 50 percent of women and 53 percent of people under 30 are ineligible to settle a non-EU spouse in the UK.

Rules for non-EU spouse visas require that a British citizen’s income is sufficient to prevent migrants from placing a burden on the state, but critics have argued the system is negatively affecting some more than others.

Next month the Supreme Court will review the policy and judge how the threshold affects British citizens looking to settle with non-EU partners in the UK.

“In some respects, the current family migration rules prioritise couples in which the UK partner is the main breadwinner,” said Carols Vargas-Silva, senior researcher at Oxford University Migration Observatory said. “That is likely to make it easier for men to sponsor their wives rather than vice versa.”

Exact numbers on how many people the system has prevented from entering the UK legally are not known, but in 2012 the government estimated the figure at between 13,600 and 17,800 per year.

Those who did not attend higher education are less likely to earn enough to meet the threshold, with 53 percent of people ineligible. The Oxford University report also noted that a majority of people living in London (73 percent) meet the threshold, even if they are female (67 percent) or under the age of 30 (69 percent).


People who are working abroad when they apply to join their spouse in the UK cannot count these earnings towards the threshold. The Oxford University report notes that “limited data” is available to assess how many couples would be eligible if foreign income were counted.

The income threshold was one of a number of policies introduced during the last parliament to reduce net migration. Applicants also have to prove their relationship is genuine — by providing proof of address and length of time together — and an ability to speak the same language.

“There is no magic number defining the level of income at which a family is expected make an economic contribution,” Vargas-Silva added.

Source: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2016-01/27/migraton-non-eu-spouse-visa-uk


asylum Migrant spouses who fail English test may have to leave UK, says Cameron

Migrants who fail language tests after two and a half years in the UK may be forced to leave, David Cameron has said, as he announced plans to encourage greater integration of Muslim women.

When asked whether a Muslim woman who had come to the UK on a spousal visa and had children without learning the language herself could be denied leave to remain, the prime minister said there would be no guarantee that those who did not improve their English could stay.

He outlined the plan in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, claiming there were 38,000 Muslim women who could not speak English and 190,000 with limited skills in the language.

Cameron said not just Muslim women, but all those who entered the UK on the five-year spousal settlement programme would soon have to sit language tests halfway through that period.

“After two and half years they should be improving their English and we will be testing them,” the prime minister said. “We will bring this in in October and it will apply to people who have come in on a spousal visa recently and they will be tested.”

Cameron stressed that he was not blaming those who could not speak English because “some of these people have come from quite patriarchal societies and perhaps the menfolk haven’t wanted them to speak English”.

But when questioned about whether they would be asked to leave the country if they failed to start learning the language, he said that was possible as “people coming to our country have responsibilities too”.

“They can’t guarantee they will be able to stay, because under our rules you have to be able to speak a basic level of English to come into the country as a husband or wife. We made that change already, and we are now going to toughen that up, so halfway through the five-year spousal settlement there will be another opportunity to make sure your English is improving. You can’t guarantee you can stay if you are not improving your language.”

Cameron defended his plan to launch a £20m language fund to help Muslim women unable to speak English. He had overseen cuts to funding for language lessons for immigrants.

Earlier, he called for an end to the “passive tolerance” of separate communities, which left many Muslim women facing discrimination and social isolation.

The prime minister said he would not avoid telling the “hard truths” required to confront the minority of Muslim men whose “backward attitudes” led them to exert “damaging control” over women in their families.

“All too often, because of what I would call ‘passive tolerance’, people subscribe to the flawed idea of separate development,” he wrote in the Times. “It is time to change our approach. We will never truly build One Nation unless we are more assertive about our liberal values, more clear about the expectations we place on those who come to live here and build our country together, and are more creative and generous in the work we do to break down barriers.”

The new English language scheme would try to reach the most isolated women, targeting specific communities based on the ongoing review into segregation being carried out by Louise Casey, the head of the government’s troubled families unit.

Classes would be held in homes, schools and community centres, with travel and childcare costs provided to encourage participation.

Cameron said all public services, including nurseries, schools, health visiting and job centres, needed to play a part in tackling “prejudice and bigotry” and building integration.


Source: theguardian

UK National Health Surcharge


The National Health Surcharge came into effect on 6 April 2015 and applies to all non-EEA nationals applying for UK Visas for periods longer than six months. It was introduced by the UK Government as a way to ensure that non-EEA nationals make an appropriate financial contribution to the cost of making use of the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain.

Who is eligible to pay the Surcharge?

Only non-EEA nationals who are applying for UK visas for periods more than six months will be subject to the health surcharge.

Applicants for UK Visitor Visas are thus exempted from the surcharge.

Are there any exemptions?

Nationals from Australia and New Zealand, are fortunate enough to be exempted from this surcharge. Their governments have reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK Government, which exempt them from having to pay this surcharge.

Other exemptions include; Intra-company transfers under the Tier 2 immigration route, Dependents of a member of Her Majesty’s Forces and migrants who apply under the Home Office concession known as the ‘destitute domestic violence concession’.

Important (and fortunate) to note is that Applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Citizenship are exempted from the UK National Health Surcharge.

What are the exact costs?

The cost of the National Health Surcharge is £150 per year for students.

All other applicants will pay £200 per year. Dependents applying for visas are also subject to the surcharge.

When applying for your visa, you will have to pay to cover the whole period of stay for each application. As an example, if you are applying for a UK Ancestry Visa for five years, you will have to pay £1,000 (£200 x 5 years).

If you apply for an extension of your current visa, the surcharge have to be paid for the period of extension. Persons who for example applied for their UK Visas before 6 April 2015 have not been liable to pay, but will have to pay for the extension on their visa when they apply.

What are the practical implications?

All UK visa applications have to be accompanied by the surcharge. It is payable for the total period of the UK Visa being applied for.

The amount is collected as part of the immigration application and the payment is mandatory.

Unsuccessful UK Visa Applications

Should your UK visa application be unsuccessful, you will receive a refund.

For more information in your unique circumstances, please contact us today.

Australians and UK business not happy about proposed UK visa change

Proposed changes to the UK’s working visa programme are not being welcomed by Australia with officials describing them as discriminatory and harmful to relations between the two countries.

A report published by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade suggests that new working visa rules due to come into effect in 2016, will cause ‘structural damage to formal relations between the two countries’.

Under the planned change the spouse of someone with a Tier 2 visa would no longer be able to work in Britain. Changes may also make it harder for international companies looking to transfer staff using the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa route.

The UK is introducing tougher visa regulations as part of an overall long term policy to reduce immigration and a response to terrorism threats. But businesses in the UK are opposed to the change.

According to News Corp Australia, the DFAT report said that Australian businesses or those with links to Australia operating in the UK are very concerned about the possible changes.

Over 50% of the businesses surveyed as part of the DFAT report, said that changes to UK working visas would affect UK investment plans, while two thirds said it would affect their ability and willingness to recruit Australians.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) in the UK has called for a comprehensive review of immigration policy, accusing the government of imposing arbitrary targets that made it impossible to manage migration in a way that supports business and the national economy.

“UK working visa changes are making the country a less welcoming destination for Australians. This has the potential to harm the UK’s image and reputation in Australia and long-term, it might undermine the unique Australia-UK bond,” said a spokesperson for the Australian High Commission in London.

The Home Office said that the changes are necessary. “We want to ensure that businesses are able to attract the skilled migrants they need, but we also want them to get far better at recruiting and training UK workers first,” a spokesman said.

While there is a lot of support for visa change in the UK to reduce the number of people able to work in the country from outside of the European Union, few realise it will hit people from Australia and new Zealand as well as India and other Asian countries.

The UK has already done away with the Tier 1 Post Study Work visa and Tier 1 General Visa schemes and capped the Tier 2 General visa at 21,700.

“In contrast to other nations, if a UK company hires an Australian worker, the worker has to return to Australia for a visa or to switch visas. With the UK refusing to allow in-country visa switching, employers are deterred and Australians have a case for discrimination,” the DFAT report concludes.


Things to keep in mind once you have received your initial Spouse / Unmarried Partner Visa

1.Continuing to meet the financial requirement

Please bear in mind that the financial requirement will need to be met again at both the Further Leave to Remain (extension) and the Indefinite Leave to Remain stage. However, as the applicant will now have a visa allowing them to work in the United Kingdom, you will be able to combine the earnings of the applicant and the British national /settled partner to meet this (assuming that you weren’t able to before).

2.Meeting the financial requirement through employment

If you plan to meet the financial requirement through employment, please ensure that you keep an eye on the payslips and payments you receive from your Employer. The UKVI need both original payslips/payslips certified by your employer and the corresponding bank statements to show the salary entering your personal account. The net amount on the payslips should match the amount that enters your bank statement. If you spot any errors, please inform your HR / Accounts department and notify them and ask where possible to rectify the mistakes. They can also provide a letter to confirm any mistakes that if happened if this does occur.

3.Meeting the financial requirement through self-employment.

If you plan to meet the financial requirement through self-employment as a sole trader, it is important that you keep all your documents and accounts organised. Ensure you keep all invoices sent out to clients, remittance advice, bank statements, contracts and all correspondence from HMRC. Keep a record of all payments you receive and who from, especially if you receive cash and cheque payments from clients. The more organised you are, the easier it is when it comes to demonstrating that you meet the financial requirement.

4.Make sure you have a good Accountant.

If you are self-employed as a sole trader or a Director of a Limited Company, please ensure you have an excellent, organised Accountant, who you can rely on and understands your needs. Please note that the documents that are required for Immigration purposes may differ from what is required for HMRC and tax purposes.

5.Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

A new requirement introduced earlier in the year means that applicants are now required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of your immigration application when you apply for Further Leave to Remain (extension). The amount is £200 per year, per applicant. As the extension is granted for two years and six months, you will have to pay for two full years and half of the yearly amount for the six months. You will, therefore, need to pay an additional £500 per applicant. You do not need to pay the IHS when you are applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

6.Bank Statements

Bank statements are required for proof of meeting the financial requirement regardless of how you are meeting the requirement. The UKVI usually only except original bank statements (as posted to you by the bank), but in the absence of these they will also accept statements that have either been stamped and certified by the issuing bank, or which have been provided on headed paper. You may also rely on statements that have been printed in a branch with an accompanying cover letter certifying that they are an accurate representation of your account. The UKVI are strict on bank statements. We advise you not to go paperless, but if you already have, you will need to check with your bank how they can assist you, as the services each bank offers differ. Please ensure you speak to your bank in plenty of time as you may have to order historical bank statements.

7.Official correspondence

Please ensure that you and your British/settled partner both get items of official correspondence sent out to you at your home address from a few different sources. Usually, it is easiest to ensure that you are just jointly named on all the bills, but items addressed to you both individually is also acceptable. You must ensure that all official correspondence is not just in your name or your partners name. This correspondence is used to prove cohabitation – that you have both been residing in the same address together. This is extremely important – especially for unmarried partners, Please ensure you keep these items of post somewhere safe, as you will need them to show cohabitation both at the extension stage and Indefinite Leave to Remain stage.

8.Don’t go paperless!

We advise that you do not go paperless with your correspondence. It may be great for the environment, but unfortunately, the UKVI do not except internet copies.


You and your partner should each try to ensure that you do not spend more than half the year outside of the UK. This is because the Further Leave to Remain (extension) and the Indefinite Leave to Remain applications both require the applicant and the partner to “intend to live together permanently in the United Kingdom” and this could be hard to prove if they have been largely living outside of the United Kingdom before applying.


Help and support from ICS Legal

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A report published by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has criticised possible changes to UK working visas – such as to the Tier 2 Visa scheme – describing them as discriminatory and harmful to UK-Australia relations. The Australian government warned that new UK working visa rules, which, many expect to come into effect in 2016, will cause ‘structural damage to formal relations between the two countries.’ It seems that Theresa May the UK Home Secretary is in favour of these changes. It is widely known that she favours tougher immigration rules.

Major UK working visa changes possible

Amendments to UK working visa rules may mean that the spouse of say a Tier 2 visa holder’s will no longer be able to work in Britain. Changes may also make it harder for international companies looking to transfer staff using the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa route.

According to News Corp Australia, the DFAT report said that Australian businesses or those with links to Australia operating in the UK are very concerned about the possible changes.

Businesses with an Australian Connection surveyed about UK visas

Over 50 per cent of the businesses surveyed as part of the DFAT report, who employ between 10 and 10,000 personnel, said changes to UK working visas – including the Tier 2 (General) Visa would ‘affect UK investment plans’, while two-thirds of respondents indicated that it would impact ‘their ability and willingness to recruit Australians.’

UK businesses are required to have a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence in order to sponsor foreign workers on Tier 2 visas from outside of the EU; usually to fill a particular job that cannot be filled by a British or European Economic Area (EEA) worker. One visa that is popular with Australians is the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa for those from certain Countries from the ages of 18 to 30 including those from Australia; this visa does not currently require sponsorship from an UK employer.

Following the DFAT report the Australian High Commission, had the following to say: “UK working visa changes are making the country a less welcoming destination for Australians. This has the potential to harm the UK’s image and reputation in Australia and long-term, it might undermine the unique Australia-UK bond.”

Fewer UK Skilled worker visa routes for Australians

It is becoming more and more difficult for people from outside the EU, including Australians to work in the UK. In 2011, the UK government decided to scrap the Tier 1 Post Study Work visa and Tier 1 General Visa schemes while at the same capping the Tier 2 General visa at 21,700; this affected nationals of all countries who are not part of the European Union or European Economic Area. The 2004 enlargement of the EU when ten new Countries mainly from Eastern Europe joined the EU resulted in a surge in the number of skilled and semi-skilled workers entering the UK. Especially after the financial crisis of 2007 there has been increasing concerns over immigration. As the UK can do little about EU immigration as EU nationals can work freely in the EU it has tried to restrict immigration from outside the EU.

Aside from tighter restrictions to the Tier 2 Intra-Company transfer route and the removal of the right of spouses of Tier 2 Visa holders to work, it’s expected that a number of new immigration related fees will be implemented including a skills levy. Salary thresholds for Tier 2 visas may also be increased which will make it more expensive for companies to hire workers from outside the EU.

Australian government protest proposed UK immigration changes

In a rare diplomatic move, the Australian government has formally protested against UK working visa changes; Australia’s High Commissioner, Alexander Downer, has contacted Whitehall and Westminster’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).about the proposed changes.

The DFAT report concludes: “In contrast to other nations, if a UK company hires an Australian worker, the worker has to return to Australia for a visa or to switch visas. With the UK refusing to allow in-country visa switching, employers are deterred and Australians have a case for discrimination.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson opposes more restrictive immigration controls

London Mayor Boris Johnson has vowed to take up the case with UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. Johnson, who spent time studying in Melbourne, Australia during his youth said he would ‘make the case for Australia’s unique connection with UK history to be recognised.’

A spokesperson said: “The Mayor [Boris Johnson] has long argued for a fair but firm UK visa system that attracts talented people from across the world to come to London to live and work.”

“He believes that Commonwealth citizens should be given more freedom to contribute to London’s economy, culture and communities, particularly given the strong cultural connections between our countries.

As a start, the Mayor has proposed an agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom that allows greater movement of skilled people between both countries in order to address skills shortages. This could be extended further to other Commonwealth countries, if successful,” the spokesperson added.