This month's immigration update considers the Home Office launch of a new employer toolkit on settlement for EU citizens in the UK and the impact of the UK visa process on international artists' desire to perform at summer festivals across the country.
Welcome Brexit clarification for EU Citizens? Publication by the Home Office of an Employer's Toolkit on "Settled Status" for EU Citizens
On 24 July 2018, at a launch event attended by UK employers of EU citizens, community groups, industry bodies and local government agencies, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, announced the publication of a new toolkit for employers designed to "help reach out to all EU citizens living in this country and help them get their new immigration status".
Of course, the "new immigration status" being referred to, is "settled status" following Brexit. EU citizens will register under a new settlement scheme, which is intended to be rolled out and fully operational by 30 March 2019. A pilot scheme is planned as a live registration trial, to be run in the north-west and for whom some 4000 recruits are being sought.
The new toolkit comprises briefings, posters and leaflets about the EU settlement scheme, how it will operate, what the various fees will be and the timeframe for applications. It has been prepared for employers who can, if they choose to, use the information to share with their workforce.
Matthew Fell, the CBI's Chief Policy Director committed to asking each of the CBI's members to: "share the new toolkit with everyone who will find it useful". However, the toolkit has been seen by some as a premature move by the Home Office, given that the UK is still in the process of negotiating its withdrawal agreement and it remains to be seen what will happen if "no deal" situation is reached.
A quick re-cap on the proposals made by the UK to the rest of the EU in its statement of intent:
- EU citizens and their family members who, by 31 December 2020, have been continuously resident in the UK for five years will be eligible for "settled status" enabling them to stay indefinitely
- EU citizens and their family members who arrive by 31 December 2020, but will not yet have been continuously resident here for five years, will be eligible for "pre-settled status", enabling them to stay until they have reached the five-year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
- EU citizens and their family members with settled status or pre-settled status will have the same access as the currently do t healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK.
(Home Office EU settlement scheme statement of intent 21 June 2018).
In terms of the settlement process itself, it has been described as "straightforward" and "streamlined" – a "short, simple and user-friendly" online application form, with most applicants needing only to demonstrate that they are an EU citizen or family member and their continuous residence in the UK (as evidenced either by a permanent residence card or through automated checks of HMRC and DWP data and supporting documents). The process for those EU citizens and their family members who have previously been issued with a permanent residence document, should be the most straightforward, as there will be fewer checks carried out, though all applicants will be subject to criminality and security checks.
Whilst this is a commendable aim on the part of the Government, we expect that, in practice, there will be teething problems where individual circumstances don't quite match expectations and it is hoped that the trial will identify and iron out such glitches in advance of the process being rolled out for all EU citizens and their family members.
Will immigration rules rain on the parade of the UK's festival goer's this year?
In the last few days there have been reports that organisers of the WOMAD festival encountered difficulties in attracting foreign musicians to perform at its annual festival in Wiltshire this year. Organisers are quoted as suggesting that non-EEA artists are struggling to navigate the UK immigration rules and this is both preventing some from entering the UK and putting others off from accepting invitations to perform.
This comes as a surprise, because WOMAD, (along with other notable festivals such as Reading and Leeds, Edinburgh Fringe, Camp Bestival and Latitude), already features on a Home Office list of festivals and cultural events designed to overcome the procedural challenges of the more complex points-based system.
Being on the Home Office list, which is available to events which have been established for 3 years or more, have an audience of over 15,000 people and have 15 or more non-EEA national performers annually, means that international artists invited to perform at WOMAD were able to enter the UK with a Standard Visitor Visa, using the Business Creative section, and there is no requirement for them to be sponsored by the event organiser or an employer under the points based system. What is more, artists using this visa can receive payment for their performances, whereas under the normal visitor rules work or payment for services are not permitted.
Although more challenging in terms of the procedural requirements and cost, there are other options, apart from the Standard Visitor Visa, for the many international artists hoping to enter the UK to perform on this year's UK festivals circuit. This includes permitted paid engagement visitor visas, tier 2 (general) and tier 5 (creative and sporting) visas.
The difficulties being reported suggests perhaps a wider perception that the UK's immigration system is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.