In this briefing our Immigration team provides an update on the latest developments that employers need to know about including: the EU Settlement Scheme, the Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules and the proposed increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Brexit and the EU Settlement Scheme: updates
We considered this first phase of the EU Settlement Scheme in our article in August 2018, which assessed the impact of the Home Office launch of an employer toolkit on settlement for EU citizens in the UK.
In its statement of changes issued on 11 October 2018, the Home Office announced that a second phase of the implementation of the pilot scheme will be rolled out. This follows the successful implementation of the first phase of the pilot scheme which was added as Appendix EU to the Immigration Rules, and came into force on 28 August 2018.
The second phase of the EU Settlement Scheme focuses on:
- Amendments to align the basis on which family members of British citizens who have returned to the UK having exercised their Treaty Rights in other EU member states will be eligible to apply for status under the EEA Settlement Scheme in the same way as family members of EEA nationals. An example of an individual exercising their treaty rights is where a UK national works overseas in an EEA country. If that individual has a non-EEA family member who joins them on his/her return to the UK, the non-EEA family member will be able to apply for pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
- How EEA nationals and their non-EEA family members will be required to prove their identity using the "identity verification app". EEA nationals will be required to provide their passport for the ID process and non-EEA nationals will be able to use their biometric residence card. The app will check the applicant's ID document remotely, which will then be used for the online application form. This demonstrates that the Home Office is considering the simplest ways for EEA migrants to provide their identity. The use of an app will be a new venture for the Home Office and should, we hope, assist both applicants and the Home Office with both processing speed and costs.
Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules (11 October 2018): summary of the key changes to the UKVI application process
Some key changes for economic migrants have been introduced as part of a wider reform to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) application process.
This is part of the Home Office's ongoing initiative to streamline the UKVI application process, with the aim of moving applications online and providing a generally smoother process.
Original documents no longer required
The Home Office will no longer require original documents for applications and copies can be provided instead. Case workers will be able to request verification of documents.
This is a welcome move in our increasingly digital age, where many applicants will not, for example, receive paper bank statements, and are likely to experience practical difficulties in obtaining original documents from overseas.
The Home Office has confirmed that it will return an applicant's passport when requested and where possible whilst it is considering that application.
However, an application will be treated as withdrawn if the applicant travels outside of the Common Travel Area upon the return of their passport. The Common Travel Area is the UK, Ireland and the Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey).
Unfortunately, the Home Office has not provided any exceptions to this rule, which we would hope to see if, for example, a migrant had a family emergency and needed to travel back to their country of origin.
Currently, a Home Officer caseworker can only write to an applicant once to request a specific document that is missing from a visa application.
The Immigration Rules have now been relaxed in relation to evidential requirements, such that a Home Office caseworker will be able to write to the applicant to request for any/ multiple missing documents to be provided within a reasonable period.
Fee waiver provisions
The Home Office has introduced new fee waiver provisions, which provide that a migrant may apply for a fee waiver as part of an online application for leave to remain in the UK. They will then be notified whether the fee waiver application has been successful and will have 10 working days to apply online from the date of the approval of a fee waiver.
Immigration Health Surcharge to double
The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) applies to non-EEA migrants and their family members who are in the UK to work or study. The IHS gives non-EEA migrants access to the NHS on the same basis as UK citizens whilst they are living in the UK. Currently, the IHS is payable at a rate of £200 per year per migrant, and £150 per for students and in the youth mobility category. The IHS is not payable by migrants who are permanent residents in the UK.
In a written statement on 11 October 2018 from Caroline Nokes, the Minister of State for Immigration, the Government made clear its intention to raise the Immigration Health Surcharge to £400 per year per migrant. Students and those on youth mobility visas will pay a discounted rate of £350 per year per migrant.
This is the first time that the IHS has been increased since it was introduced in 2015.