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UK immigration change: Partners must pass English test before being granted a UK Visa

by Marissa 6/11/2010 3:03:00 PM

Migrants must now pass an English
test before they can join
their partners in the UK.

The UK Government has announced that compulsory English language tests will be introduced from autumn 2010 for non-EU migrants applying for a UK Visa to come to the UK to join or marry their settled partner.

The changes mean partners will need to demonstrate they have a basic command of English before leaving their homeland, around the level of a five- to seven-year-old, which will allow them to cope with everyday life in the UK. The new test will assess a person's ability to introduce themselves, ask simple directions, and understand what is said by someone speaking slowly.

While a seemingly uncontroversial UK immigration requirement for new migrants, it also seems an unnecessary law given that the UK already requires migrants to speak English. Partners who have completed the initial two-year period of temporary residence still need to pass the “Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK” test before obtaining permanent residence.

Additionally, the new law doesn’t apply to EU citizens – otherwise the most likely group of people affected. The Home Office has acknowledged the people most likely to be adversely affected are those coming from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh where English is not spoken in rural areas, or by poor or uneducated people.

I am sure there will be certain applicants who will struggle to pass the tests, which could mean long delays before they can join their partners here – if ever in some cases. Even for those who do pass, having to sit the test will mean an extra step and fee to pay, as well as the time and trouble involved.

The Home Office estimates the new law will lead to a drop of around 10 per cent in UK Visa applications, and unfortunately, this may be at the expense of genuine relationships.

What do the changes mean?

 

From autumn 2010, non-EU migrants wishing to join their partners in the UK as a partner will need to demonstrate basic English at A1 level, the same level required for skilled workers admitted under Tier 2 of the points-based system.

A partner will need to provide evidence with their UK Family Visa application that they have passed an English language test with one of UK Border Agency’s approved test providers.

The new rules will apply to anyone applying as the husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner, same-sex partner, fiance(e) or prospective civil partner of a UK citizen or a person settled in this country. The tests will be compulsory for people applying from within the UK as well as UK visa applicants from overseas.

Migrants applying for partner visas must also meet other requirements, including  being able to show a relationship is genuine,  and the ability to support themselves financially.

Partners who wish to apply to settle permanently in the UK after completing the initial two-year temporary residence will still need to pass  the “Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK” test .

- Marissa Murdock is Casework Department Manager for the UK Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK immigration update: identity cards rolled out to skilled migrant workers

by Marissa 1/14/2010 2:31:00 PM

Identity cards have become
compulsory for a number of UK
visa
holders (Image: UK Border
Agency)

As of 6 January 2010, UK immigration identity cards are being rolled out to another category of foreign national resident in the UK: skilled workers and their dependants.

In November 2008, the compulsory identity cards were issued by the UK Border Agency to certain categories of non-European foreign nationals when they were granted permission to extend their stay in the UK.

Since then, they have twice widened the range of categories that require the identity card. As a result, the list now stands as follows:

Compulsory Identity Card Immigration Categories

  • Spouses, civil partners, unmarried or same-sex partners (i.e. certain UK family visa holders);
  • Students under Points Based System Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child) (i.e. certain UK student visa holders)
  • Postgraduate doctors and dentists
  • Visitors for private medical treatment
  • Domestic workers in a private household
  • United Kingdom ancestry
  • Retired persons of independent means
  • Sole representatives
  • Transfer of conditions
  • Skilled Workers (added 6 January)
  • Ministers of Religion (added 6 January)
  • Sports Persons (added 6 January)
  • Representatives of Overseas Businesses (added 6 January)
  • Dependants (added 6 January)

If a migrant in one of these categories applies to extend their stay in the UK, they must enrol their biometrics (fingerprints and facial image) before the UK Border Agency decide whether to give them permission to stay. If their application is successful, they will be issued an identity card.

What is the UK immigration identity card for?

The card provides a simple way of confirming the holder's nationality, identity and immigration status in the UK. It shows whether they have the right to work or study legitimately under the UK's points-based system for immigration, and helps them to access public services.

The changes do not affect the settled population, foreign nationals who are seeking to settle here, or applicants in other immigration categories (who continue to receive a vignette in their passport when they extend their stay).

- Marissa Murdock is Casework Department Manager for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

New government migration legislation set to put the pressure on UK work permit sponsors

by Marissa 9/10/2009 2:24:00 PM

The employer sponsorship licence is vital
for any employer acting as a UK work
permit sponsor

Earlier this week, it was announced that new UK immigration measures will be introduced by the government to "ensure the UK economy remains strong and skilled migrants who are offered positions in the UK fill genuinely needed skills shortages".

The changes mean that, starting from next year, all jobs must be advertised to British workers in Jobcentre Plus for four weeks before companies can seek to employ individuals from outside Europe; an increase of two weeks on the previous requirement.

While the changes are part of a wider overhaul designed to improve the UK's ability to quickly adjust the immigration stream according to changing economic circumstances, I have a few concerns that this new rule will do just the opposite.

The immediate effect that I can assume the Home Office is anticipating is that UK employers will be forced to invest far more time and effort in trying to find skilled candidates from within the resident labour market, as opposed to directly sourcing workers from abroad.

However, the rigid nature of the changes means that even employers looking for very specific workers will still have to go through the 4 week recruitment process. If an employer already knows that workers with a certain skill-set are not available locally, the new requirements will just cost the employer and result in the vacancy remaining unfilled for longer.

The impact of this new legislation on a company could be significant, as they will be forced to delay a new hire for the sake of a formality. In an already unstable and unsure economy, this seems counter-productive to the needs of many British businesses.

The best advice I can give for UK businesses looking to hire non-British workers is to ensure that they have every other aspect of the migration process set and ready, to best avoid any delays. 

The first step for a work permit sponsor should be that they have their employer sponsorship licence in place, as without this, a UK company is unable to hire workers from outside the EU.

- Marissa Murdock is Casework Department Manager for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Need a UK work permit sponsor? Make sure your employer has a sponsorship licence

by Marissa 7/30/2009 2:05:00 PM

The sponsorship licence is vital for
any employer acting as a UK
work permit sponsor

It's been 10 months since the introduction of the Employer Sponsorship Licence as part of the UK work permit sponsor process. Since November 2008, the UK Border Agency made it a requirement that every employer looking to bring in new non-EU migrant workers to the UK OR extend the work permit of current employees MUST have a valid and current employer sponsorship licence.

For more information on the application process, download the sponsorship licence information PDF or check the FAQ below.

How has the employer sponsorship licence changed since its introduction? 

While the licence and eligibility criteria have remained the same, I'm happy to report that processing times are much faster than expected, with current timeframes standing at 1 to 3 months (as opposed to the 6 months initially stated by the UK Border Agency).

How does a company qualify for an employer sponsorship licence? 

To qualify for a licence, organisations must complete an online application, making sure to provide all supporting documentation and meet the necessary evidentiary requirements. This MUST be supplied within ten days of the initial application.

Please note: Failure to submit all required documents could result in a company’s application being delayed and further costs being incurred. Following the receipt of these documents, the company will then be subject to a compliance visit from the UK Border Agency, who will verify whether or not to grant the licence. Companies will also be required to comply with the illegal working requirements. 

What are the illegal working requirements and how do they affect a UK work permit sponsor?

The illegal working requirements state that all non-EU employees are required to provide documentation that proves their right to work BEFORE being employed by a UK company, and copies of this information must also be retained by the employer.

Employers and UK work permit sponsors who fail to keep the requisite information on all non-EU employers can be served with penalty notices, unless the employee has valid and subsisting leave to be in the UK, and that leave does not restrict them from being employed by the company. 

What are the penalties for a UK work permit sponsor that does not have an employer sponsorship licence?

Companies without an employer sponsorship licence will be unable to bring in new non-EU migrant workers to the UK or extend the work permits of current employees. Any non-EU employees they hire will be considered illegal workers, with the maximum level of penalty being a fine of £10,000 per employee and up to two years imprisonment. 

The information package is a great first step for any employer looking to apply for an employer sponsorship licence, and explains the service that the UK Visa Bureau provides. We recommend that any UK employer of non-EU migrants read the document in full (as well as any supplementary information on employer sponsorship requirements on our website), and then complete a UK visa application.

- Marissa Murdock is the Casework Department Manager for the UK Visa Bureau. To contact the UK Visa Bureau, complete a UK visa application.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK employer sponsorship licences explained

by Marissa 9/23/2008 4:20:00 PM

If you're a UK employer that employs non-EU migrant workers, then time is running out!

Simply put, you're required to have an Employer Sponsorship Licence by November 1, 2008. and companies without an employer sponsorship licence by that date will be unable to bring in new non-EU migrant workers to the UK or extend the work permits of current employees.

What's more, the new requirements also shift a lot of the burden of responsibility from the Home Office to the employers. In fact, businesses in the UK will now be responsible for:

  • Ensuring that they are licensed to hire migrants and comply with current immigration regulations;
  • Issuing certificates to foreign workers to allow the worker to apply for entry clearance to the UK; AND
  • Ensuring that any foreign workers employed by the business are fully compliant with UK immigration law.

To better explain the changes, we've put together the Employer Sponsorship Licence Information Package.



The information package is a great first step for any employer looking to apply for an employer sponsorship licence, and explains the service that the UK Visa Bureau provides. We recommend that any UK employer of non-EU migrants read the document in full (as well as any supplementary information on employer sponsorship requirements on our website), and then contact a member of our licensing team directly by completing a UK visa application.

- Marissa Murdock is the Casework Department Manager for the UK Visa Bureau. To contact the UK Visa Bureau, complete a UK visa application.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

UK employers: only three weeks to apply for sponsorship licences

by Marissa 9/10/2008 12:18:00 PM

As we organise ourselves for the next wave of UK immigration changes to take effect, there's some worry that the people who will be most affected by the introduction of Tier 2 are also the ones least prepared.

I say this after I saw some alarming reports that stated by mid-August, there were still only 170 employers that had applied for a sponsorship licence. While I'm sure that this figure has gone up since then (especially with the recent television campaign launched by the UK Border Agency), it's vital that UK employers looking to employ non-EU migrants understand the preparations they need to make. A sponsorship licence is essential for any employer looking to hire migrants under the new Tier 2 system.

I'm not alone in my concern, as the Home Office is worried that a mad flurry of late applications for sponsorship licences will have a bottleneck effect and cause disruption to the skilled migration program.

UK business owners have been warned by the Home Office that their sponsorship licence applications must be received no later than October 1.  Employers without a sponsorship licence will be heavily penalised if they hire illegal workers and will be banned from employing workers from outside the EEA if caught doing so.

Bearing in mind these severe penalties for non-compliance, I think it should be evident just how vital it is for all employers and educational establishments to comply with the requirements of sponsorship. Simply put, if you enrol or employ any non-EU citizen who does not have settled status in the UK, then you are legally entitled to have a sponsorship licence.

As a UK immigration law specialist, I can provide assistance in successfully applying for the initial licence, as well as the ongoing compliance requirements for employers and educational establishments. However, as the deadline fast approaches, I worry that there could be a lot of disappointed employers and migrants alike come October 1.

- Marissa Murdock is the Casework Department Manager for the UK Visa BUreau. To contact the UK Visa Bureau, complete a UK visa application.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.