From 6 April 2015, the Home Office will introduce a raft of changes that will impact upon every immigration category. Changes to Tier 1, Tier 2 and the visitor categories are covered elsewhere due to the sheer volume of updates to the Immigration Rules.
The changes covered in this article are not visa specific and will impact upon most applicants.
Biometric Residence Permits
Perhaps the biggest single change will be made to the entry clearance application process for all visa applicants who are applying from outside the UK for a visa of more than 6 months.
Successful visa applicants will receive a decision letter and their passport will be endorsed with a 30 day temporary visa during which time they are expected to travel to the UK. Once in the UK, the individual will then have 10 days in which to collect a Biometric Residence Permit from a specified Post Office. It will be possible to post-date the start of the 30 day temporary visa.
Biometric visa approvals will be introduced for all countries by July 2015.
The new procedure appears unforgiving. Firstly, an individual is expected to complete their affairs and travel to the UK within a rigid 30 day window (visa holders are presently allowed up to 3 months). Secondly, if a BRP is not collected in time, the visa may be cancelled.
Non-EEA nationals coming to the UK for longer than 6 months will be required to pay a ‘health surcharge’ when making their immigration application. It will also be paid by visa applicants already in the UK who apply to vary or extend their stay.
The health surcharge will be £200 per year with a reduced fee of £150 per year for students. The surcharge is payable upfront and for the total period of time for which migrants are given permission to stay in the UK. The surcharge will apply even where an applicant has private health insurance. For an individual seeking entry to the UK with a spouse visa, this will mean a surcharge of £1,000 over the 5 year route to indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence).
Applicants will need to pay the surcharge at the same time they make their immigration application to come to the UK, or to extend their stay, as part of a two stage online process.
The surcharge will apply to applications where payment is made on or after 6 April 2015.
Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) applicants and Australian and New Zealand nationals will be exempt from the surcharge.
The government is also working on proposals that will mean non-EEA visitors who use the NHS will be charged 150% of the cost of their treatment from April.
Criminal records checks
A new power will be introduced to enable the Home Office to require an entry clearance applicant to provide a criminal record certificate from any country they have resided in for twelve months or more in the last ten years. Although it is not mandatory to produce a criminal records check as part of an initial visa application, if requested, failure to produce a certificate will be a ground for refusal.
There will be a exceptions for those aged under eighteen years old or where it is not "reasonably practicable" to obtain a certificate, e.g. because the country does not produce criminal record certificates.
The removal of appeal rights for all visa applicants (with a few small exceptions) will be completed in April. From this point, an individual refused a visa must apply for an administrative review of the Home Office decision, even where it contains errors of law.
Individuals in the UK who need to apply for an administrative review will have no more than 14 calendar days after receipt of the notice of decision to lodge the application for review. Those in detention will have 7 days whilst visa applicants from outside the UK will have 28 days.
Those applying based on human rights, as visitors or short term students, and those issued with a Notice of Liability to Removal are not able to use the administrative review procedure.
As commented in previous news articles, this is a lamentable loss of a fundamental right of appeal to an independent judiciary. An obvious vote chasing tactic, we can only hope that whosoever forms the next administration commits to natural justice and restores rights of appeal as a priority.
Closure of Tier 1 General to extension applications
As previously covered, extension applications within the Tier 1 General category will close from 6 April.
Validity of applications (valid passport obligatory)
From 6 April 2015 applicants within the UK will be required to provide an original, valid passport, travel document or (unless the applicant is a Points Based System Migrant) national identity card in order to make a valid application for leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain. An applicant will be exempt from this Rule if, for example, they are stateless or a refugee, or if they have a good reason beyond their control for not providing the document.
Power to recall for interview
Caseworkers will be given new powers to require individuals in the UK with limited leave to remain to provide evidence and/or attend an interview to show that they continue to satisfy the requirements of the Immigration Rules. Failure to provide requested evidence or attend an interview could result in the curtailment (i.e. cancellation) of the individual’s visa.
English language testing
From 6 April, the only approved English language test providers will be Trinity College London (which is only available within the UK) and IELTS SELT Consortia (available in the UK and the rest of world).
We strongly recommend that applicants check the validity of their English language certificates (where applicable) before proceeding with a visa application.
If you would like RLegal Solicitors to assist with your UK immigration matters, please contact us on +44 (0)20 7038 3980, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via our online contact form.