After gaining an outright majority in the UK election on 7 May, the Conservative government is now poised to make good on its manifesto promises. Here we look at those promises and consider their impact on UK immigration.
The infamous commitment to reduce net migration to the UK to the tens of thousands. As we have previously commented, this is only achievable by placing restrictions on the ability of EEA nationals and their partners to enter the UK for work. The freedom of movement provisions are fundamental to membership of the EEA but the Conservatives also made...
Promise 2 – Europe
A referendum on Britain's continuing membership of the EU. This ballot is likely to take place in 2017 and the outcome is impossible to predict at this stage. Populist statements by politicians and the press have replaced informed argument so the outcome is anybody’s guess. Should the country vote to exit the EU, the UK would almost certainly have to introduce transitional arrangements for the many EEA nationals already living and working in the UK. There could also be ramifications for British citizens and their families living abroad.
Whilst in the union, the UK proposes to renegotiate rules on access to benefits so that EEA migrants have to work here for four years before they can qualify for benefits or tax credits; access to job-seeking benefits will also be prohibited.
EEA migrants who have not found a job within six months will be required to leave the UK. It is not clear how this restriction will sit alongside the general principle that an EEA national can live in another Member State as an economically self-sufficient person.
The Government aims to negotiate stronger powers of deportation for EU nationals who have committed criminal offences whilst in the UK. They will also be subject to longer bans on re-entering the UK.
Promise 3 – human rights
The Conservative party has promised to repealthe Human Rights Act 1998, replacing it with a British Bill of Rights. This is aimed at negating the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, particularly where deportation cases are concerned.The public perception of human rights, or at least the image peddled by Theresa May and amplified by some sections of the press, is that human rights legislation only aids the undeserving and the criminal fraternity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Human rights legislation keeps the power of the executive in check, it is meant to stop governments abusing their position of authority. In practice, particularly in the field of immigration, being able to rely on a fundamental right such as the right to family life, has kept families together and stopped the wrongful removal of husbands and wives from the UK. The Conservative Party has long claimed to be the party of the family. If the right to family life is removed, we can only hope that an equally effective power is introduced in the Bill of Rights.
Promise 4 – workers and employers
The government plans to maintain the Tier 2 Sponsored Skilled Worker cap at 20,700 during the next parliament whilst those employers that regularly use the shortage occupation list to fill vacancies will be expected to provide long term training plans for training “British workers.” The shortage occupation list is presently dominated by jobs in the field of science, engineering, medicine and certain areas of teaching. It is difficult to foresee how any impact can be made within the life of a parliament in this area. Stronger powers to penalise employers who do not ensure that their workers comply with the terms of their immigration permission will be introduced.
Promise 5 – reform of the courts and appeals
Non-suspensive, i.e. in-country, appeals will be extended from deportation cases to all immigration appeals and judicial reviews apart from asylum cases. What this means is that a negative Home Office decision can only be challenged from outside the UK, pending legal action will no longer be a bar to an individual’s removal from the UK as is presently the case.
A new removals policy will be introduced to this effect with the introduction of satellite tracking for those subject to deportation.
Promise 6 - landlords
Plans to roll out the “Right to Rent” pilot to the rest of the country are included in the manifesto. the scheme requires private landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants. Landlords who then let their property to an individual without immigration permission can be fined up to £3,000.
Promise 7 - students
Changes to the student visa system are promised including reviewing the highly trusted sponsor status for student visas and increasing sanctions for colleges who fail to ensure that their students comply with the terms of their visa.
Promise 8 – English language
Promotion of the English language. Spouses and partners will need to pass further English language tests when seeking to extend their stay in the UK. At present the requirement only exists when obtaining the first partner visa and when applying for indefinite leave to remain. In a similar vein, public sector workers in a customer facing role will be expected to speak fluent English.
Lastly, EEA nationals and their family members will be expected to meet minimum English and income thresholds, as is presently the case for non-EEA migrants.
Promise 9 – stronger penalties and enforcement
There are commitments to enhancing border security and strengthening the enforcement of immigration rules, including tougher labour market regulation to tackle both illegal working and exploitation.
Promise 10 – relief fund
A “controlling migration fund” will be introduced to aid authorities experiencing high and unexpected volumes of immigration.
The immigration environment in the UK grew increasingly hostile during the coalition government. Few spoke up to laud the benefits of a positive immigration policy whilst those that did were largely drowned out by the volume of anti-immigration sentiment. The manifesto commitments outlined above are the most aggressive we have seen – the removal of human rights and in-country appeals is particularly worrying. There is little room for error, whether you are an employer or an individual, we strongly recommend that you seek assistance with your UK immigration matters.
If you would like to speak to a specialist UK immigration solicitor, please contact us on +44(0)20 7038 3980, at email@example.com or via our online contact form.