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Is the UK immigration policy changing?

16 September 2010

This month, the Con-Lib Coalition has announced its intention to set the pace for its own immigration policy by developing a framework which according to Immigration Minister Damian Green "will ensure that the UK maximizes the benefits of immigration".

The Points Based Scheme (PBS) is the brain child of the previous Government winning many supporters even amongst the Labour's staunchest critics. The PBS has been very effective in weeding out migrants on lower income, particularly those lacking the English language skills and the required funds to find employment in the UK. In particular, the flexibility inherent in the points scoring criteria has succeeded in attracting and selecting exactly the type of applicants able to contribute and invest in the UK economy. The previous government also introduced the Sponsor Licence System whereby UK companies are now asked to take an active role in helping the UK Border Agency against the employment of migrants who do not have the right to work or stay legally  in the UK. Since November 2008,  employers are directly responsible to carry out checks on their employees under the Tier 2 Scheme in order to issue a  Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Failure to comply with this legislation carries hefty fines and the inability to sponsor foreign workers.

However, the main concern of the new Government seems to be the level of the net migration which has been described as "unstainable".  Hence, the introduction of caps has been heralded as the first step towards a new policy. On 19 July 2010, the Government introduced a cap of 5,400 for entry clearance made under the Tier 1 (highly skilled) Scheme and 18,700 for Tier 2 (work permit) applicants. The Tier 1 Scheme allows highly skilled migrant to work in employment or self employment in the UK, while under the Tier 2 Scheme migrants can be sponsored by UK companies. Many employers have now found their recruitment process severely affected by the cap with fewer CoS or none in the case of new companies joining the Sponsors' Register unless exceptional circumstances are demonstrated.

In addition, it appears that the Government is very concerned about the number of foreign students, in particular those who end up staying in the UK and their ability to settle in the long run. Under the long residence category, an applicant is able to apply for settlement if they can show that they have been living in the UK for a continuous period of 10 years legally.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said 'We need to understand more clearly why a significant proportion of students are still here more than 5 years after their arrival. And we also need a system which can scrutinise effectively, and if necessary take action against, those whose long-term presence would be of little or no economic benefit.'

The Minister also pointed to evidence that some migrants coming in under the Tier 1 highly skilled work route are not doing specialised jobs. Therefore, it is likely that in the near future, the UK Border Agency may rethink or even abolish the long residence category and apply further restrictions on the type of employment accessible to Tier 1 applicants. It is also likely that the Government may wish to look at the routes for settlement making it harder to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British nationality after 6 years in the UK.

We would recommend anyone wishing to apply under the long residence or for settlement to seek legal advice now to avoid any future disappointment.

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Migra & Co is a private immigration company, regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), reference number F200900038. This website is not a government website and as such, we are not linked or affiliated with the UK Visas and Immigration. We offer expert legal advice and flexible tailored solutions to both private and corporate clients to ensure that their immigration needs are met. If you wish to download or prepare a UK visa application form, you can do so free of charge by visiting the Official UKVI website.