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2011 UK Border Agency: Tough on Immigration or Just Tough on Immigrants?

04 January 2011

On 17th December 2010, the High Court found the interim cap imposed on Tier 1 and Tier 2 entry clearance applications to be unlawful since the measure had not been subjected to Parliamentary scrutiny. However, the UK Border Agency has decided to play hard ball on this issue, and on 23rd December it announced that it would stop accepting Tier 1 General applications made overseas as the temporary limit had been reached. Tier 1 General application made in-country and Tier1 Post Study worker applications (in-country and out-of-country) will only be available until April 2011. It is not yet clear whether the Government might seek to appeal the High Court's decision.

This year, it is likely that the Government's focus will turn to the numbers of students coming to the UK and the new proposals could see the Tier 4 Scheme restricted mainly to those studying degree-level courses and to child students unless the institution is a Highly Trusted Sponsor offering courses below degree level (NQF 3, 4 and 5) to adult students. The English language competence is also likely to become the key indicator of someone's eligibility to complete a higher-level course and there is a proposal to raise the language to B2 competency. Furthermore, it is likely that only Tier 4 students studying for more than 12 months will be allowed to bring their dependants into the UK. Work restrictions will be set for both main applicants and their dependants who will not be able to work unless they qualify in their own rights.

We are also concerned that very significant changes will be introduced for settlement applications, in particular a higher criminality threshold, Tier 1 and Tier 2 holders might be required to meet the salary criteria that applied when they last extended their permission to stay while highly skilled migrants will be asked to pass the 'Life in the UK' test prior to gaining settlement.

In a nutshell, even in the eyes of a seasoned immigration practitioner, this has been an annus horribilis in UK immigration policy due to some very innovative measures introduced by the Coalition to pick and choose amongst migrant workers. UK businesses have been able to apply some pressure on the Government, and despite the rhetoric it is a known fact that the UK economy needs not only a sustainable, but a flexible immigration system capable of attracting foreign money, labour and perhaps more importantly, brains.

In our experience, the UK Government has increased the quality and efficiency of the different services provided, but discretion is becoming a thing of the past. On the plus side, the appeal system is strong and remains resilient to the Government's agenda.  Our wishes and hopes are for the UK to remain a tolerant, fair and welcoming multicultural society.

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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.