Category Archives: Brexit


Is the UK Government Going Far Enough With Appreciating Non-EU/EAA NHS Workers?

NHS Logo

The dedication of frontline health workers during the Coronavirus pandemic has touched the hearts and minds of everyone in the country. And many of those who are risking their lives to help Covid-19 patients are non-EU/EEA migrants.

Out of 1.2 million NHS staff , 52,000 are nationals of Asian nations such as India and Pakistan. A further 18,500 are Filipino, and 6770 are Nigerian. Many of these incredibly talented, selfless doctors, nurses, and carers are in the UK on a visa.

To ensure the UK’s NHS can continue to cope with Covid-19 (it already had 100,000 unfilled positions before the pandemic took hold) the British government has offered to extend the visas of frontline healthcare workers for one year if:

  • they have a visa that’s due to expire before 1 October 2020, and
  • they work for the NHS or an independent healthcare provider in an eligible profession

The list of eligible occupations includes:

  • biochemist
  • biological scientist
  • dental practitioner
  • health professional
  • medical practitioner
  • medical radiographer
  • midwife
  • nurse
  • occupational therapist
  • ophthalmologist
  • paramedic
  • pharmacist
  • physiotherapist
  • podiatrist
  • psychologist
  • social worker
  • speech and language therapist
  • therapy professional

Your employer will advise you if your visa is due to expire before 1 October. To have your visa extended, you will need to post your and your family’s current biometric residence permits to UK Visas and Immigration. You will not have to pay for the extension or pay the healthcare surcharge.

Is this enough?

Extending the visas of certain healthcare workers and their families free of charge may seem generous, but does it truly acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of these nurses, doctors, and carers? What about those whose visas expire after 1 October? They would have worked through the period when Covid-19 was ravaging the country’s hospitals and care homes, yet their visas and those of their families will not be extended free of charge.

Pressure is growing on the government to do more. One area of contention is the healthcare surcharge, set to increase to £625 per year later in 2020. The healthcare surcharge is a charge that non-EU/EEA migrants must pay upfront when they apply for their visa. The cost is considerable; at the time of writing, a person on a Tier 2 (General) Visa must pay £2,000 to cover them for the five years of the visa. All family members must pay the same amount, so for two adults and two children, the upfront cost is £8,000.

Nurse, Carl Perez, from the Philippines, came to the UK two years ago. He caught Covid-19 in April whilst nursing in a care home where several residents died. He told The Guardian :

“It feels unfair that we are risking out [sic] lives on the frontline, and we are being penalised by having to pay this large sum out of our own pockets. We’re already paying for the NHS through our national insurance and tax,” he said. “It doesn’t leave much left for accommodation and living costs.”

#YouClapForMeNow

In April 2020, a video with the accompanying hashtag #YouClapForMeNow went viral. It is a tribute to Asian and minority ethnic people, referred to as BAME, who work in the healthcare profession. It sends a message urging British people and the government not to forget the care they gave and the sacrifice they made when the Coronavirus pandemic is over. The video’s content is all the more important, given that nearly three quarters of NHS staff and carers who have died are from a BAME background.

Final words

The UK’s hostile environment to migrants has shifted following the Covid-19 crisis. “In a country where anti-immigrant sentiment gave rise to the Brexit movement, Britain’s healthcare system depends heavily on foreign doctors, who are now on the front lines fighting the epidemic,” says The New York Times . Even traditionally right-leaning papers such as the Daily Mail have applauded the contribution migrants have made during this crisis.

These sentiments may make us all feel like we are honouring the work and sacrifice of non-EU/EEA healthcare workers. However, the real test of appreciation will come when Coronavirus is a distant memory, and many of the migrants who got us through the crisis apply for visa extensions and/or Indefinite Leave to Remain. Will they be treated with sensitivity and respect? Or will there be more refusals on flimsy grounds , causing months, sometimes years of heartbreak and hardship?

Who will clap for them then?

Based in Birmingham and London, UK Migration Lawyers is one of Britain’s premier immigration law firms. Please phone our office on 0121 777 7715 to make an appointment with one of our immigration Solicitors.

A 60 Second Guide To Brexit For EU/EEA Nationals

Brexit Flags

When Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, he declared he would rather “die in a ditch” than ask the European Union to extend the 31st October deadline for Brexit. Halloween has come and gone , and Britain is:

  • still a member of the EU, and
  • having an election on 12 December 2019.

For EU/EEA nationals, this new development does nothing but simply equals further ongoing confusion and frustration. Not only must they, along with the rest of the population, try toand keep track of almost daily changes to the political landscape, EU/EEA nationals cannot express their concern through casting a vote in the upcoming election .

Then, of course, there are the ongoing issues with the EU Settlement Scheme, which that may very well turn into another ‘Windrush scandal’ if certain matters are not addressed. More on this later. First, let’s set out the current state of the Brexit saga.

A deal almost done?

In mid-October 2019, Britain and the EU agreed a Brexit deal in principle, known as the Withdrawal Agreement. Note – this is not a trade deal. It is simply a document which sets out how the UK will leave the EU. It deals with certain key issues, namely:

  • The status of EU nationals living in the UK, and UK nationals living in the EU at the time of exit.
  • The transition period, whereby the UK will still be part of the EU trading bloc whilst a formal trade agreement is negotiated (the period can be extended if all parties agree). This avoids the dreaded ‘cliff-edge’ whereby the UK leaves the EU on a specific date with no trade deal in place, a situation likely to cause severe economic damage.
  • How Northern Ireland will be treated following Brexit. A backstop has been created to ensure that regardless of the outcome of any future trade deal, there will not be a border and customs checks on the island of Ireland. This is because a hard border between Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (which is an EU member state) may jeopardise the Good Friday agreement which ended decades of violence and hostility.
  • The financial settlement the UK must pay to the EU upon leaving. This is known as the ‘divorce bill’.
  • Fishing rights. The document says: “The Union and the United Kingdom shall use their best endeavours to conclude and ratify ‘an agreement’ on access to waters and fishing opportunities.”
  • The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during the transition period and the setting up of a joint UK-EU committee to deal with disputes related to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Although the EU and the British government agreed on a deal, British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson had to get it approved by Parliament. And this is where things got rather messy.

Parliament granted preliminary approval to the Withdrawal Agreement. However, a mere 15 minutes later, MPs voted down legislation which would have paved the way for the Prime Minister to ensure Britain left the EU by 31 October 2019.

Following this defeat, rather than try and push through the agreement, the Prime Minister successfully fought for a pre-Christmas election. The EU had granted an extension to 31 January 2020. If the Conservative Party win a majority at the polls, Mr Johnson can push his deal through Parliament and the UK will leave the bloc in the New Year.

The EU Settlement Scheme

The EU Settlement Scheme opened fully on 30 March 2019 and will remain live until 30 June 2021. EU/EEA nationals who have lived in the UK for five or more years can apply for Settled Status, which will confirm their right to live and work in the UK without visa restrictions. EU/EEA nationals who have been in the country for less than five years may apply for Pre-Settled Status.

Applications for Settled Status and Pre-Settled Status can be made online. However, newspapers have reported many instances of Settled Status being mistakenly denied. For example, prominent chef and cooking school owner, Richard Bertinet, was granted only Pre-Settled Status , despite having lived in Britain for over three decades. This also happened to the Polish celebrity chef Damian Wawrzyniak , who has prepared banquets for the royal family and was a senior chef at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Mr Bertinet has since been granted Settled Status. In another case, a South Oxfordshire district councillor from Bulgaria was denied Settled Status for not sending in the correct documentation, despite living in the country for almost 20 years.

There are grave concerns that vulnerable EU/EEA citizens, such as those who do not have payslips, are elderly, or have learning disabilities will not apply or be denied Settled Status. And disturbingly, Home Office minister, Brandon Lewis told a German newspaper in October that EU/EEA nationals who did not apply for Settled Status before the deadline would be deported. The Liberal Democrat’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said she was “absolutely appalled” by Brandon Lewis’s deportation threat and she predicted “thousands” of people would be left undocumented by the “arbitrary” deadline.

Wrapping Up

So, here we are. For the second time in less than four years, Britain will go to the polls. For EU/EEA nationals, it is imperative to secure residency status as quickly as possible. If you are having problems with your Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status application, or your application has been rejected, seek advice from an experienced immigration lawyer.

Based in Birmingham and London, UK Migration Lawyers is one of Britain’s premier immigration law firms. If you have any concerns or questions regarding Brexit or the EU Settlement Scheme, please phone our Birmingham Office on 0121 777 7715.

Will Employers be able to Recruit the Staff They Need Following a Brexit?

Last week, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson gave the first clear picture of the Leave campaigns strategy on immigration following a Brexit.

If Britain leaves the European Union then, “the automatic right of all EU citizens to come and live and work in the UK will end”.

They followed on by adding that in the event of a Brexit, they would introduce a, “genuine Australian-style points-based immigration system” before the next general election.

Naturally, this has workers and employers worried. Although, it must be pointed out, if Gove and Johnson think they can end the free movement of EU citizens in Britain on 24th June 2016, if the Leave camp wins, then they are off in cloud cuckoo land.

Negotiations are likely to take months, if not years. Free movement is a cornerstone EU principle, and one that both France and Germany, Europe’s powerhouses, view as non-negotiable. Swiss citizens voted in a 2014 referendum to have the right to limit EU migration into the country – and two years later, negotiations are in deadlock, with Brussels unable to see how limiting free movement can be done without breaching the bi-lateral agreements Switzerland has with the EU.

We must also remember that any changes to the rights of EU citizens entering the UK made by the British Government are likely to be met in equal measure by other European States, something that makes the 1.2 million British Citizens who reside in them very nervous.

The current rules surrounding the recruiting of EU and non-EU workers

Currently, British employers can freely recruit workers from any of the 28 EU countries. EU nationals do not require visas and can stay in the country as long as they are exercising their Treaty rights, i.e. they are in employment.

To hire an employee from outside the EU, an employer must have a sponsorship licence before they can recruit an applicant on a Tier 2 (General) Visa. The employer will be responsible for maintaining compliance with the responsibilities of the sponsorship licence. Responsibilities include:

  • 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.
  • Ensuring that any foreign workers employed by the business are fully compliant with UK immigration law.

Even if you obtain a sponsorship licence, you can only employ non-EU citizens for certain positions. If the job you have available is on the Shortage Occupation List, then you can automatically recruit a non-EU national to fill it.

If the position you wish to fill is not on the Shortage Occupation List, then you must perform a, ‘Resident Labour Market Test’ and advertise the position. You must provide evidence that you were unable to find a suitable person in the UK before you apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship.

In addition, a non-EU employee who wishes to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after his or her Tier 2 Visa expires will have to earn a minimum of £35,000 per annum. Employers need to take this into account when strategising for their workforce needs and pay scales. If time and money are going to be invested into training a non-EU employee, it would not make sense to lose them after five years, simply because they are not being paid enough.

The effect of an Australian-style points based system on UK employers

An Australian style points-based system could make it difficult for employers to recruit the staff they need, especially those who require low-skilled workers in sectors such as manufacturing, hospitality, construction and seasonal agriculture. Not only would the employer have to qualify for a sponsorship licence, but if a good knowledge of English and certain academic qualifications are demanded under a new system, many potential EU applicants will fail to accrue enough points to gain entry into the country.

And let us not forget, the higher skills equal higher wages – great for employees, but what about SMEs already struggling with staffing costs?

The impact of a possible Brexit on the UK labour market could be severe. However, the Government would be required to jump through some enormous diplomatic hoops to convince Brussels that free trade without free movement is possible within the EU without compromising everything the institution stands for.

Based in Birmingham and London, UK Migration Lawyers is one of Britain’s premiere immigration law firms. If you have any concerns or questions about how the EU Referendum could affect your ability to recruit foreign-born workers, please phone our office on 0121 777 7715.

EU Referendum – The Essentials of Both Sides of the Debate

Last week two events dominated the EU In/Out Campaign. One involved Emily Wood, a music producer from Poole, who furiously revealed her mother had been shunted down the housing list by officials who prioritise immigrants, demanding: “Where are we going to put them all?” 

The second development which was hijacked by Leave campaigners was the release of figures from the Office of National Statistics which showed net migration to the UK rose to 333,000 in 2015, the second highest figure on record.

Immigration has been the most hotly debated topic surrounding the EU Referendum, which is to be held in less than a month.

In a passionate response to Miss Wood, Alex Salmond, former leader of the Scottish National Party, stated, “If we have a housing shortage we should build more houses, not kick people out of the country”.

Responding to the news that net migration has increased, Leave supporter and London Mayor, Boris Johnson, stepped up his bitter war of words with Prime Minister David Cameron, stating that the Government was cynical to claim it could control immigration while inside the EU and the new figures exposed the “scandal” of Cameron’s broken election pledge to slash numbers.

With the pressure mounting, it can be hard to see the wood from the trees when it comes to viewing both sides of the In/Out Referendum arguments. Here is our best shot at laying down each sides’ claims in an objective manner, so you can make up your own mind on how to use your vote on 23rd June 2016.

Arguments for Leaving the EU
  • Trade – Europe is our biggest trading partner, with around 30% of Britain’s total GDP coming from importing and exporting goods and services to the Continent. Negotiations for new bi-lateral trade agreements could take many years, and during this time, exporters especially, could suffer major losses; due to investment in trade-related activities being put on hold and fluctuations in the value of the pound.
  • Immigration – Remain campaigners argue that EU migrants contribute millions of pounds to the UK economy. Not only do they provide valuable labour in industries such as agriculture and construction, where margins are tight and keeping wages low is imperative for business survival, but they staff hospitals and schools. Migrants also start new ventures which create jobs for British people (according to statistics, migrants set up one in seven new companies launched in the UK).
  • UK Citizens Living Abroad – Free movement works both ways. Approximately 1.4 million UK citizens reside in the EU and enjoy access to healthcare and other public services. Leaving the EU could put in jeopardy the rights of British citizens who have made new lives for themselves in Spain, France or Italy.
  • Easy Extraditions – The European Arrest Warrant replaced long extradition procedures and enables the UK to extradite criminals wanted in other EU countries, and bring to justice criminals wanted in the UK who are hiding in other EU countries.
  • Cheap Plonk – Leaving the EU would be catastrophic for those who enjoy a glass of Spanish red or Burgundy white. On leaving the EU, the price of imported wine could jump by a third. Imported cars, mobile phone roaming fees and flights are also likely to increase.
Arguments for Leaving the EU
  • The Ability to Create New Trade Agreements – Trying to balance the needs and desired of 28 separate countries with vastly different cultures can make it slow and difficult to negotiate new trade agreements. Outside the EU, Britain would be free to work out deals with Canada, Australia, China, and other emerging markets such as Brazil, on its own terms, quickly and efficiently.
  • Controlling our Borders – Outside of the EU and its principle of free movement, Britain could control the number of EU citizens coming to the UK to find employment by introducing work permits and setting minimum requirements that must be met (such as a good knowledge of English) before a visa is granted.
  • Sovereignty – Leave campaigners argue that leaving the EU will allow Britain to regain its sovereignty. Far from being right-winged hooey, they state that the European Commission, which is unelected, has the monopoly of proposing all EU legislation which it does in secret. It also has the power to issue regulations which are automatically binding in all member states.
  • Saving money – Leaving the EU would mean Britain would not have to pay a membership fee. In 2015, the UK paid a net sum of £8.5bn to Brussels, equivalent to 7% of the NHS budget.
  • Brussels is a bureaucratic basket-case – From wasting £760,000 for a "gender equal" cultural centre which was never built, to a complete inability to manage the migrant crisis, those who want to leave the EU state that Britain needs to control how it makes its own decisions. As the crisis in Greece clearly highlighted, monetary union without political union is destined to fail – meaning for the EU to work, closer integration between countries is required, something the Leave camp is completely horrified by.

How will the vote go? Polls show support for remaining in the EU is ahead….but only just.

We will keep you posted.

Based in Birmingham and London, UK Migration Lawyers is one of Britain’s premiere immigration law firms. If you have any concerns or questions about how the EU Referendum could affect your immigration status, please phone our office on 0121 777 7715.

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