This month we had expected to confirm a significant number of amendments to the Immigration Rules, but at the time of writing, we are still waiting for the Government announcement. Having said that, the Conservative Party Conference gave a number of indications of the direction for immigration in the next few years:

Reducing reliance on foreign workers

During her speech at the Conference Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary announced a proposed policy to discourage recruit from outside the UK by creating a stricter Resident Labour Market test so that companies have to clearly justify why they could not recruit from within the UK. Rudd stated “The test should ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do”.

This goes hand in hand with the existing policy which seeks to ensure that the RLMT carried out by an employer is a genuine attempt to recruit locally, allowing the UKVI to consider whether an advertising campaign is either too tailored to a specific individual or does not cover a genuine vacancy.

Remember too that in April 2017 the Government will be introducing an Immigration Skills Charge. This charged will be levied on employers that employ migrants in skilled areas. Set at £1,000 per employee per year, and a reduced rate of £364 for small or charitable organisations, it is designed to cut down on the number of businesses taking on migrant workers and incentivise training British staff to fill those jobs. An exemption to the charge will mean that it won’t apply to PhD-level jobs and international students switching from student visas to working visas

Student Visas

With this in mind, it is notable that Amber Rudd’s speech also provided for a potential new policy to reduce the number of overseas students from outside Europe. She suggested a ‘multi-tiered’ student visa system so that the right to work in the UK after graduation would be determined by the quality of the University attended and the course undertaken by the student. The idea has been widely criticised by Universities.

Brexit and EU Applications

With negotiations barely started, the impact of Brexit on the number of applications made by EU citizens living in the UK has increased dramatically. According to a study carried out by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, the UKVI faces 140 years’ worth of visa applications if all European nationals, currently in Britain, applied for residency in the aftermath of Brexit.

Currently, UK immigration officials process approximately 25,500 permanent residency applications from EU nationals, and their dependents, annually.

As we reported last month, a new Passport Back service has been introduced by the Home Office by which applications by EU residents for permanent residence can be channelled through a local authority, allowing them to certify the passport so that the original can be retained while the UKVI consider the application. This is a very welcome advancement and recommendations have been made to the UKVI to extend this to applications for family members. The service does not decrease consideration time (which remains at approximately six months) and the complexity of the application and documentation has not altered, but it is nonetheless a major step forward.

New Immigration Fees
From this month, there have been massive fee increases for appeals to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). The fee for a decision on the papers rises from £80 to £490. The fee for an oral hearing rises from £140 to £800.