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The immigration law 12 days of Christmas 2021


Day 1: a true love gifts a partridge in pear tree – Partner visas

Immigration applications between true loves – whether a British national sponsoring their partner or a temporary migrant supporting family – always involve an assessment of whether the relationship is genuine and subsisting. A host of different evidence can be supplied, including proof of time spent together, confirmation of cohabitation, and support from friends and family. There’s nothing in immigration rules or guidance that addresses gifts from one party to the other. While a lovely gesture, a partridge in a pear tree by itself is unlikely to prove the genuine nature of a relationship.

Day 2: responsibilities grow with 2 turtle doves – Partner visas

One of the clearest forms of evidence of a genuine relationship is shared financial responsibility. Now the couple has 3 birds to look after (in addition to a tree), any evidence of shared financial burden in the animals’ care and upkeep may start to build a better picture of a truly committed relationship. It is true that expected financial responsibilities are usually accommodation and household bills, but in theory any shared outgoings are relevant to the Home Office assessment.

Day 3: things get international with 3 French hens – Brexit

Brexit took effect at 23:00 on 31 December 2020 and since then EU nationals have been experiencing a different approach to UK migration as they have lost their right to free movement and fall for assessment under the Immigration Rules. Throughout this year we have seen examples of EU nationals experiencing difficulties at the UK border, or otherwise needing to carefully plan their travel to ensure that UK activities remain permitted, and the correct type of visa is held. There are lots of options for EU nationals to consider however, such as non-visa visits, sponsored applications, and the Frontier Worker Permit scheme. Some of these will be considered further below.

Day 4: we inject some youthful energy with calling birds – Students and Graduates

During summer 2021 the new Graduate route was released, allowing students an opportunity to gain UK work experience after their studies without the need for sponsorship from a UK employer. This allows for recruitment in roles that might be difficult to immediately secure sponsorship for and gives employers a chance to assess the commitment they are happy to make to a worker. The Graduate route is an extremely close return to the Post-Study Work option that was a previous feature of the Immigration Rules and has been a very welcome addition this year.

Day 5: my precious (5 gold rings) – Investors and Entrepreneurs

Really good options for investors and entrepreneurs have been thin on the ground in recent years, with the Innovator route still proving a poor replacement for the old Entrepreneur offering. 2022 will see the introduction of new unsponsored routes for Scale-up and High Potential Individuals, with a focus on earning potential and background. This has potential for more varied and more easily navigable routes, so the future looks quite promising. Look out for our full post on these options and more as we look ahead to business migration in 2022.

Day 6: anyone hungry for geese-a-laying? – Food and Agriculture

2021 saw the introduction of several temporary migration routes in food and agriculture including poultry and abattoir workers. Other provisions were made for some HGV drivers. All these roles are unusual as a work visa route because they are ordinarily considered too low skilled for sponsorship. The measures currently in place are severely time limited and the government will no doubt be reluctant to introduce more quick fixes in future, but there is no escaping that the current skills shortages in food and agriculture are a direct result of Brexit, and there seems to be no long-term plan about how they will be managed.

Day 7: it’s energetic with swans-a-swimming – International Sportsperson

The sportsperson route saw some rebranding this year, separated into its own appendix that includes both long-term and temporary sponsorship options. The key mechanics of the route have not changed, however, with clubs and individuals needing the support of the governing body for their sport. Even though the changes have been minor, review of the route is welcome as Brexit has potential to increase demand for sporting sponsorship next year and beyond.

Day 8: back to the kitchen for maids-a-milking – Chefs

In December 2020 the Skilled Worker sponsorship system was overhauled in preparation for the increased pressure on the system that Brexit would cause. One outcome of that was that the minimum skill level for sponsorship was reduced, from graduate level positions to those broadly equivalent to A-level. This downgrading meant that many more jobs became suitable for sponsorship including chefs, which had up to that point been restricted only to shortage roles (usually requiring prescriptive levels of experience and salary). Sponsorship for chefs remains challenging, however. Even though reduced last year, the minimum salary levels required for sponsorship can be considerably higher than the industry norm, and so far, the Home Office has displayed skepticism of sponsors, delaying applications and requesting additional evidence including photographs of kitchen spaces. Applications are at least approved, which is welcome news for the struggling hospitality industry.

Day 9: time to get creative with ladies dancing – Creative Visitors

One of the biggest immediate areas of post-Brexit confusion, creative visitors are a popular UK option. Those from the EU, USA, and many other jurisdictions may enter the UK without a visa, but their activities can be limited, particularly when it comes to payment. Visa-nationals – those who always require prior permission before arriving at the UK border – must juggle this along with an application for UK entry clearance. Paid creative visitors will generally be one of two categories: those attending Permit Free Festivals like Glastonbury or the Edinburgh festivals, and those undertaking Permitted Paid Engagements (professional artists invited by a UK agent or entertainment organisation). You can view our roadmap infographic here, which gives an overview of the options including long-term sponsorship discussed below.

Day 10: the lords-a-leaping around immigration categories – In-country Switching

Amendments to the Immigration Rules in late 2020 saw increased opportunities for in-country switching between immigration categories. Whereas the previous version of the rules specified only a handful of categories where this kind of leaping was allowed, now the wording is more open, specifying only a few routes where switching away will not be possible (such as visitor, or immigration bail). This is a real improvement for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it makes ecological sense. Requiring a Youth Mobility migrant from Canada to return there and apply for a worker visa was never practical, so in-country applications save emissions from air travel (not to mention cost to the individual). Secondly, in-country switching allows seamless transition between routes, minimising any business interruption, for example. It is a real improvement for both migrant and employer.

Day 11: longer-term creatives with the pipers piping – Creatives and Sponsorship

Creative sponsorship allows more flexibility than the visitor options we looked at for day 9. Sponsorship provides for longer durations spent in the UK and more activities to be undertaken. As a formal sponsorship route, however, it does require a UK sponsor (or multiple sponsors, where applicable) with an appropriate licence to take responsibility for the individuals and guarantee a rate of pay. It might be a requirement to advertise the position before sponsorship can be offered. All in all, sponsorship is a much larger undertaking, and potential sponsors are advised to take advice on the options before committing to an application.

Day 12: the drummers drumming come up against import and equipment rules – Customs and Cabotage

This is another topic causing difficulty for professional artists and performers, who struggle to manage the import of equipment under new rules. As visitors, drivers may only complete 3 jobs within the UK in a 7-day period, and there are complicated procedures to follow for equipment to be safely cleared through UK customs. This is likely to be an issue that continues well into 2022, and the entertainment industry is keen for processes to be streamlined to allow for more flexible touring across the creative sector.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article with one of our experts, call us on 0161 234 6800 or complete our online enquiry form.