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Immigration news roundup - 4 August 2014

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In this issue we focus on David Cameron’s article in Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Telegraph (theatrically accompanied by a series of ‘dawn raids’ by Immigration Enforcement officers on the same morning).

As part of yet another immigration ‘crackdown’, the Home Office says it will:

  • Restrict benefits to European nationals to 3 months
  • Bring in restrictions on renting to people in the UK without immigration permission
  • Remove the sponsorship licence of any UK education institution if more than 10% of students they sponsor have their immigration applications refused.

Benefits payments to European nationals

Cameron says that benefits will only be payable to ‘European arrivals’ for 3 months.

This is the latest in a traffic jam of changes to laws affecting European workers in the UK since last November. Since that time the Government has:

  • Redefined ‘habitual residence’ to make new arrivals ineligible for benefits for at least 3 months
  • Put a cap of 6 months on the time Europeans can claim out of work benefits in the UK
  • Required ‘jobseekers’ to show they have a genuine chance of being engaged
  • Restricted housing benefit to European nationals
  • Introduced a weekly minimum income of £149 before benefits such as income support can be claimed

To be clear, since 1 July, there has been a statutory 6-month period during which a European national seeking work in the UK can claim out-of-work benefits.  However, a person who can prove that they are still seeking work and have a ‘genuine chance of being engaged’ might be able to claim for longer.

The UK Government has made a distinction between ‘jobseekers’ and ‘workers’ for a long time.  However, under European law, the concept of ‘worker’ includes jobseekers.

Several commentators (including Nigel Farage) have already pointed out that depriving European workers of benefits payable to their British equivalents would be a breach of the Free Movement Directive.  It is also questionable whether the sums paid in benefits to European jobseekers have ever been more than minimal.

Landlords and the ‘right to rent’

Cameron now says that the system for fining landlords who rent property to people without permission to be in the UK will start in November.

We assume that this means the pilot project will begin then: there is still no word on the identity of the lucky UK region where landlords will become default immigration officers.

Tier 4 licences

Lastly, from November, educational institutions that sponsor students from overseas will have their sponsor licences suspended or revoked if more than 10% of students they sponsor have their applications for visas or residence permits refused.  The current limit is 20%.

This is a measure that will hit small sponsors in particular.  If you are a Russell Group university issuing hundreds of Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (“CAS”) codes every term, then 10% represents a margin of 10 refused out of every 100.

If you are a smaller college issuing only 5 or 10 CAS, then a single refusal could bring you to the 10% cliff-edge.

Sponsors face a second problem in that after they have issued a CAS, the visa application process is not necessarily under their control: the student uses the CAS to support their own application.

Given that the variable quality of decision-making by Entry Clearance Officers around the globe, the Home Office’s offer to use ‘discretion’ for small sponsors with less than 50 international students per year is very little comfort.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this week’s roundup, or would like to discuss any other immigration law issue, please contact Kitty Falls.