Immigration policy in the UK hasn’t had good publicity in recent years, but plenty of people are still succeeding with their plans to live, study, work or visit. Paying close attention to the detail of your application and preparing a water tight case is the key to a successful outcome.
So what has been going on? This all began with the ruling Conservative Party saying it would reduce immigration. It set targets for immigration, but these could never be achieved because of the UK’s membership of the European Union and also because the UK’s growing economy relied more and more on foreign workers. EU membership enshrines the principle of ‘free movement’, which essentially means any European citizen can live and work in whichever of the 27 member states they like. Because the UK had a thriving economy it attracted lots of EU and other workers. Many workers from the new EU countries came to UK to work in many parts of the economy changing the country’s landscape and communities.
To get numbers down the government therefore focused on the bit of immigration policy it could control, namely anyone from outside of the European Union. The so-called ‘Hostile Immigration Environment’ was born.
The hostile environment originated from Theresa May’s spell as Home Secretary, (the senior politician responsible for immigration), and continued when she became Prime Minister. It created an environment in which refusal of a visa was effectively the default position unless the person applying could provide a water-tight application. Prices for visa applications also increased with the aim of deterring people from applying in the first place.
There were some very unfortunate outcomes of this policy which have damaged the UK’s reputation abroad. For a start, students were included in the government’s immigration targets. This was a strange move which even some government members didn’t support because most students don’t stay in the UK after graduation, and aren’t therefore immigrants. Then we had the Windrush scandal in which migrants mainly from the West Indies, many of whom had lived in the UK for decades, found themselves unable to access healthcare or benefits because their paperwork was no longer up to the standards required. The government was eventually forced to apologise and make a U-turn, but not before many people had been wrongly deported or otherwise disadvantaged.
The political focus on immigration eventually led to UK nationals voting to leave the European Union and the term “Brexit” was born. For the last three years the UK has been struggling to define what Brexit means. The struggle to make a departure deal with the EU killed off Theresa May’s premiership and we now have a leadership contest in the Conservative Party with Boris Johnson as the likely winner.
The biggest change to immigration policy post-Brexit will be for EU citizens, who will no longer benefit from free movement and are likely to be treated in the same way as any other foreign national. Ironically, immigration policy post-Brexit may even become a little kinder to non-EU visa applicants. There is talk, for example, of allowing international students to stay in the UK after graduation and work here. A lot of it, however, remains uncertain even as another EU departure deadline in the autumn looms.
So what does all of this mean if you’re applying for a UK visa now? The good news is that the UK remains a law abiding country and the rules are the rules. Whilst the hostile immigration environment does remain in place, despite protestations to the contrary from the current Home Secretary Sajid David, well constructed visa applications do succeed. But applications which create any doubt in the mind of the official processing the application will be refused, often on technicalities. It is therefore worth getting expert help with your visa application. We deal with a large number of appeals and fresh applications from people who haven’t provided the strong case required and have been rejected. If cases are still refused it is possible in some instances to put the case before a judge via a process known as judicial review or an appeal.
So, if you want to live, study, work or visit the UK, don’t be put off applying by all of the publicity around Brexit. Lots of people still succeed, but make sure you’ve sought some help from an expert before making your application.
Reach out to Mrs Irina Polyakova, Head of Business Services for further advice -