The True State Of Immigration In The UK
The Law Of... immigration after Brexit85% of Brits have inaccurate views when it comes to the true state of immigration in the UK1 according to new research. A study by the Immigration law team at Simpson Millar also reveals that over half (57%) of those who voted Leave in the EU referendum overestimated how many EU migrants entered the UK, with one in four (25%) believing that more than 70% of migrants who entered the UK last year came from EU countries.
Immigration data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the proportion of EU migrants entering the UK stands at just 42% while migrants from outside the European Union account for 45% of international migration to the UK.2
A third of Leave voters reportedly chose to back Brexit as they felt leaving the EU offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.3
However, this new research shows that those who voted Leave are more likely to have mistaken views on EU migration, with campaigners and the media failing to communicate the facts to UK citizens in the run up to the EU referendum.
Life after Brexit
While it is still not certain whether EU migrants will be entitled to remain in Britain and granted permanent residence, more than eight out of ten UK citizens believe EU migrants already living in Britain should be allowed to remain, including 77% of Leave voters.4
At present, European nationals only have a right to reside in the UK if they are a qualified person. After living in the UK as a qualified person for a continuous period of five years, the individual will acquire permanent residence automatically and it’s at this point that it’s a good idea to secure a permanent residence card.
Emma Brooksbank, Head of Immigration at Simpson Millar comments: "The current level of uncertainty is very difficult for many European nationals. I have had a number of meetings with MPs and have asked them how they see the future of our relationships with Europe shaping up. At this stage, they genuinely do not know what the outcome of Brexit negotiations will be or whether European nationals will have a right to reside in the United Kingdom in the future. The best advice we can give to European nationals is to try to secure their position in the UK as much as possible."
Are Brits being punished by immigration laws?
According to the ONS, the third most popular reason for migrating to the UK is to accompany or join others.5
However, there’s no doubt that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for British citizens looking to set up life in the UK with a spouse from outside the EU.
According to the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: December 2016 (the most recent figures to be released following the EU referendum) the number of non-EEA nationals granted permission to stay permanently in the year ending September 2016 was 61,664 – a decrease of 74% compared to the same period six years ago (241,586).6
Family-related grants has fallen by over two-thirds in the last 12 months (-15,039), with significant decreases in grants to wives (by 8,645 to 4,124) and husbands (by 4,712 to 1,765). However, the ONS has said that this decrease may in part 'reflect changes to the rules in July 2012 on how quickly partners qualify for settlement and the number of visas and extensions granted in previous years'.
The new rules that came into effect in 2012 dictate that a British citizen must have an annual income of £18,600 or savings of £62,500 in their account for a minimum of six months in order to bring a non-EU spouse into the UK.
A 24-year-old British woman who was suffering from a serious heart defect called upon the services of Simpson Millar to ensure that her husband could stay with her in the UK, and found her only option was to raise £62,500 – almost twice the amount of an average house deposit.
Caitlin Walsh from Halifax, West Yorkshire, was in sixth form when she met Kader while on a family vacation in Turkey. But this was more than just a holiday romance – instead of continuing with her studies, Caitlin decided to take an extended gap year so the couple could be together.
Caitlin worked as a freelancer during her time in Turkey, designing menus for restaurants but admits that she didn’t know much about invoicing and struggled to get paid for the work. This became a common theme while she was there, even when she worked front of house, so she decided to return to the UK and go to university. Following a six-year engagement, the couple wed in Turkey in April 2014. Caitlin managed to stay with Kader during the holidays for a week or two at a time and in winter, when the tourist season was over, Kader came to the UK on a visitor visa.
As she was still at university, Caitlin knew she would have to get a job that would meet the minimum salary threshold if there was to be any hope of them living together in the UK permanently. "Our aim was for me to get a job so I could earn the set amount,"
Caitlin explains. "But then I fell ill and that all went to pot."
Caitlin began fainting randomly but as she had just finished her final year at university, she put it down to exhaustion and stress. "I went into cardiac arrest for the first time while Kader and I were talking on Skype. I woke up to him screaming and crying. It was very traumatic for the both of us as he was out of the country.""I was taken into the Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, where I kept going in and out of cardiac arrest. They didn’t know what was causing it and whether they could me put under general anaesthetic so I was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary. I was sent to the operating theatre to have a procedure known as ablation, which essentially burnt away the electrodes in my heart which were misfiring. I had to have two sessions over four days which lasted about nine hours per session, and I was awake the whole time.""The consultant said he had only seen one other case like mine and the person was much older. I don’t drink or smoke and exercise regularly, and I’d never been ill before. It was a very scary experience.""Kader managed to arrive in England by the time I was transferred to Leeds but we started to worry how much time he had left in the UK, as he could only stay for six months in a year on his visa. He only had two weeks left and I obviously wouldn’t be able to fly out to be with him."
Caitlin contacted Emma Brooksbank at Simpson Millar while she was in hospital to see what they could do. Emma advised her that her only option would be for her to open a savings account and raise £62,500."Emma also sent through a tick list which helped us to see what documents we would need, including [birth and marriage] certificates, passports, personal emails and Facebook messages between us. We also had to send wedding invites and pictures - it was very invasive. I feel that a simple interview would highlight all they need to know. It should be easy to see if a marriage is a sham.""I had to prove that I was living with my mum and that she would be fine with Kader living with us, and then we had to get a survey done on the house, which was costly.""Luckily my family rallied around to help me raise the money otherwise I don’t know what we would do. I guess I would have to move back to Turkey but there are more opportunities in the UK. Here we have the reassurance that we can progress in the future and build our family. And due to my medical condition, I need to be near a cardiac specialist.""I work hard and pay my taxes but it’s almost like we’re not trusted. I couldn’t believe how much I had to prove. I don’t have a criminal record; they put so much pressure on you.""Kader has also lived and worked in England. He has a strong work ethic and doesn’t want to sponge off society; that wouldn’t even cross his mind. It’s demoralising for the both of us."
The couple paid extra to apply for the fast track route and Kader was granted limited leave to remain at the beginning of this year. They will have to apply to extend the visa after two and a half years and they hope Kader will be granted dual citizenship eventually.
Kader has been working for an international car rental company for the past six months and has recently been promoted. "He’s doing really well. He’s bilingual so it’s ideal for him."
As for Caitlin, she is now a junior graphic designer."We didn’t realise there would be so much paperwork, it took months and months. As I was in education, I knew I needed a set amount. I didn’t really think beyond that. Had we got married a few months earlier, we wouldn’t have been subject to these strict laws. It seems that when you abide by the law you get stabbed in the back. Some people even work two jobs to try and earn the set amount, but they [government] will only count one salary."
Emma Brooksbank explains: "When I first met Caitlin and Kader, Caitlin was in hospital recovering from a serious heart attack and major surgery. It was imperative that her husband, Kader was able to secure a long-term visa as quickly as possible to ensure that he could stay in the United Kingdom with Caitlin.""I acted on this as a matter of urgency and prepared all the paperwork which would enable Kader to return to Turkey to make a successful application.""This was complicated as there is a strict financial requirement which needs to be met. Usually the British national sponsor needs to be earning at least £18,600 per year. Caitlin had recently graduated and was trying to make her way as a graphic designer but the heart attack had meant that she could not work for the time being. We managed to find a way round this and with support from their family, the couple were able to show that they had enough funds in savings to meet the financial requirement. Kader returned to Turkey with the application complete and we arranged an appointment for him at the British Embassy in Turkey.""After a few weeks, the visa was issued and Kader was able to return to the United Kingdom with long-term limited leave to remain.""When people are considering making an application to settle in the United Kingdom, they do need to be aware that the Immigration Rules are strict and are difficult to meet. If one small element of an application is wrong, this can lead to a refusal, which can then take up to 12 months to resolve on appeal. If this had happened to Caitlin and Kader, they would have been separated during Caitlin’s recovery. It is vital that people seek specialist advice to give their application the best chance of being successful first time around."1These figures are from research conducted by ComRes on behalf of Simpson Millar. ComRes interviewed 4,130 GB adults online between the 14th and 18th September 2016. Data was weighted by age, gender, region and socio-economic grade to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+.
2 Provisional Long-Term International Migration (LTIM) Estimates: Year Ending March 2016 (Release date: 25 August 2016)
3 Lord Ashcroft Polls, 2016
4 British Future Thinktank, 2016
5 Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: December 2016
6 Home Office, National Statistics: Settlement