We take a look at the latest news affecting UK sponsoring businesses.

Changes to how late EUSS applications are handled

The Home Office has changed the immigration rules and the guidance on making applications to the EU Settlement Scheme, taking a far more restrictive approach to late applications than has been the case previously.

The Home Office test for assessing a late EUSS application is whether there are “reasonable grounds” for the late application.

Good examples of reasonable grounds for missing the deadline include (but are not limited to):

  • Applications for children where a parent or local authority did not make an application or was unaware of the deadline.
  • Medical conditions that prevented an application from being made.
  • People who were in an abusive or controlling relationship.
  • Victims of human trafficking and modern slavery situations.

The guidance also has a clause that includes a lack of awareness of the EUSS or an incorrect presumption that they did not need to apply.

Previously, the Home Office would make a decision on the validity of the late application at the same time as making a decision on the eligibility of the applicant. However, this system created loopholes for those wanting to cheat the system (for example EU citizens who moved to the UK after free movement ended). Once an application was made, the applicant would be issued a certificate of application which would allow them to live and work in the UK as well as get free access to the NHS while their application was being processed. Although these ineligible applicants eventually received a refusal, the certificate of application would be used to prove the right to work.

Now any application made from 9 August 2023 will be subjected to a two-step approach. The decision on whether to accept a late application is a stand-alone decision before assessing the eligibility of the application. Certificates of application will only be awarded to those who have genuine reasons for a late application.

Biometric residence permits to be replaced with eVisas

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) plans to move to a digital immigration system for all visas. This means that they will be replacing all physical documents with an online record of your immigration status.

Documents being replaced are:

  • biometric residence permits (BRP), which are due to expire at the end of December 2024
  • biometric residence cards (BRC)
  • passport endorsements, such as indefinite leave to enter wet ink stamps
  • vignette stickers in passports, such as entry clearance or visa vignettes

Since 2018, millions of customers have received an eVisa online, for example through the EU Settlement Scheme.

With an eVisa you will easily be able to share your immigration status with prospective employers and landlords.

The other benefits of eVisas include that:

  • they are secure and cannot be lost, stolen or tampered with, unlike a physical document
  • you will not need to wait for, or collect, a physical document after your application is decided – you might still need to provide biometric information in person, and UKVI will tell you if this needs to be done
  • it will be quicker and easier to prove your status at the UK border

Migrant worker exploitation

Thousands of migrant workers are at risk of exploitation because of multiple failures as a result of the way that the Home Office has set up the employer sponsorship system.

The Work Rights Centre stated in a report that they believe that this system prioritises immigration control over workers’ rights.

“The exploitation of migrant workers is not coincidental but the outcome of the system, [and] an inadequate and increasingly hostile national policy environment,” the report said.

The report authors recommend reforming the system to end migrant worker dependency on a sponsor, introducing a single enforcement body that migrant workers can safely report abuse and exploitation to, and appointing a migrant commissioner to develop a welfare strategy for migrant workers.

Exploitation in the care sector 

Overseas workers who come to the UK on the Health and Care Worker visa are especially susceptible to exploitation. This is due to persistent underfunding in the adult care sector that has led to deep-rooted issues such as low pay and poor working conditions.

Illegal recruitment agencies target overseas care workers desperate to come to the UK, charging them excessive fees and not paying them what they are supposed to. Some of these workers arrive in the UK to find out there is no job for them and find themselves destitute and relying on food banks to survive.

Because employees are tied to their sponsoring employer for the duration of their visa, they often accept poor working conditions. According to anti-slavery charity, Unseen, there was a 606% increase in care work-related modern slavery cases reported to their helpline in the last year.

Unseen revealed in a new report that the most common method of abuse used by illegally operated care agencies was financial control. This includes:

  • withholding wages
  • non-compliance with the national minimum wage
  • large deductions from salaries
  • debt bondage
  • excessive fees for breaking contracts

Some employers also withheld their workers’ passports and threatened to revoke certificates of sponsorship or have them deported.

We help individuals and businesses navigate all aspects of UK immigration and can assist with ongoing employee immigration management. Contact us at +44 (0) 20 7759 5307 or email workpermits@sableinternational.com.

We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

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