To say that 2006 was a difficult year for non-European migrants wishing to work or settle in the UK would be an understatement.
Despite figures released in February, showing that over 350,000 Britons were leaving the UK each year to live abroad, the immigration rules have continued to be tightened.
In March the Home Office released details of the Points Based System, confirming fears that the new system would favour highly skilled migrants with big salaries.
Rules on switching were updated in this month, but the biggest shock came when the Home Office announced that five years of work, instead of four, will be required for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
The new ‘5 year’ rule on settlement was implemented 3 April less than two weeks after the announcement leaving thousands unable to get their applications in before the deadline. The rule applied to migrants who had already worked in the UK four years believing that they would be granted residency.
The Immigration Nationality and Asylum ACT was given the Royal Assent this month, as part of the governments five year plan to overhaul the immigration system.
April ended on a sour note for Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who was sacked over the ‘foreign prisoners’ scandal, and Immigration Minister, Tony McNulty, who was replaced by Liam Bryne. John Reid took over as Home Secretary saying that the Home Office was not “fit for purpose”.
Five illegal immigrants were found working in the Home office in May, whilst in another Home Office building, Lunar House in Croydon, a ‘sex for visas’ scandal hit the papers. John Reid also had to defend a statement by a Home Office official that they had “no idea” how many people were working illegally in the UK – the figure is thought to be over 500,000.
June saw changes to immigration rules on certain categories of Ministers of religion and the suspension of Working Holidaymaker Visas from Bangladesh.
In July the NHS announced a clampdown on overseas nurse recruitment, which was swiftly followed by a Home Office announcement to take General Nurses off the official skills shortage occupations list from 14 August. Ministers killed off any hope of an amnesty for illegal immigrants this month, whilst making a statement on Immigration Rule changes on deportation and the “public interest”.
Summer holidays notwithstanding, August was a busy month with several announcements. The government promised to “Get Tough on Employers” with a series of proposals to clamp down on Company Director employing illegal workers. Other announcements included the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, a new training scheme (TWES) for medical staff and a possible restriction of Romanian and Bulgarian workers. A former British Diplomat was jailed this month for visa fraud whilst working in Manila.
The Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) has announced in September that it would, effective from 1 February 2007, be raising the minimum English language overall IELTS pass score for overseas-trained nurses and midwives coming to work in the UK to 7.0.
The Sector Based Scheme took another blow in October as the Home Office announced the closure of the Food Manufacturing (General/Mushroom) quota. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research published figures confirming that immigrants had helped the UK economy grow by 3%. The month ended with John Reid announcing a “consultation” on visas fees, which will almost certainly result in steep price rises in April 2007.
The Home Office suddenly suspended the Highly Skilled Migrant Scheme (HSMP) in November, pending the introduction of a revised scheme on 5th December 2006. Under the revised scheme rules even Bill Gates would not qualify. The Home Secretary also release immigration figures and announced yet another “crackdown” this time on illegal immigration. An Ernst & Young report revealed that immigrants boosted UK tax revenue by $35 billion.
There was little Christmas cheer in December for UK based migrants as another hurdle was placed in the path of those wishing to gain permanent residency. The Home Office will introduce a Language and British Test for migrants planning to settle in the UK from 2nd April 2007.
The above is a brief summary of the many changes that have taken place in this most turbulent of years for more information please visit the Home Office website. Expect more of the same in 2007 as the ‘Five Year Plan’ gathers pace and more changes are implemented.
Thank you for reading our Newsletter and for all your kind comments throughout the year. All the team at Immigration Matters would like to extend our seasons greeting to you and wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.