In the last Immigration Matters article of the year, and the decade, we reflect on the events of 2009 and contemplate what we might expect in 2010.
Immigration news in 2009 was largely dominated by the introduction of Tier 4 of the points based system in March, which saw a rush of pre-Tier 4 student visa applications creating a backlog which took several months to clear.
Around two thousand educational providers were registered as Tier 4 Sponsors for the first time, after spending most of 2008 going through the strict application and vetting process.
Thousands of colleges failed to make the grade, and were refused licences, or missed the deadline at the start of Tier 4. Other colleges later had licences withdrawn by the UK Border Agency, leaving hundreds of students unable to come to the UK having paid fees in advance.
Despite the teething problems a record number of student visas are reported to have been issued under Tier 4, largely due to the simplification of the requirements resulting in a reduction in the number of refusals.
In came decisions based on the facts, out went refusals based on subjective things like ‘intention’ to return or study.
As a result of this radical shift, the right of a full appeal against student visa refusals was abolished in favour of a new Administrative Review system.
Universities and colleges have for years been calling for a student entry clearance system which relies on factual information to qualify for a visa, which the government have duly delivered.
Despite this, the government continue to come under fire over foreign student following revelations that suspected terrorists were in the UK on student visas. They are now being accused of making it too easy to obtain a student visa!
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas announced that overseas students are worth a staggering £8 billion to the UK economy, which the country has welcomed during a worldwide recession in 2009.
Employers were also busy getting to grips with Tier 2, for skilled workers, introduced at the end of 2008. Meanwhile enforcement teams have been busy dishing out £10000 fines to employers who flout the immigration rules on employing overseas nationals.
Even the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, could not escape a fine after being found guilty of illegally employing her foreign Nanny.
The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 received Royal Assent (became law) on 21 July 2009, signalling major changes in the way the UK grants permanent residency and citizenship to migrants.
The concept of ‘earned citizenship’ or ‘earning the right to stay’ was born, meaning that migrants will no longer be automatically granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or UK citizenship.
The government introduced a large number of immigration rule changes this year, including automatic bans of up to 10 years for making a false statement or fraudulent immigration application, which can be found on the UK Border Agency website.
Looking ahead to 2010 we can expect to see the start of the phasing in of the Citizenship Act.
Educational provider visa letters will go electronic in February, which will save a few trees and cut down on FEDEX and DHL costs.
The government are currently reviewing student visas and are expected to make an announcement in early in the New Year.
The AIT (Asylum and Immigration Tribunal) upper chambers should be hearing some Judicial Review cases following a reshuffle.
Finally we would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year!
If you need any immigration advice or help with Studying in the UK, Settlement, Citizenship, Sponsorship, extending Work Permits, Visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: