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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Settling in Britain is a privilege not a right

 

THE following is the summary of a speech delivered on September 15, 2011, by Britain’s Immigration Minister Damian Green at the Centre for Policy Studies [see full speech]. The speech is an indicator of the possible policy changes that will come out of the consultation currently underway into the reform of family migration. The consultation opened on July 13, 2011, and will close on October 6, 2011. It is important that as migrants to this country, we take time out to respond to this consultation as judging from Green’s speech it will have far reaching consequences for immigrants . Some of the proposals on the table include the following: # Whilst recognising that marriage is a personal decision, it is argued that it has implications on the wider society and therefore the spouse seeking settlement will be expected to demonstrate that they have integrated into British society. It is proposed to increase the probationary period for a non-EEA spouse or partner to apply for settlement from two to five years. It is argued that, this will allow additional time to integrate into British life and give authorities a longer period in which to test the genuineness of the relationship before permanent residence in the UK is granted on the basis of it. Ministers also believe this will also make the route less attractive to those whose sole purpose is to gain settlement in Britain. It is also argued that extending the probationary period will reduce the burden to the taxpayer by postponing access to non-contributory benefits like income support. # Immediate settlement for adult dependents will be stopped. Currently under paragraph 317 of the immigration rules, a sponsor who is settled in the UK can sponsor adult dependents in certain circumstances. Instead, a probationary period of five years will be introduced before they can apply for settlement. As a result, their in-country application for settlement will be subject to meeting the English language skills requirement. # In fact the English language test is to be extended to all adult family migrants under 65 as well as dependents aged 16 and 17. The justification Green uses for this is the rather shock data that in one year, 2009-10, the Department of Work and Pensions spent £2.6 million on telephone interpreting services and nearly £400,000 on document translation. # The outcome of the consultation is likely to come up with a minimum maintenance threshold. Presently, it has been safe to argue that if the income meets the income support threshold then it demonstrates sufficiently that they can be accommodated and maintained without recourse to public funds. The Migration Advisory Committee has been tasked to come up with a new minimum income threshold for sponsors of dependents for maintenance and accommodation. The new threshold will take into account the number and age of the dependents sponsored. # It looks like third party support is on its way out except in compelling and compassionate circumstances. Presently, it has been possible to show that a third party will assist with the maintenance requirements. But Green argues that it is not easy for the UK Border Agency to verify this. # The dependents of points-based migrants are to face a probationary period increase of two to five years before settlement. # For some time now, there has been an expression of dissatisfaction by the UK Border Agency about the right of appeal in family visit visa matters. It will come as a surprise given what appears to be routine refusals from the Pretoria entry clearance team that a staggering 73% of the family visits applications are granted. Green argues that the tax payer has to foot the bill for the right of appeal where people produce better evidence than they could have produced at the initial application stage. His argument is reinforced by the statics that family visit appeals made up 40% of all immigration appeals and that it cost the taxpayer around £40 million a year. About 63% of the family visits matters are allowed on appeal. The consultation proposes to end the right of appeal and argues that one can submit a new application instead. As I stated above, it is a good idea to read the consultation and respond to it. At first blush, the 77-page consultation document can appear daunting but it does provide a useful insight into where this government intends to take its immigration policy

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