Immigration law: what’s coming in 2016?

Immigration continues to be a popular political topic. It’s unfortunate that much of the opinion available in the mainstream media is still (wilfully or otherwise) ill-informed or sensationalist.

2015 was the year that the Immigration Act 2015 started to come into force, and its effects will continue to be seen into 2016.

There are also appeals due to be heard on important areas of immigration law, notably the financial requirements for partners of British and settled people.

Here are just four significant stories to look out for in the coming months:

Right to rent: The “right to rent” scheme which was piloted in the West Midlands in 2015 is due to be applied to the whole country from 1 February. If you are looking for property to rent you should expect to be asked to produce proof of your nationality or immigration status before you can move in. Surveys of the pilot programme found numerous examples of discrimination against black and minority ethnic tenants. If you are a landlord, you have a new responsibility not to allow people to live in your property unless they have permission to be in the UK, with ominous warnings of fines and prison sentences for offenders.

Financial requirement: Also in February, the “MM” case is due to reach the Supreme Court. Families will be interested to hear the decision about whether the rigid requirements of Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules (which would exclude almost half of the UK’s working population from sponsoring a partner to join them here) are lawful. You can read a full summary of the law in the most recent Parliamentary Briefing.

Entrepreneurs: The latest recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)  were that the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) UK visa category should be focused on “highly innovative, high-growth potential businesses”. Intending applicants should be on the alert for changes to this route which could necessitate changes to their business plans, or even make an application non-viable. Presumably Entry Clearance Officers will receive full training in how to spot a “high-growth potential business”…

Appeals: A new Immigration Bill proposes to wreck further the remaining immigration appeals system. Those eligible will only be able to appeal from outside the UK, seriously damaging the Tribunals’ ability to conduct their cases fairly. The Home Office Factsheet says of the “remove first, appeal later” policy (apparently without irony) that “We now plan to extend this power to enable it to be applied to all human rights cases, provided this does not breach their human rights.” So, the Government can remove you from the UK unless that breaches your human rights: if it does you can appeal, but only after your rights have already been breached.

Overall, 2016 does not promise any let-up in the use of immigration as a loud distraction technique, with the “hostile environment” extending through the daily lives of more and more people, including British citizens.

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