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UK Government doubles number of exceptional talent visas

On 15 November 2017, the Home Office announced that increased number of visas will be made available to leading figures and individuals who show promise in technology, science, art and creative industries.

As part of its ongoing commitment to welcome talented people from across the globe, and in recognition of the importance of these innovative industries to the UK, the number of visas available through the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route is increasing from 1,000 to 2,000 a year.

The Government believes that this will ensure that more highly skilled people who enhance the UK’s economy can come to, and work in, this country.

The 2,000 visas will be made available to individuals who are recognised as existing global leaders or promising future leaders in the digital technology, science, arts and creative sectors by 1 of 5 UK endorsing organisations:

  • Tech City UK
  • Arts Council England
  • The British Academy
  • The Royal Society
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering

The current allocations of the 1,000 visas – which are split between the 5 endorsing organisations – will remain and the additional places will be made available across all of the endorsing bodies dependent on need. The government is keen to ensure that all nations and regions of the UK benefit from this change. The Home Office will look at how it can work with organisations across the UK to ensure wider take up of these visas outside London.

This announcement is part of the government’s ongoing reforms to routes to the UK from outside the EU.

Brexit EU UK 2019

UK’s proposed administrative procedures for EU citizens obtaining settled status

Today, on 7 November 2017, the Home Office circulated a public update on the administrative procedures underpinning the UK’s proposals for a streamlined application system for EU citizens obtaining settled status.

The text of the Home Office’s circular is quoted below.

“Today, the Government has set out further details of how the new settled status scheme for EU citizens and their family members will operate as the UK leaves the EU.

In a technical document sent to the European Commission as part of the negotiations, the Government reiterates how the new system will be streamlined, low-cost and user-friendly, with EU citizens consulted on its design.

EU citizens applying to stay in the UK after Brexit will have plenty of time, up to two years after the UK has left the EU, to obtain settled status. Those applying to stay in the UK after we leave the EU will not have their applications refused on minor technicalities and caseworkers considering applications will exercise discretion where appropriate. The new system will minimise the documentary evidence required and EU citizens will not be required to provide fingerprints as part of the application process.

Decisions will be based solely on the criteria set out in the Withdrawal Agreement, with no discretion for other reasons for refusal. EU citizens will also be given a statutory right of appeal, in line with their current rights through the Free Movement Directive, if their application is unsuccessful.

The Prime Minister has been clear that safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals in Europe is the first priority for negotiations and she said last month that an agreement is within touching distance.

Negotiation between the UK and EU is continuing and the next talks will take place this week on 9 and 10 November. We will continue to keep you updated on further progress.”

Bank Account Immigration Status

Bank account closed or refused based on immigration status

On 30 October 2017, the Home Office published a guidance on what to do if your application for an account is declined or if your account is closing because you are in the UK illegally.

Bank Account Refusal

Banks and building societies are required to carry out immigration status checks on people applying for current accounts.

Under the Immigration Act 2014 they must refuse your application for a new current account (or an application to add you as a signatory or identified beneficiary to a new or existing current account) if you are a disqualified person.

You may be disqualified if you are in the UK and need leave to enter or remain (under the Immigration Act 1971) and don’t have leave to be here. This could be because you:

  • never had leave to enter or remain (because you entered the UK illegally)
  • had leave but stayed after it expired or was revoked
  • are an European Economic Area (EEA) national subject to deportation action who has exhausted all rights of appeal

Banks and building societies are not permitted to open or provide access to current accounts for you, under section 40 of the Immigration Act 2014. For the purposes of this document, “access” includes being added as a signatory or an identified beneficiary to a new or existing current account.

Bank Account Closure

Banks and building societies are required to carry out immigration status checks on people who hold current accounts. If you are identified as being disqualified from holding an account, then, under the Immigration Act 2014 the bank or building society must close your accounts (or restrict access where you are a signatory or identified beneficiary, or the account is jointly held with a non-disqualified person).

This is may happen if you are present in the United Kingdom without leave to enter or remain and the Secretary of State for the Home Department considers you should not be provided with access to banking services.

The Secretary of State can notify your bank or building society that it is under an obligation to close an account operated by or for you in accordance with section 40G of the Immigration Act 2014 (as amended by the Immigration Act 2016). For these purposes, an account is operated by or for you if you are the account holder or a signatory or identified as a beneficiary in relation to the account.

If you are not the only account holder If you hold this account with another person who is lawfully present in the UK, your bank or building society may have taken steps to prevent you from operating the account, instead of closing it. The Immigration Act 2014 does not prevent banks and building societies from providing banking services to individuals who are lawfully present in the UK. Other account holders should contact the bank or building society directly to discuss their situation.

The Home Office has the power under the Immigration Act 2014 to apply for a freezing order in relation to current accounts for disqualified persons.

Complaints & Queries

If a bank or building society refuses your application for a current account or closes your current account under the Immigration Act 2014, you must be notified of the particular reasons.

If you believe there has been a mistake, the Home Office suggests contacting the Complaints Allocation Hub the Home Office with evidence of your lawful immigration status. If you have a right to be in the UK, the Home Office will change your details so you can re-apply to open a current account or re-open your existing account.

Complaints Allocation Hub 
UK Visas and Immigration
20 Wellesley Road
7th Floor
Lunar House


Phone: 0300 123 2241

Alternatively, general correspondence can be submitted to:

Direct Communications
Unit Home Office
2 Marsham Street

Legal Assistance

If you need assistance with confirmation of your immigration status or have experienced any issues with your bank accounts, Sterling & Law Associates LLP will be able to provide full representations.

Please contact us by e-mail or phone: 020 7822 8535.

Appointments with our immigration advisers can be also booked online.

UK Immigration applications visa

Update for Tier 2 Sponsors Relating to In Country Applications

From 20 September 2017, the Biometric Enrolment Letter (BEL) for all sponsored workers will automatically be created when they complete their online application.

This change applies to workers applying for further leave in the Tier 2 General, Creative and Sporting and Ministers of Religion standard and priority postal applications.

The UK employers should note that their sponsored workers will be able to access and print the BEL at the same time as their document checklist. They must then take their BEL to the Post Office to give their biometric information.

The sponsors (employers) should make their workers aware of the change and encourage the workers to enrol their biometrics and post their supporting documents swiftly.

Prime Minister Brexit

Prime Minister pledges to secure simple process to swap current EU Permanent Residence status for UK settled status

Today, on 19 October 2017, ahead of the EU Council meeting, Theresa May wrote directly to EU citizens in the UK. In her message, the Prime Minister pledged to make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to remain in the UK after Brexit. She insisted that the application process for settled status in the UK would be “streamlined” and the cost “as low as possible”. For any EU citizen who holds Permanent Residence status under the current EU regulations, there will be a simple process introduced to swap their current status for the UK settled status.

Full text of the Prime Minister’s message is quoted below.

“As I travel to Brussels today, I know that many people will be looking to us – the leaders of the 28 nations in the European Union – to demonstrate we are putting people first.

I have been clear throughout this process that citizens’ rights are my first priority. And I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.

I want to give reassurance that this issue remains a priority, that we are united on the key principles, and that the focus over the weeks to come will be delivering an agreement that works for people here in the UK, and people in the EU.

When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips. Nothing could have been further from the truth. EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.

But this agreement will not only provide certainty about residence, but also healthcare, pensions and other benefits. It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK system – and UK nationals into the system of an EU27 country – can benefit from what they’ve put in. It will enable families who have built their lives together in the EU and UK to stay together. And it will provide guarantees that the rights of those UK nationals currently living in the EU, and EU citizens currently living in the UK will not diverge over time.

What that leaves us with is a small number of important points to finalise.  That is to be expected at this point in negotiations. We are in touching distance of agreement.  I know both sides will consider each other’s proposals for finalising the agreement with an open mind. And with flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident that we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.

I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented. People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome. I want to provide reassurance here too.

We are developing a streamlined digital process for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind, and we will engage with them every step of the way.  We will keep the cost as low as possible – no more than the cost of a UK passport. The criteria applied will be simple, transparent and strictly in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement.  People applying will not have to account for every trip they have taken in and out of the UK and will no longer have to demonstrate Comprehensive Sickness Insurance as they currently have to under EU rules.

And importantly, for any EU citizen who holds Permanent Residence under the old scheme, there will be a simple process put in place to swap their current status for UK settled status.

To keep development of the system on track, the Government is also setting up a User Group that will include representatives of EU citizens in the UK, and digital, technical and legal experts. This group will meet regularly, ensuring the process is transparent and responds properly to users’ needs. And we recognise that British nationals living in the EU27 will be similarly concerned about potential changes to processes after the UK leaves the EU.  We have repeatedly flagged these issues during the negotiations. And we are keen to work closely with EU Member States to ensure their processes are equally streamlined.

We want people to stay and we want families to stay together. We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK. And I know that Member States value equally UK nationals living in their communities. I hope that these reassurances, alongside those made by both the UK and the European Commission last week, will provide further helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures.”

Brexit EU citizens rights

Safeguarding the status of citizens: negotiation update from the Home Office

On 13 October 2017, the Home Office circulated an update following the fifth round of the negotiation between the EU and UK.

Full text of the circular: 

“We are closer to agreeing all elements of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and the reciprocal rights of UK citizens living in the EU – but there is more discussion required.

On key issues, such as the broad framework of residence rights for EU citizens and their family members, social security entitlements and reciprocal healthcare, the UK and EU have largely reached agreement.

On remaining areas, both the UK and EU are focussing on providing certainty for citizens as quickly as possible. Discussions this week have narrowed the focus to the key remaining issues for negotiations.

The UK has also provided further information on its settled status scheme to be introduced next year. It will be streamlined, digital and low cost. As we have said previously, you do not need a document now to prove that you are resident in the UK.

For those who already have EU permanent residence documents the process will be very straightforward, with greatly reduced or zero cost to applicants to update their status under the new scheme.

The talks also explored ways to fulfil the Prime Minister’s commitment to implement the Withdrawal Treaty fully into UK law, ensuring consistent interpretation through UK courts being able to take into account CJEU judgements.

We want to reach agreement on all areas as soon as we can, providing certainty for citizens.

The EU Council is meeting next week to discuss whether or not there has been sufficient progress in the current talks to move onto discussion of wider issues. Whatever the EU Council’s decision, safeguarding the status of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU will remain a priority for the UK. As the Prime Minister said this week, “we want you to stay”.

Our negotiating position continues to be based on the proposal we outlined in June: safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU, withupdates provided as the negotiations progress.”

EU Referendum Brexit

Citizens’ rights update from the Home Office – 29 September 2017

Today, on 29 September 2017, the Home Office circulated an update at the conclusion of the fourth round of negotiations between the UK and EU in Brussels.

Below is the full text of the circular.

Throughout the negotiation, the UK Government is remaining focused on providing certainty, clarity and stability for EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU, upholding the proposals set out in June.

This month’s round made progress on issues which will enable EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU to continue to live their lives broadly as they do now. This progress is detailed in the joint summary note published yesterday. Notably, good progress was made on protecting social security rights, which will provide EU citizens and UK nationals with more financial security.

The UK thinks that in some cases we must go beyond the strict requirements of current EU law in order to protect citizens. For example the UK Government has offered guaranteed rights of return for settled EU citizens in the UK who leave the UK, in return for onward movement rights for UK nationals living in the EU27.

If the EU agrees to this, it would mean that as an EU citizen with settled status you could leave the UK for more than two years without your status being affected. In return, as a UK national living in the EU, you would be able to move within the other Member States, as now. This is a bold and important offer which we hope the EU will consider carefully.

Regarding the enforcement of citizens’ rights after we leave the EU, the UK has been clear that, as a third country outside of the EU, it would not be right for the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to have direct jurisdiction.

However, we have listened to the concerns that have been raised and – as the Prime Minister set out in her speech in Florence last week – the UK has committed to incorporating the final withdrawal agreement fully into UK law and said that UK courts should be able to take account of CJEU judgments in order to ensure consistent interpretation.

After four negotiation rounds we are starting to get into the detail of how EU citizens will apply for a new settled status. The UK presented its early thinking and we will be engaging on the design and delivery of a proposed Settlement Scheme for EU citizens in the UK. We are committed to making the application as streamlined and user-friendly as possible for everyone.

Those who already hold permanent residency documents should not have to go through the full process, for example. We will also use data that EU citizens have already provided to minimise the burden of documentary evidence required.  

There will be more details in the coming months, but for the time being EU citizens need not take any action.

The next round of negotiations is due to take place during the week beginning 9 October 2017 and you will receive a further update then.

Airport Asylum Claim

UK Visas Scam in the Philippines

Filipinos are continuously being targeted and victimised of the UK Visa scam in the Philippines, an ongoing epidemic for many years.

The British Embassy in Manila released a statement warning Filipinos how to suspect a scam.

Some individuals may claim to be a member or an officer of the Immigration department in the UK, or will result to social media for communication such as, emails, skype or Facebook. The scam is often composed of false employment contracts and client care letters explaining the procedure and their fees.

After being persuaded via Skype or telephone calls discussing the fake job vacancies, the fraudsters will explain how you will be required to pay the necessary fees. The scam becomes successful unless caught, as soon as the victims have made a deposit, often via Western Union or Money gram and the rest is history. Fake documents such as, British Passports, letter from Home Office or Entry Clearance Visa are released to the victims for re-assurance and to portray a realistic approach.

Sterling & Law Associates LLP were approached by individuals in the Philippines enquiring the validity of the documents they were given. These documents were reviewed and assessed, it was apparent that the contract of employment, emails, British Passport and Entry Clearance visas were fake, as they did not go through the necessary procedure.

It is strongly advised for Filipinos to seek assistance from the British Embassy in Manila before any further actions are to be taken, and especially when you are being required to deposit sum of money.

Alternatively, you can find out the legitimacy of the job in the website.

If you would like to check whether a company in the UK is willing to employ you, you can check on Companies House whether the company is registered and legitimate.

Companies House:

Once you are satisfied that you found your employer on Companies House, you need to check whether they have a Sponsor License. The Sponsor License allows a company to issue a certificate of sponsorship as part of the requirement in applying for your work permit.

Registered of licensed sponsors: workers:

There are only two locations in the Philippines where you can go to submit your application for visas to the UK, in Manila and Cebu.

VFS Global:

For more details and assistance please contact Nollienne Alparaque by e-mail: or call on 078 1276 9389 or 020 7822 8535.

Refusal Human Rights Immigration UK - photo by

Two refusals yet not a final decision: Successful appeal on the basis of Article 8 of the ECHR

Sterling & Law Associates LLP were successful in the appeal at the First Tier Tribunal challenging a refusal of a clients application for a leave to remain.

The appellant, a citizen of Uzbekistan, entered the United Kingdom as a student in 2006 and she was granted further leave to remain in that capacity until 2013 when she was unable to demonstrate that she met English language requirements. The reason for this was that Home Office believed that the appellant used deception to pass her English language test.

She appealed against that decision and it resulted to be a further refusal with no right of appeal. She applied for permission to remain in the UK on the grounds of her family life with her husband, the UK citizen. She had been in the UK for 10 years, working, living a family life and also doing charitable work in her area together with her husband. Upon consideration of the appeal lodged by Sterling & Law Associates LLP on behalf of the client, the Judge held that despite the fact that she used deception in her previous application for a student visa, it would be unreasonable and unjust for the appellant to be forced to come back to Uzbekistan. It would be wrong to intervene the family life of this couple.

Therefore, the appeal was allowed on the grounds of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

London Skyline Tower Bridge

EU Exit Negotiations Update from the Home Office

Following the latest round of negotiations between the UK and EU concluded on 31 August 2017 in Brussels, the Home Office circulated the following update.

Progress was made on several fronts – including on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.

On healthcare, for example, we agreed to protect the rights to reciprocal healthcare, including European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs), for EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU who are present on the day of exit.

Both sides also agreed that the rights of cross border workers should be protected.

On economic rights, we have confirmed the right of EU citizens to set up and manage a business in the UK, and the same applies to British citizens in their Member State of residence.

These points of agreement are good news but the discussions also highlighted where more work is needed.

This includes several areas where the UK wants to go further than the EU, such as posted workers (raised in the July round) and the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. The UK will also continue to seek clarification on how the EU’s stance on various issues would work in practice and be implemented within the EU27.

The next round of negotiations in September will build on progress to date with a view to reaching a future agreement on citizens’ rights. This table provides a comparison of the EU-UK positions on citizens’ rights and where outstanding issues remain.

As Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis said yesterday, the UK government remains absolutely committed during the negotiation process to delivering the best outcome for the people of the EU and the UK.

We also recognise that EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU would like certainty about future arrangements as soon as possible.”

Please visit Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know for further details about the government’s proposal to protect the position of EU citizens in the UK – and UK nationals in the EU – published on 26 June. It contained these commitments:

  • EU citizens with settled status will continue be treated as if they were UK nationals for education, healthcare, benefits, pensions and social housing after we leave the EU.
  • No EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point we leave the EU. EU citizens will have at least two years to regularise their status.
  • The process to apply for settled status will be streamlined and user friendly, including for those who already hold a permanent residence document under current free movement rules. We expect the system to be up and running in 2018.

As the negotiations in Brussels progress, Home Office’s advice to EU citizens remains the same: you do not need to apply for documentation confirming your status now.

The rights of EU citizens have not changed. Last week, around 100 EU citizens received letters in error stating they were liable for removal from the UK. For the avoidance of doubt, these letters were sent in error and will have caused understandable distress. The Department has apologised to the individuals affected and they are being reassured that they should disregard the letters. The Home Office statement is here.

Home Office will continue to update on the negotiations and wider citizens’ rights issues over the coming months.