Category: Updates & Publications

Leaving the EU – Impact on Human Rights: Conference Summary Report

Sterling & Law Associates LLP were delighted to attend and participate in a high-level conference “Leaving the EU – Impact on Human Rights” organised by New Europeans[1], together with the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH)[2], Britain in Europe[3] and Brunel University Knowing Our Rights project[4], and held in London on 16 March 2018 at Europe House

The event was organised to discuss the potential impact that Brexit would have on a number of our individuals’ rights and examine areas of human rights under threat for EU citizens and UK citizens.

The conference shed some light on key contentious areas such as workers’ rights, data protection, and family life among others. These are increasingly important topics to discuss as we move nearer and nearer towards the exit date of UK from the EU, especially when those in charge fail to provide specific indications into the details of these niche areas.

Brexit implications for human rights

There is a great fear that Brexit will lead to the regression of many of our rights. In the current state, a number of our fundamental rights derive from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the European rules, regulations and directives. The Withdrawal Bill that proposes to implement Brexit could seek to remove several of those rights. For instance, in terms of employment law, the EU sits at the heart of workers’ rights[5] having brought about greater health and safety regulations that reduced the number of work days loss to absences and sick days, bringing about equal pay for equal value work and ensuring our right to parental leave. The Withdrawal Bill could possibly see the removal of these rights.

Data Protection Concerns

When it comes to data protection[6], the General Data Protection Regulation[7] (GDPR) proposed by the EU that comes into force on 25 May 2018, which has been implemented in the UK through the Data Protection Act, could lose all strength and meaning following Brexit. From an immigration perspective, the Data Protection Act includes an exception to the regulation for ‘effective immigration enforcement’. This means that if an individual is suspected of breaching immigration controls, the Home Office and other governmental agencies would be able to obtain and use personal data, that had been collected for purposes unrelated to immigration, to make a decision in regard to an individuals’ immigration status. This exemption could also mean that the Home Office would not be obliged to respond to Subject Access Requests (SARs) from people who wish to know what data has been held in relation to their previous immigration applications or situations at border controls. This is distressing because SARs are often used by legal practitioners to acquire necessary information to advise their clients on their specific circumstances, particularly when their clients do not have a clear record of their previous situations. Brexit could mean that the UK could get away with including such a wide-ranging exception into the legislation.

Photo by New Europeans


Family and private life

The conference also delved deeper into the impact that Brexit would have on our family and private life[8]. Research and analysis is currently being carried out into the effects on different categories of families. In the UK, 12% of all children born in the UK have at least one parent that is from the EU. After the referendum, there has been a sharp increase in the number of EU citizens in the UK applying for permanent residence applications and citizenship applications. However, while it might give you some peace of mind before the exit, the permanent residence card or document certifying permanent residence will not be considered valid after Brexit. EU citizens in the UK and their family members will have to reapply for a ‘settled’ status in the UK. However, as the exact details and processes are yet to have been announced, the rights of the EU citizens in the UK and those of UK citizens abroad in other EU countries have not been guaranteed. Brexit is seeking to remove EU citizens’ and their families’ free movement and automatic rights within the UK and create an entirely new system that has yet to be executed.

These alarming possibilities after Brexit gives rise to the question, as brought up by a participant at the conference, of whether the stripping of our access to these rights given to us through the EU would amount to an infringement of our human rights in itself.

Despite what has been mentioned in this article, no one knows for certain what is going to happen to our human rights after Brexit, let alone anything else relating to the UK, EU and Brexit, but it is important to keep updated on the news to ensure that we are all prepared for the big change coming our way.

Throughout the entire conference, it has been evident that Brexit has and will bring about an unjustifiable amount of uncertainty into our lives. This uncertainty underlines the discussion with ifs, doubts and questions that cannot be answered with a simple response. It is clear that the complexity of the matter, namely what effect Brexit will have on our fundamental human rights, cannot be easily resolved. However, what we can take away from this event is that there are several organisations and individuals that are currently fighting to ensure that our intrinsic human rights are not infringed.

It is our goal at Sterling & Law Associates LLP to help individuals and families to navigate this complex area of law and to keep EU nationals updated on any changes that may affect their life.


[1] New Europeans is a civil rights organisation that campaigns for freedom of movement, non-discrimination and the principle of solidarity in Europe. This is done by giving a platform to European and non-EU citizens a voice in local communities to join and take part in the Europe-wide debate regarding the challenges that we are currently faced with.

[2] AEDH is a European network of over 30 individual and organisation members to defend and promote human rights in the EU.

[3] Britain in Europe is a think tank based at Brunel University London that brings together academics, legal practitioners, and human rights NGOs across Britain and Europe to conduct research and influence public policy.

[4] The project aims to provide analysis and insight into understanding the impact and application of the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK.

[5] This topic was discussed by Hannah Reed from the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

[6] This topic was discussed by Gracie Bradley from Liberty, a UK human rights and civil liberties campaign group.

[7] The GDPR was proposed to unify data protection rules for individuals within the EU. It seeks to protect personal data that is stored on computers or filing systems for example by ensuring that organisations that hold your personal information need to notify you if they share it and be transparent about how they process and use that personal information. The reason why this regulation is seen to be a move forward in this area is that there are real risks that can arise from non-compliance such as fines of up to 2% – 4% of the company’s global turnover.

[8] This topic was discussed by Dr. Nando Sigona from the Institute for Research into Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham.

UK Visa Fees

UK Visa Fees from 6 April 2018

A number of changes to the UK visa fees will come into effect from 6 April 2018.

The key changes to the Home Office fees are outlined below:

  • Increased UK visa fees on growth routes (work, study and visit) by 4%.
  • Increased fees on most non-growth routes (nationality, settlement, family) and most associated premium services by 4%.
  • The fee for the overseas optional ‘Priority Visa’ service for entry clearance will increase by 15%.

The government has not made any changes to fees under the sponsorship system. UK visa fees for entry clearance to enter the Channel Islands and Isle of Man will rise in line with fee changes seen in the rest of the UK.

UK visa fees for all applications made from outside and within the UK



Outside / Inside UK before 6 April 2018


Outside / Inside UK after 6 April 2018

Tier 1 Investor £1,561 £1,623
Tier 1 Entrepreneur £982 / £1,228 £1,021 / £1,277
Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur £349 / £474 £363 / £493
Tier 2 – 3 years £587 / £677 £610 / £704
Tier 2 – 5 years £1,174 / £1,354 £1,110 / £1,408
Sponsorship License Application  £536 £536
Tier 4 £335 / £457 £348 / £475
Tier 5 £235 £244
Family Settlement (Spouse Visa) £1,464 / NA £1,523 / NA
FLR (FP, O, M, S) NA / £993 NA / £1,033
MN-1 (Registration child – British Citizenship) £973 £1,012
AN (Naturalisation – British Citizenship) £1,282 £1,330
Indefinite Leave to Remain (Settlement) £1,464 / £2,297 £1,523 / £2,389
Other dependant relative £3,250 / NA £3,250 / NA
Visit visa – short up to 6 months £89 / NA £93 / NA
Visit visa – long up to 2 years £337 / NA £350 / NA
Visit visa – long up to 5 years £612 / NA £636 / NA
Visit visa – long up to 10 years

£767 / NA

 £798 / NA
EEA Applications (all forms)

free / £65

free / £65

A full list of the new UK Immigration, Visa and Nationality Fees can be found on

Other relevant changes and updates

NHS Immigration Health Surcharge will increase to £400 a year in 2018

New Fees 2018: British Passport Applications

Deadline for employers (Tier 2 sponsors) – 5 April 2018

New Online Application System launched for Tier 2 migrants and PBS dependants

Changes to the Immigration Rules 2018

Immigration Assistance

For expert advice and assistance in relation to your particular case, applicable fees and relevant immigration law requirements, please contact our immigration lawyers on Tel. +44(0)20 7822 8535, Mobile/Viber: 074 6338 2838, by e-mail: or via our online appointment booking form.

Insurmountable obstacles rule featured in Appendix FM of Immigration Rules in cases concerning partner relationships

The application and interpretation of the “insurmountable obstacles” rule aims for a balance between the Article 8 rights and the legitimate aims of immigration control. The Rules therefore account for the cases where people apply for a leave to remain as partners and the following applies:

“(b) the applicant has a genuine and subsisting relationship with a partner who is in the UK and is a British citizen, settled in the UK or in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection, and there are insurmountable obstacles to family life with that partner continuing outside the UK.”

“Insurmountable obstacles” are defined as very serious difficulties, which would be faced by the applicant or their partner in continuing their family life together outside the UK and which could not be overcome or would entail very serious hardship for the applicant or their partner. Therefore, the focus is on the difficulties to be faced by the couple in continuing their family life outside the UK.

Although this entails a high test, it does not mean literally insurmountable obstacles. In practice, interpretation of this rule is practical and realistic. In establishing insurmountable obstacles, the following factors may be taken into consideration, as per Jeunesse v Netherlands [2014] ECHR 1036:

  • Whether family life would be effectively ruptured;
  • Whether there are any ties in the Contracting State (and their extent);
  • Factors of immigration control (eg, history of immigration law breaches);
  • Public order

There are a few other considerations that can influence the application of insurmountable obstacles to a particular case.  

  • Firstly, it is important if the applicant’s stay in the UK is unlawful or precarious. This affects the weight attached to the public interest in removing the person from the UK. Accordingly, the weight of public interest is determined by the outcome of immigration control over the applicant.  This can be illustrated by two contrasting scenarios. If the applicant’s stay in the UK was unlawful and they would be deported as a foreign criminal, the public interest in their removal is elevated. By contrast, if it is certain that the applicant would be granted leave to enter the UK after being removed, the interest in such removal is diminished, as illustrated by the Chikwamba rule.
  • Secondly, a less stringent approach might be appropriate if the applicant and their partner were under a reasonable misapprehension of their ability to maintain a family life in the UK. In practice, this would apply, for example, in cases when someone is brought to the UK as a child and not informed of their immigration status.

Nevertheless, even though it is established that the test of insurmountable obstacles is high, the Agyarko case also notes that if the test is not met, but the refusal of the application would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences, the refusal will be disproportionate and a leave granted under “exceptional circumstances”. Therefore, despite a high threshold of the test, there are many factors that affect the decision of a court or tribunal when each individual case is being decided.

New Immigration, Visa and Nationality Fees 2018-19

Legislation was laid in Parliament on 16 March 2018 which sets out a number of changes to immigration, visa and nationality fees.

These changes will come into effect on 6 April 2018.

Careful consideration is given to individual fees to help reduce the funding contribution from UK taxpayers, whilst continuing to provide and invest in a service that remains attractive to our customers and competitive with other countries.

The key changes are outlined below:

  • Increased fees on growth routes (work, study and visit) by 4%.
  • Increased fees on most non-growth routes (nationality, settlement, family) and most associated premium services by 4%.
  • The fee for the overseas optional ‘Priority Visa’ service for entry clearance will increase by 15%.
  • For the fourth year running, there will be no any changes to fees under the sponsorship system.
  • Fees for entry clearance to enter the Channel Islands and Isle of Man will rise in line with fee changes seen in the rest of the UK.

A full list of the new fees can be found on

Inappropriate behaviour of Immigration Officers during enforcement visit supported by Upper Tribunal Judgement

Appeal against removal directions on the grounds of undergoing a sham marriage is dismissed after the Upper Tribunal judge finds the claims about inappropriate behaviour of Immigration Officers (IOs) during an enforcement visit unfounded.

The Appellant is an Egyptian national entered into a marriage with an EEA national whilst overstaying in the UK after his 6-month visitor visa expired. The Appellant had removal directions issued against him after an enforcement visit to the place he was temporarily residing at.

It was alleged by the Appellant that the IOs were behaving in a threatening manner and did not follow the procedure required by law, namely the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) requirement to give the Appellant a criminal caution.

The Respondent disputed the allegations about the inappropriate behaviour of the IOs and argued that PACE guidance did not apply in the present case because the situation concerned an administrative rather than criminal procedure.

Having reviewed the evidence available, the Judge found that the Appellant’s claims and criticisms of the IOs’ conduct to be unreliable, and supported the Respondent’s argument that PACE guidelines did not apply to the present case, thus ruling that the IOs did not breach PACE by failing to give the Appellant a criminal caution.

The distinction between criminal and civil proceedings was crucial to uphold to avoid the confusion between the two very different sets of rules.

The case, nevertheless, is very helpful at reminding us about the procedure the IO need to follow when making an enforcement visit. It notes that the Secretary of State made a Codes of Practice Direction in 2013, which states that:

  • A person, suspected of an offence, must be cautioned before any questions about an offence are put to them. There is no need to be cautioned, however, if questions refer to other necessary purposes, such as obtaining information by a statutory requirement.
  • The person must be told that they are not under arrest and informed about how they may obtain legal advice.
  • The caution must be in the following terms: “You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
  • The caution should not be given when the questioning is intended to establish basic facts such as identity, however the purpose of questioning must be identified.
  • If a reasonable suspicion that the person in question is liable to be held in immigration detention arises out of known information, person’s actions or information discovered during the enquiry, and the person must be arrested, they must be given the administrative explanation or criminal caution.
  • The arrest must be necessary to progress the case
    • It is unlikely that arrest would be appropriate if the person’s immigration status is known and no progression on the case will be made by arresting them.
  • The person under arrest must be informed that:
    • They are under arrest and not free to leave;
    • The reason for the arrest;
    • Why it is necessary to arrest them.
  • Where IOs use criminal powers to make an arrest they must comply with PACE
    • To have a criminal power of arrest, IOs must have a genuine intention to prosecute the individual and have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has committed or attempted to commit a criminal offence
  • Where IOs use administrative powers to make an arrest, they must notify the person of their detention and reasons for it as per Immigration Act 1971.

Home Office launched new online application system for Tier 2 migrants and PBS dependants

On 6 March 2018, the Home Office announced launch of a new online application system – Access UK which is now available to Tier 2 customers and PBS dependants.

The new service will enable workers and their partner or child to follow a more modern, intuitive and straight forward visa application process and, for the first time, they will apply to come to the UK using the same application system as those seeking to remain in the UK for work.

The benefits of Access UK include:

  • A shorter application form, with questions ordered based on customer feedback
  • Relevant questions based on a customer’s previous answers
  • The application fee displayed in the relevant currency
  • The ability to apply, book a Visa Application Centre (VAC) appointment, and pay for the relevant service standard seamlessly
  • The ability to review, edit and download a partially completed application at any point before submission
  • Availability on mobile devices

Tier 2 Applications

Visa4UK will remain available to customers for now, however, all Tier 2 visa customers and their dependants should now be encouraged to use Access UK to complete and submit their application. The Home Office will make a separate announcement before Visa4UK is turned off, but it is important that new applications are submitted through the new system now.

It must be noted that the main guidance page will continue to link to Visa4uk for a short period so it’s important that the direct links above are used. This will take applicants directly to Access UK.

Other applications

For the detailed information and FAQs on Access UK for visit visa, Short-term student, Tier 4 (Student), Tier 2 (WORK), Tier 5 (work) and Points Based System Dependants please click here.


UK Visa Cap for Skilled Non-EU Workers has been Hit for Third Month in a Row

What does this mean for you?

For the third month running, the cap for Tier 2 workers has been reached, indicating a trend that could signify a permanent change to the government’s approach. This means that many skilled workers from outside the EU will not receive a certificate of sponsorship to obtain their visa until the number of applications decreases.

How can we help?

This does not mean you are stuck. We can explore a number of options and offer you a bespoke solution based on identifying your needs and assisting your workers to obtain their visas. Contact us today for more information.

Deadline for sponsors

The deadline for informing the Home Office about the number of unrestricted certificates for the period of 6 April 2018 to 5 April 2019 is approaching. If you are 1) intending to promote or extend the visas of any Tier 2 employees, 2) looking to employ a worker from abroad with a Tier 1 or Tier 4 visa, or 3) looking to be sponsor a worker under Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer, you will need to apply for a fixed number of unrestricted certificates by 5 April.

Please note that the Home Office can revoke, suspend or downgrade your licence if you provide incorrect information. If you are having trouble understanding how this works, or need assistance with the process, please contact us.

Get in touch

We are keen to get feedback from clients and understand what effects regulatory changes are having on your business. Please email us with any feedback or anecdotal evidence and we can lobby the government with the help of ILPA.

Employment contracts: illegality and immigration

When an employment contact is fundamentally unlawful, it is possible for an employer to rely upon the illegality of the contract as a defence to any claim that an employee may bring, for unfair dismissal etc. The circumstances when the illegality prevents any claim would be confusing and impossible to explain to a non-lawyer in this short article.

Basically, one way of looking at it is that if both parties have benefitted from some underlying fraud, the tribunal or court would be less likely to enforce the contract. However, if the employee has clearly been in a weaker position and has been exploited, the contract might be held to be enforceable.

Often this occurs because of the employee’s unlawful immigration status.

Position of Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)

One interesting very recent case this month in which judgement was given on 15 January 2018 was Okedine v Chidale, decided by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

The Claimant employee had been brought to the UK as a domestic worker, but her immigration status meant that after six months, she was working illegally. She brought a claim having worked for two years, when she would have ordinarily gained unfair dismissal rights.

Not surprisingly, the Respondent employer argued that the Claimant had been working unlawfully and had no right to make any such claim due to her alleged breach of immigration law. The initial tribunal rejected that argument, finding that she had no knowledge of that illegality.

The Respondent employer appealed, arguing that the employment contract was void from the outset because it was not a temporary contract, it had been intended as permanent. Being void from inception is a ground for illegality which makes the contract completely invalid, i.e. it is treated as if it never existed from the very beginning.

But the Appeal Tribunal agreed with the original tribunal’s decision and rejected the employer’s argument. The contract was terminable upon six weeks’ notice and therefore was not ‘void from inception’ and therefore not in breach of immigration law.  The EAT decided that the legislation relied upon did not invalidate the contract, as even if it provided for a criminal offence, it said nothing about the validity of a contract entered into by an employer.

Further, the EAT considered that in the interests of public policy, it was still appropriate to allow the enforcement of the contract in this case; allowing enforcement is always a matter of public policy, and this has always been the aim of established case precedents in this area (such as Hall v Woolston Hall Leisure Ltd.)

So what conclusion can we draw from this?

From the point of view of employers, it is necessary that all employers check the immigration status of their employees properly and have proper documentation. Not only could employing workers unlawfully result in criminal penalties, you could face a tribunal claim from an employee who technically was working in breach of his/her entitlement to work, or some other illegality.

And from the point of view of employees, the case is positive news in that it solidifies employees’ rights. But obviously it is far better to ensure that you are not breaching your immigration status; I am certainly not suggesting that it is an appropriate risk to take to work unlawfully for any reason. The law is still full of many uncertainties.

If you would like advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact:

Kuldeep S. Clair

Consultant Solicitor

Sterling Lawyers Ltd

Tel. +447484 614090

NHS Immigration Health Surcharge will increase to £400 a year

On 5 February 2018, the Department of Health and Social Care announced about the government’s plans to double the NHS immigration health surcharge paid by temporary migrants to the UK.

The surcharge will rise from £200 to £400 per year. The discounted rate for students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme will increase from £150 to £300.

The annual charge is paid by people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who are seeking to live in the UK for 6 months or more to work, study or join family.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) estimates that the NHS spends £470 on average per person per year on treating surcharge payers. Projections suggest that the increased charges may provide around £220m extra every year, with this money going to NHS services.

Current NHS Immigration Health Surcharge Requirements

Some immigration applications are subject to the payment of the immigration health surcharge (IHS).


The applicants who are making immigration application online or through a premium service centre, have pay the IHS as part of the application or when book an appointment.

If application is made by post, healthcare surcharge is paid online before the application is sent (the IHS reference number must be indicated in the application form).

Amount of NHS Immigration Health Surcharge

  • £150 per year for a student or Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa, eg £300 for a 2-year visa
  • £200 per year for all other visa and immigration applications, eg £1,000 for a 5-year visa
  • Dependants usually need to pay the same amount as the main applicants.

Only half of the yearly amount should be paid if the application includes part of a year that is less than 6 months. The migrant will have to pay for a whole year if the application includes part of a year that is more than 6 months.

For more details about the IHS, calculator and refunds please visit the Home Office’s page.

Home Office introduces changes to British passport application fees

On 29 January 2018, the Home Office has outlined plans to introduce different passport fees for online and postal applications as part of its push to increase the use of online services and its ambition to create a self-sustainable immigration and borders system.
The proposals, which remain subject to Parliamentary approval, would mean the money collected through fees will contribute to the cost of processing British passport holders as they travel in and out of the country, shifting the burden for paying for these services away from the taxpayer – millions of whom do not currently hold passports. These reforms are part of plans by the Home Office to invest £100 million on border security and infrastructure next year.
According to to the Home Office’s statement, the fee will also pay for the costs associated with issuing UK passports and for consular support provided to British nationals abroad.
Under the plans, online applications, which are available to all UK-based applicants, will increase in line with inflation, taking the total from £72.50 to £75.50 for adults and £49 for children.
Postal applications will increase by £12.50 to £85 for adults and £58.50 for children, reflecting the increased costs of processing postal applications compared to online applications.
The changes are expected to come into force on 27 March 2018.
The Home Office assured that these proposals are unrelated to the announcement that the colour of the UK passport will be changing in 2019, which will be delivered at no additional cost.