The immigration changes announced by the Home Office on Friday 15 June include for the following
• Creation of a new settlement route for Turkish ECAA business persons, workers and their family members.
• Exemption of all doctors and all nurses from the annual Tier 2 (General) limit.
These changes take effect from 6 July 2018.
New settlement route for Turkish ECAA persons and workers
The European Communities Association Agreement (ECAA) was set up under the Ankara Agreement on 12 September 1963, with the general aim of promoting economic relations between Turkey and the European Economic Community and supporting the eventual accession of Turkey to the European Economic Community. The UK became an automatic signatory to the ECAA when it joined the Community in 1973.
In March 2017, the Upper Tribunal confirmed that the status of settlement for Turkish nationals and their family members cannot derive in any way from the ECAA Ankara agreement . As a result, the ILR route for Turkish national business persons was closed on 16 March 2018.
The Government is introducing a new category within the current Immigration Rules that will provide a route for Turkish ECAA business persons, workers and their family members who wish to obtain ILR in the UK.
The eligibility criteria for main applicants include:
• the qualifying period for settlement is 5 years in line with other settlement routes;
• the applicant must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English language and sufficient knowledge about life in the United Kingdom.
For dependants, children will be granted ILR in line with the main applicant where the relevant criteria are met, whilst spouses, civil partners and unmarried partners will require five years residency, in line with other Points Based System routes, and to meet associated eligibility requirements
This is good news for Turkish nationals who have the ECAA visa as the uncertainty over the right they thought they had to apply for ILR has now been removed. They will be able to apply for ILR after 5 years if they manage to extend their ECAA visa for 5 years.
It is surprising that this right of ILR is being given to ECAA workers when this has not been available to this category before.
This category of visa depends on the EU Treaty and although ILR is now granted under the immigration rules, once Brexit has occurred, it remains to be seen what will happen to this visa and whether ILR will still be permissible.
Exempting doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 (General) Limit
The Tier 2 (General) limit has been oversubscribed in each month since December 2017. The changes will mean that health sector employers will be able to sponsor doctors and nurses without requiring restricted Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship or putting pressure on the limit. The Home Office says this will free up places within the limit for other key roles which contribute to the UK economy and other public services. The changes will be kept under review.
All applications for nurses, and all applications for doctors not currently recognised on the Shortage Occupation List, will continue to be required to demonstrate that they have met the requirements of the Resident Labour Market Test. This means the advertising the role to “locals” will still be necessary before the role can be offered to a non EU people. Doctors currently recognised on the Shortage Occupation List will continue to be exempt from the RLMT.
It is not completely clear at the time of writing this how the applications for certificates of sponsorship (CoS) on 5 July 2018 will be treated. If a positive attitude to the change date is adopted, you can say that the applications for doctors and nurses will NOT need to be considered. Instead you can say that CoS will automatically be granted to them on 11/12 July. That would mean a freeing up in July of allocation for other visa applications which will reduce the backlog of applications that has built up over the past 6 months.
The Government intends to commission the independent Migration Advisory Committee to review the composition of the Shortage Occupation List, following the change to the allocation of places under Tier 2 which exempts all doctors and nurses from the annual Tier 2 (General) limit. This will enable the Migration Advisory Committee to look at which posts are in national shortage and should be given priority within the limit.