‘An area where criminal activity is rife’

Beginning the regular links roundup –

Rogue solicitors offering fake advice to scam migrants out of life savings (Open Democracy).

‘Migrants across the UK are being preyed upon by immigration advisers and solicitors who are taking advantage of a lack of protections for advice seekers.
‘These rogue practitioners are charging extortionate fees for free application forms and putting in spurious applications and appeals that have no chance of success.
‘“I don’t know how I survived,” said one victim who was left penniless by a scammer – whom he was too scared to report for fear of deportation.’

Given the extreme costs and complexity involved in the immigration process, I can think of few things more despicable than those who would seek to take advantage of those in such a vulnerable situation. Members of our group have reported many cases of cowboys and snake oil salespeople which have added terror and additional unaffordable costs to their application. There’s a great quote from the (excellent) ‘Civilization’ series of video games which tells absolute truth for the ages: “Beware he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master.”

That said, there’s no doubt that a good solicitor or indeed OISC-regulated immigration advisor is worth their weight in gold, sometimes just for piece of mind but particularly when there is a complex case. On our Research page, we share our own short document which includes some things to watch out for when hiring a solicitor (this is also shared on our Facebook group files section and was written in conjunction with both members and professionals).

For less complex cases, especially for spouse visa, we have a veritable library of documents which have been shared, free of charge, by administrators and members – all of whom have been through the process. The Files section is here and as a general overview (both in the Facebook Files section and on our Research page) we share, for free, our (lengthy) FAQ to the divided families campaign (shared under a Creative Commons License in several locations), flowcharts showing common pitfalls in a typical spouse visa application (also shared under a CC License), and a (necessarily much simplified) three pager guide to the whole process. All based on personal experience, and all shared in the spirit of open source , whether shared with a Creative Commons License or just for the spirit of sharing – the exact opposite of scam mongering and information hoarding for financial gain.

‘They do it just because they want to do it. A lot of credit for the preservation of net privacy and your rights while using the net and software, goes to open source people. They cannot stand severe manipulation of users by corporates.
‘Some people are also hired by the open source companies, so their work for that organization is already paid for. Their contribution to other open source projects is under their personal capacity.
‘Why they do it for no returns except the joy of doing the right thing? I guess some men just want to watch the world be free.
– Quora author

Source: By user:Rnt20, Photo by Bob Tubbs – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=286492 . Chipping away at the Berlin Wall, 1990.

UK businesses buckling under immigration backlog described by expert as worst he’s seen (BDaily)

Quoting Matthew Davies, head of business immigration at Wright Hassall : “Businesses are being affected at a time when there is a very tight labour market in recruitment, particularly for highly-skilled roles where it is very difficult to find candidates,” he added.
“I have worked in business immigration for more than 25 years but this is the most challenging time I have known, with Brexit, the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine having a successive knock-on effect.
“Backlogs in various types of application have featured over the years but taken together these are the biggest I have seen.”

This of course mirrors many of our members’ experiences of delays this year, which seem to have originated with Brexit (the pandemic and the war may have complicated matters, but let’s call out the elephant in the room here).

Woman who came to UK as a baby 45 years ago fighting for right to work (Guardian)

‘A Spanish-born woman who has lived in England for 45 years is still fighting to secure the right to work in the UK, a year after being sacked from her job in a care home because she was unable to prove she had a valid immigration status.
‘The 46-year-old woman, who arrived in Britain as an 11-month-old baby and who has never left the country, has been trying to secure EU settled status since her employers dismissed her last June, as they enforced post-Brexit right-to-work regulations.
‘Her uncertain immigration status has left her unable to claim unemployment benefit, pushing her into debt. As the family’s main bread-winner, her inability to work has left her struggling to support her two teenage children, and forced her to rely on handouts from her mother-in-law’s pension.’

Shades of a Windrush 2 in the making? A number of commentators warned about this :

Windrush 2 is looming as Brexit reality bites (New European)

Avoiding a Brexit ‘Windrush on steroids’ for EU nationals in the UK (Roch Dunin-Wasowicz, London School of Economics)

Migrant took British citizenship test record 118 times in just two years as system ‘failing’ (Independent)

It’s a remarkable story but should be considered an outlier – the reality is that (as of 2019) the pass rate for the LiUK test was around 82% (previous years showing a pass rate of around 77%) and it can be retaken as many times as needed. So while the LiUK test gets a bad press, in the context of the overall stresses and pains of the spouse visa process, for most people it’s some way from being the worst aspect of it.

Six key issues for expats returning to the UK (Financial Times) (subscriber only)

As well as considerations like cost of moving and tax, the FT addresses the costs of spouse visas.

‘When Richard assessed his decision to return to the UK after 20 years of working in Asia, he was taken aback by the “astronomical” costs of moving back. The move cost him £3,400 for a spouse visa, £10,600 on one-way flights for himself, his wife and two children and £17,600 for a 20ft shipping…’

Of course, that £3400 was only for the FIRST visa. It doesn’t take into account the costs of FLR, ILR, language tests, (where applicable) sponsoring step-children born overseas, let alone legal costs, which would push costs into five figures.

(From our Twitter takeover a couple of years ago)

Feedback from our members when surveyed put the high costs of visas right up there with the minimum income requirement as a barrier to keeping their families together. Hence the 3 S’s – scrap (the MIR), simplify (the rule), slash (the costs).

But even this only tells part of the story. British expats (or migrants) returning to the UK can in many cases only rely on the UK citizen’s income (apart from cases such as savings or pensions or other non-employment income – i.e. Categories C, D and E according to the guidance), which while helpful to some are somewhat atypical to most. This effectively puts many overseas Brits in a position where they need to choose either permanent exile from the UK or a (hopefully temporary, but still traumatic) period of family separation lasting 6 months or more. The Conservative peer Lord Flight put it thus :

‘The MIR has been roundly criticised both because the level is so high—40% of UK workers would not be able to meet it—and because of the Catch-22 rule that the non-British partner’s income can be taken into account only if they have been working in the UK for six months. How do they get into the UK if they cannot satisfy the MIR?’

Life-changing migrant support charity issues urgent appeal for funding (Morning Star)

You can support the Haringey Migrant Support Centre’s fundraiser here.

What are the options for managing skyrocketing energy bills this winter? (Guardian)

Helpful advice for the subject on everyone’s minds.

Jack Monroe :


The great cartoonist Raymond Briggs passed away a few days ago, and The Times carried this tribute by Morten Morland. Absolute truth :

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