We suppose that we should mention Brexit – after all, everybody else has. Certainly there is a lot of political froth being generated on the subject. Nonetheless the Home Office plods on regardless with its plans for EEA nationals’ immigration status after Brexit and, as we have often reminded readers, these plans will protect their status until the end of 2020. Until such time as we find otherwise we must assume that everything will go ahead as planned.
Another big story of the year was the appointment of Mr Sajid Javid as Home Secretary. The appointment of a new Home Secretary would not normally be a huge news story but in this case there was something different: he is the first Home Secretary to come from an ethnic minority background (Pakistani, actually).
It seems to us in a general way that being Home Secretary may constitute a “precarious status”. His predecessor Ms Amber Rudd lasted for less than two years and resigned amidst acrimomy and, if the Conservative Party had dumped Theresa May as Leader, Mr Javid was apparently ready and willing to stand and move on to greater things. He is, it seems, nice, and also moderate. But it did not happen, and he is still in place, just for the moment at any rate.
When he was appointed as Home Secretary he said that he wanted a Home Office and an immigration system that was “fairer” and “more compassionate”. Now of course politicians often say things like that and we should not rush to attach too much to it. So it may be coincidence, but in the last few months there have been some rather soft and cuddly stories in the media about the Home Office.
One case was about Shreyas Royal, a nine-year-old Indian chess genius. The Home Office – or perhaps Mr Javid personally – allowed Shreyas’s father to renew his Tier 2 visa, although the immigration rules would not normally permit it. So the father could stay and thus Shreyas could also stay with his amazing chess-playing skills. (This surely reverses the typical parent/child discussion: “Look how much I’ve done for you” etc etc.)
The other case was that of Paul Ermitano, a cardiac physiologist from the Philippines – also on a Tier 2 visa – who committed the unspeakable crime of illegally claiming child benefit for his son. The Home Office was going to remove the whole family but, again, they relented.
Further regarding the “precarious status” issue, the Supreme Court has now given us a definitive legal understanding of this term: it does not necessarily include Home Secretaries but it does include anybody who holds limited immigration leave. This must no doubt be rather upsetting for many thousands of solid hard-working migrants, but perhaps not as upsetting as it was for aspiring Tier 1 Investors who recently suddenly received the news that the whole scheme was going to be suspended. And then, a few days later, they received the news that the Home Office had suspended the suspension. Perhaps it was some sort of obscure psychological tactic of the Home Office.
At any rate, some strange and interesting political things have been happening with the Russians (or some of them, at any rate), and we get an impression that these political issues are generally connected in the UK Government’s collective mind with Tier 1 Investors – many of whom of course are Russian – but they never quite say it. But it seems to us that these political things go in cycles, and we hope that political relations between Russia and the UK will improve in the new year.
They very nearly took a turn for the even worse than they are at the moment when, in obscure circumstances, the President of Interpol, Mr Meng Hongwei, suddenly disappeared and “resigned”. It turned out that he had been arrested and accused of corruption in his native China. The favourite to succeed him was Alexander Prokopchuk, who is described as a “veteran of the Russian interior ministry”. Some sources in UK suggested that if he were elected then the UK should leave Interpol. Fortunately the issue was avoided when the South Korean candidate was elected instead.
Still in the Russian connection Roman Abramovich, the famous billionaire and owner of Chelsea Football Club, withdrew his Tier 1 Investor visa extension application and skedaddled out of the UK. We don’t know why but of course we can speculate – it may perhaps be that he forgot to renew his Chelsea FC season ticket. Anyway, he got an Israeli passport instead.
A few other things occurred: the caselaw improved for EEA unmarried partners a bit, and the rules about evidential flexibility for visa applications seem to have been slightly softened. On the other hand the rules about overstaying and fresh visa applications became even stricter.
And the Home Secretary announced a new business start-up visa which may possibly replace the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa and he also announced that nurses, doctors and other medics are to be taken out of the Tier 2 visa limit. This latter item is an important change: the NHS will now be able to recruit untrammelled and give us the medics we need.
But the last word must go to Lord Justice Underhill who, whilst sitting at the Court of Appeal and wading through the awful complexities of the Home Office’s immigration rules and policies, said that “the web of Rules and Guidance has become so tangled that even the spider has difficulty controlling it”.