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Home Affairs Committee issues report: Building consensus around immigration policy

The Home Affairs Committee consists of 11 Members of Parliament drawn from the three largest political parties (Conservative, Labour and the Scottish National). It has been chaired by Yvette Cooper MP (Labour) since 2016.

The Committee is currently managing a number of immigration-related inquiries. The most relevant to business immigration are:

  • Home Office’s capacity to deliver immigration services post-Brexit (launched October 5, 2017), which explores the capacity of the Home Office to meet the demands that Brexit will present, such as whether it can process applications from the 3 million EU nationals currently residing in the UK. Evidence has been gathered and we are currently awaiting the Committee’s report.
  • Building a consensus around immigration policy (launched October 17, 2017), which looks into the public perception of immigration and how the government might go about achieving greater consensus on immigration policy.

On January 15, 2017, the Committee published its report on the latter topic: “Immigration policy: basis for building consensus.” Click the UK Parliament website to read (i) the report summary, (ii) the report conclusions and recommendations and (iii) the full report.

To summarize the report’s main themes:

  • There is a lack of trust in official data, targets and decision-making on immigration policy.
  • Rules are complex and hard to understand, and there is concern that they are not being enforced.
  • Stronger coordination is needed between immigration policy and labor market policy.
  • Action is needed to address the impact of immigration, including appropriate investment in housing, public services and integration plans.

As the saying goes, perception is truth. While immigration rules are arguably easier to understand now than prior to the introduction of the points-based system, if public perception is the opposite then there is work still to be done.

If we look at the last 15 years there have been a number of events that have had an impact on the perception of immigration, such as the global financial crisis, the EU’s expansion into Eastern Europe and, most recently, the referendum on exiting the EU.

The report makes a number of compelling recommendations to address the public’s negative perception of immigration. With inevitable changes due to Brexit we have an opportunity to develop an immigration system that will be viewed positively by the wider population.

Some of the recommendations that are most relevant to business immigration and employers are:

  • Scrap the current net migration target and replace it with a new framework of targets and controls based on evidence.
  • Publish an annual migration report on migration flows, the economic contribution from migration and the measures taken by the government to manage impacts and pressures.
  • Link immigration policy for work purposes to strategy for improving investment in domestic skills and training with the target of reducing dependency on migrant labor.

Assess whether over reliance on migrant labor in some low-skilled jobs is due to poor pay, terms and conditions, and what restrictions and controls are needed to prevent undercutting and exploitation.

 

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Home Affairs Committee issues report: Building consensus around immigration policy

Trade deals and immigration

How will future trade deals impact UK immigration policy?

With Brexit negotiations between the UK and the European Union progressing, the UK is keen to start trade talks with the EU as soon as possible. While a trade deal with the EU is a priority, other countries, including India and Australia, have expressed that, in the fullness of time, they also would like to negotiate their own trade deals with the UK.

The UK’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, has stated that he is looking for a “Canada Plus Plus Plus” trade deal with the EU, a reference to the recent deal between the EU and Canada. Labor mobility is a key element of that deal, making it easier for certain skilled professionals from Canada to work temporarily in the EU, and vice versa.

We can also learn from other trade deals:

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal currently being negotiated between 11 Pacific Rim countries (notably not including the US, which withdrew from the pact) is also looking to include an element of labor mobility. For example, it is proposed as part of this deal that it will be easier for Australian employers to recruit people from Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam by exempting them from the usual requirement of advertising the role to Australians as part of the immigration process. In return, Australians will get reciprocal access to the labor markets of these six countries.
  • Likewise, one of the outcomes of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUFTA), which came into effect in 2005, was the US E-3 visa, which is available only to Australians. The E-3 visa is similar to the H1-B visa, however more generous in that it has a separate quota of 10,500, is renewable indefinitely and has the additional benefit of the spouse of the main visa holder being able to work. In contrast, the H1-B visa has a quota of 65,000 (for applicants of all other nationalities), is capped at six years and the spouse of the main visa holder is not able to work. Singapore and Chile enjoy similar preferential immigration routes to the US as a result of their free trade deals.

One of the key arguments for voting to leave the EU was that the UK would be able to negotiate its own trade deals. So what are our likely trading partners saying?

  • Australia has spoken of the need for “greater access” to the UK for Australian business people.
  • India has already stated that the UK will need to relax immigration rules and make it easier for professionals and presumably students from India to come to the UK.
  • The EU is another matter entirely with many competing priorities and parties. The degree of labour mobility post Brexit will depend on whether we see a “soft Brexit” or a “hard Brexit”, which is still very much to be decided.

What is certain is that any trade deal the UK negotiates after Brexit will be about more than goods and services. Labor mobility will be a key element and it is therefore inevitable that any future trade deals the UK agrees will have an impact on immigration policy.

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Trade deals and immigration

Immigration briefing papers

 

This week saw the publication of two briefing papers—one by Bernard Ryan, Professor of Migration Law at the University of Leicester (for the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA); and the other by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR)—that make significant contributions to the ongoing conversation on immigration policy, particularly in light of the inevitable changes due to Brexit.

The ILPA briefing paper, “Who will remain after Brexit? Ensuring protection for all persons resident under EU law,” identifies gaps concerning both EU citizens and third-country nationals who, potentially, will be negatively impacted by Brexit as they are not included in the government’s current thinking. These groups include, for example:

  • EU citizens and family members resident outside the UK at the point of Brexit who have a history of residence in the UK and may need or desire to resume residence in the UK in the future; and
  • EU nationals whose primary residence is outside of the UK but who, for either business/work or personal reasons, have a second place of residence in the UK. Post Brexit, these individuals may fail the required residency requirements to obtain residence or settled status, given their high absences from the UK, and instead be treated as visitors to the UK, a status that would obviously not permit them to work in the UK.

A summary of the paper, together with the full version, is available here.

The IPPR paper, “An immigration strategy for the UK: Six proposals to manage migration for economic success,” addresses the need to link immigration with the strategic priorities of the UK, particularly economic ones, in a post-Brexit world, and to understand the role that immigration plays in meeting these. The six proposals referred to in the title are:

This paper serves to remind us of the enormous challenge facing policymakers as they seek to ensure that all affected parties are captured in their thinking and that adequate protections are included in both the withdrawal agreement and future UK immigration legislation.

  1. Immigration strategy should clearly differentiate between types of immigration.
  2. Immigration strategy should actively address geographical imbalances in the economy.
  3. Immigration strategy should be designed to spur innovation.
  4. Immigration strategy should forge a new compact between employers and government, as a means to achieving a high-pay, high-productivity economy.
  5. Immigration strategy should support the UK’s trade balance.
  6. Immigration strategy should promote equality and integration.

In the lead-up to what will inevitably be an overhaul of the immigration system due to Brexit, the IPPR paper reminds us of the opportunity this brings, and the need to be active in the ongoing immigration debate.

The full report is available to download at the IPPR website. (The four-page summary is well worth a read.)

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Immigration briefing papers

Cooking up a storm: Tier 2 chefs

 
 
 
  
 
 
       
 
 
 
 
 

UK immigration rules make a distinction between chefs working in takeaway establishments and those working in restaurants.

If the job requires five or more years of relevant experience in a role of at least equivalent status to the one in which the visa applicant is proposing to start, and the job is neither a fast food outlet, standard fare outlet or takeaway outlet, then the position will fall under the chef roles on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List.

This has recently been the subject of High Court cases in which chefs argued that it’s arbitrary and unreasonable to exclude from the Shortage Occupation List those working at restaurants that provide high-quality cuisine just because the establishment also, incidentally, happens to offer takeaway service. The chefs argued that all skilled chef roles should be on the Shortage Occupation List, and that the focus should be on the nature of the establishment rather than the fact that it incidentally provides takeaway food.

The Secretary of State argued otherwise and the court agreed, finding that the exclusion of jobs in takeaway, fast food and standard fare outlets from the Shortage Occupation List was justified. The court based its decision on evidence provided by the government that takeaway establishments were generally not associated with the kind of cuisine requiring highly skilled chefs.

In view of the rise in the number of gig economy delivery drivers delivering takeaway orders from fine-dining establishments, this is surely an issue that will rumble on.

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Cooking up a storm: Tier 2 chefs

Mind the gap

Employment law issues seem to be rife with gaps at the moment. We have already reported on the gender pay gap, brought to the fore by the UK’s new reporting regulations for gender pay that took effect on April 6, 2017. However, it looks like we are now dealing with another gap: the skills gap that commentators believe will be one of the consequences of the UK exiting the EU. In fact, we are already seeing the effects, as potential migrant workers are reluctant to come to the UK at a time of such uncertainty. As a result, there is a significant shortage of workers to fill such typical blue collar jobs as drivers, electrician assistants and construction workers. Sectors such as healthcare, retail and construction are among those feeling the squeeze, as they are heavily reliant on EU migrant workers. A study by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) points out that EU migrants are over-represented in low-skilled jobs, filling 15 percent of them, compared with 7 percent by non-EU migrants and 78 per cent by Britons.

Furthermore, Brexit has led to curbed planned growth and investments for one in four small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to the latest “UK SME Confidence Index” from Vistage. And the shortage of workers has forced employers to raise starting salaries. According to the REC study, in August salaries increased at the fastest pace in nearly two years. This trend may not be sustainable over the long haul if it impacts too negatively on profitability and business sustainability.

In the meantime, automation and digitalization have been proposed as possible solutions to bridge the gap. However, whether replacement of people with machines is quite what voters intended back in June 2016 when the referendum took place is questionable at best.

 

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Mind the gap

Supreme Court allows travel ban

The US Supreme Court partially lifted preliminary injunctions that had blocked President Trump’s revised executive order suspending US entry by foreign nationals from six, rather than the previous seven, mostly Muslim countries. However, the Court carved out an exception for foreign nationals who have a “bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the United States,” raising such questions as “What is a bona fide relationship?” and “What is an entity in the US?” that will likely be the subject of further court action.

Supreme Court allows travel ban

The US Supreme Court partially lifted preliminary injunctions that had blocked Executive Order No. 13780, signed by President Donald J. Trump in March 2017 (EO-2), banning travel to the US for citizens of six countries. The Supreme Court scheduled a full hearing of the case for October 2017.

“Bona fide relationship” exception

The Supreme Court found that the preliminary injunction shall remain in place and the travel ban will not impact foreign nationals who have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Further, refugees will continue to be allowed to enter the US, subject to the 50,000 person cap on refugee admissions, except that the cap cannot be used as a means to bar an individual with a bona fide relationship with the US.

The Supreme Court defined “bona fide relationship” as either (with respect to individuals) “a close familial relationship” or (with respect to entities), a relationship that is “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course.” What constitutes a sufficiently close familial relationship is likely to be the subject of further court action.

As for what constitutes a sufficiently established relationship with an entity, the Supreme Court provided three examples:

  • Students admitted to attend university in the US
  • Workers who have accepted an offer of employment from a US company
  • Lecturers invited to the US for a speaking engagement

The travel ban will apply to individuals whose relationship with an entity was formed to purposefully circumvent the ban.

It is worth noting that EO-2 in its original form applies only to the new issuance of visas, and not the US entry of individuals who have already been issued visas, green cards or asylum/refugee status.

Also, there is a chance that the Supreme Court will not have to hear the case in its entirety in October. If EO-2 goes into effect as scheduled by the Trump administration, the 90 day temporary ban will conclude at the end of September, several days before the Supreme Court begins its term. This would, then, remove any controversy over the legality of that piece of the order.

Citizens from these countries impacted

Citizens from the following countries are detrimentally impacted:

  • Iran
  • Libya
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

EO-2 does not apply to citizens of other countries who merely visited the listed countries. Further, it does not apply to citizens of these six countries who are dual citizens and use the passport of a non-affected country to apply for a visa and enter the US.

When does the ban start?

In a June 14 memorandum, President Trump directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State and other relevant agencies to wait 72 hours from the release of the Supreme Court decision before banning refugees and travelers from the six affected countries to “ensure an orderly and proper implementation” of the changes.

Background

During his first six months in office, President Trump signed two travel ban executive orders. The first, Executive Order 13797 (EO-1), issued on January 27, 2017, took a number of steps, including:

  • Suspending for 90 days the entry of foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries identified as presenting heightened concerns about terrorism and travel in the US [1]
  • Suspending for 120 days the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), during which an adequacy review is to be undertaken
  • Reducing to 50,000 per year the total number of refugees that could be admitted to the United States, starting in fiscal year 2017
  • Suspending indefinitely admission of refugees from Syria

EO-1 was quickly blocked  by the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, which issued a nationwide temporary restraining order. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied an emergency motion by the US government to stay the district court order pending appeal. In response, the government rescinded EO-1 and went back to the drawing board.

On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed EO-2, which closely mirrored the directives in EO-1, but was intended to correct some its perceived errors, including:

  • Reducing the reach of the 90-day temporary suspension of entry to foreign nationals from six (rather than seven) mostly Muslim countries, with Iraq no longer included [2] and with a case-by-case waiver of the entry bar.
  • Directing the Secretary of DHS to undertake a 20-day global review of whether foreign governments provide sufficient information about nationals applying for visas.

EO-2 was immediately challenged in court, which challenges led to prompt nationwide preliminary injunctions by the US District Court for the District of Maryland and (as stated above) the Western District of Washington, which were then appealed to the US Courts of Appeal for the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, respectively.

The Fourth Circuit concluded that the EO-2 ban on entry from the six named countries was primarily motivated by religious considerations and, as such, violated the First Amendment. In that case, the preliminary injunction only applied to the suspension of entry of foreign nationals from particular countries. The 120-day ban on USRAP and the quota on total refugee immigration would still be in force.

The Ninth Circuit, meanwhile, found that EO-2 exceeded the president’s authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and, on that basis, upheld the injunction with regard to the entirety of EO-2.

The federal government appealed both decision to the Supreme Court, certiorari was granted, and the two cases were consolidated and oral argument scheduled for October Term 2017. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, heard the government’s application to stay the aforementioned injunctions.

Dentons will continue to issue further information as it becomes available.

[1] Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

[2] Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

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Supreme Court allows travel ban

UK Queen’s speech: What might immigration look like after Brexit?

It may not have been accompanied by the usual pomp and circumstance, but the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, June 21 did provide some further clues as to what the government has planned for EU nationals post-Brexit. In the speech, the Queen confirmed that there are plans for an immigration bill that, if passed, will enable the government to end the free movement of EU nationals into the UK, but still allow the country to attract “the brightest and the best.” The bill would require EU nationals and their families to be “subject to relevant UK law,” she said.

This seems to suggest that we can expect to see a skills-based immigration system for EU workers following Brexit. Reading in between the lines, it also seems we can expect that EU nationals already working in the UK who choose to remain will be allowed to do so. However, those who do choose to remain will be subject exclusively to UK law, and will no longer enjoy the protections afforded by the European Court of Justice. Presumably this would work along the lines of Norway’s membership in the single market.

Currently EU nationals in the UK are advised to apply for permanent residency if they meet the qualifying criteria. The thinking being this may be sufficient to secure their stay in the UK after Brexit. Theresa May is in Brussels for Brexit talks today, where she is set to address EU leaders on her plans for the 3 million EU nationals currently residing in the UK, and the 1 million UK citizens currently residing in mainland Europe. We understand that full details of her plans will be published on Monday, ending the uncertainty that currently hangs over those who have exercised their right to freedom of movement, and over their employers.

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UK Queen’s speech: What might immigration look like after Brexit?

Show Me the Money: What the Trump administration’s budget and spending priorities reveal to employers

May 25, 2017
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
Webinar

Our Employment and Labor team marked the passage of President Trump’s first 100 days with a webinar on May 25, 2017 that looked at whether the president’s budget proposal backed up his prior public statements about wanted changes to employment, benefits and immigration regulations, as well as the impact on employers of the spending bill passed by Congress to prevent a government shutdown. By “following the money,” you can better prepare for future compliance demands and enforcement risks. For your convenience, the program can be viewed in it’s entirety and to register to the webinar by visiting the event page.

We hope you are able to join the program.

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Show Me the Money: What the Trump administration’s budget and spending priorities reveal to employers

Q. Do US border inspectors demand passwords and inspect phones and laptops?

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) searched 14,993 electronic devices during the six-month period between October 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, according to an ‘agency press release issued on April 11, 2017. The press release did not reveal how many of those devices, if any, were seized as evidence.

The CBP’s numbers constitute a dramatic increase compared to the 19,033 searches of electronic devices conducted during the 12-month period commencing on October 1, 2015, and ending on September 30, 2016 (up from 8,502 searches during the prior 12 months).

The CBP’s border search authority is considered by the agency to require no warrant, a position that has been upheld in federal appellate courts. The CBP has stated that it adjusts the level of search activity to align with current threat information regarding terrorist activity, child pornography, violations of export controls and intellectual property rights and visa fraud.

“These searches, which affect fewer than one-hundredth of one percent of international travelers, have contributed to national security investigations, arrests for child pornography and evidence of human trafficking,” stated John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations. “CBP officers are well trained to judiciously conduct electronic device searches and to protect sensitive information that may be encountered.”

The CBP has an information sheet, titled “Inspection of Electronic Devices,” which agents provide to travelers whose property is being searched detailing the various reasons individuals are selected for a search, including:

  • Travel documents incomplete
  • Does not have proper documents or visa
  • Previously violated one of the laws the CBP is charged with enforcing
  • Name matches that of a person of interest in one of the government’s enforcement databases
  • Randomly selected

The CBP advises that the agent retain a device, along with copies of any documents or information in the possession of the person who was searched relating to immigration, customs or other enforcement matters, only if such retention is consistent with the privacy and data protection standards of the system in which such information is retained. Otherwise, if after reviewing the information, there exists no probable cause to seize it, the CBP states that the agency return the device and not retain copies of any documents seized.

The information sheet explains:

“If CBP determines that the device is subject to seizure under law—for example, if the device contains evidence of a crime, contraband or other prohibited or restricted items or information—then you will be notified of the seizure as well as your options to contest it through the local CBP Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Office.”

The information sheet also addresses privacy and civil liberties protections during the conduct of border searches.

The full text of the April 11 press release is available at the US CBP website and the published agency’s information sheet can be found here.

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Q. Do US border inspectors demand passwords and inspect phones and laptops?

H-1B blast off countdown 2017

T minus 59 days. The countdown has begun.  The date is coming.  It will be here soon.

It is the biggest event of the year in United States immigration.

Hundreds of thousands will apply, but only a lucky few will be chosen. Employers keen to recruit and employ the best and brightest talent from around the globe to meet American business needs are already gearing up.  Professionals eager to pursue their career in the United States are updating resumes and collecting diplomas and reference letters. This program is not the best way for a country to succeed, but the United States Congress continues to lack the will and wisdom to change a law almost 25 years old.

Are you ready?

April 1, 2017, is the first day that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) will accept new H-1B specialty occupation worker nonimmigrant visa petitions by employers for foreign professionals.  It is important for global mobility and human resource managers to start work now to secure preliminary Department of Labor approvals, foreign degree evaluations, etc., to be ready to file the petition for an April 1 receipt date.

Limited supply

Only a limited number of new H-1B visas are accepted each year due to legal quota restrictions. Every year, 65,000 new H-1B visa petitions can be granted, of which 6,800 are set aside for citizens of Chile and Singapore under free trade agreements with those countries. To the extent there were unused free trade agreement H-1Bs, those are added to the quota for the next fiscal year. There is an additional allocation of 20,000 new H-1B visa petitions that can be accepted if the foreign professional in question earned a graduate degree from a university in the United States.

Not all H-1B visa petitions are subject to numerical limits. Individuals already holding H-1B visas are not counted against the quota, and petitions filed by institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations are exempt from the limits. And H-1B workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam may also be exempt from the H-1B cap, provided their employers file the petition before December 31, 2019. Employers may not file a petition or an extension request for an employee more than six months before the employee’s intended start date.

Overwhelming demand

Last year, the USCIS received so many new H-1B visa petitions in the first week of April that the agency ended the application window on April 7. Approximately 236,000 new petitions were received, as compared to 233,000 in the prior year. As the regulations mandate, officers then selected—at random—which envelopes to open, and returned the rest unopened with the government filing fees. Only then did the agency begin the often long process of approving or denying the selected petitions on the merits of eligibility.

This year, the USCIS will once again receive more than it is allowed to accept. Again, the agency will randomly decide which envelopes to open and which to return unopened. The likelihood of a petition being selected in April 2017 is much lower than last year, taking into consideration the current state of the economy, the relatively low rate of American unemployment in typical H-1B specialty occupations, and the labor needs of US employers.

The countdown begins now (download dates directly into your Outlook)

T minus 59 days (February 1):  Start working with legal counsel now. Identify current and prospective employees who will need new H-1B visa petitions.

T minus 44 days (February 15):  By now, you and legal counsel should have requested the labor condition application certification from the Department of Labor.  Employers new to the process or who have not filed recently will need to create the appropriate accounts with the Department of Labor. Because the USCIS relies on Dunn & Bradstreet data (DUNS) as part of its employer background verification process, it is important for employers to create or update the company’s DUNS records to avoid inconsistencies with H-1B visa petition filings.

T minus 31 days (March 1):  Have all the required USCIS forms and supporting documents been signed and filing fee checks prepared?  There is still some time left to get last minute details completed, but this is when it gets very hectic. Government systems often become overloaded and delays at the Department of Labor for late filings are common.

T minus 1 day (March 31):  Envelopes should be properly addressed and delivered to the express service of choice with next business morning delivery instructions.

T minus 0 (April 1):  Just like at NASA ground control, this is the stage in the process where all the hard work resulted in successful delivery of the visa petition and you have to wait for the USCIS to announce whether the petition is selected or returned—usually within 3 weeks or so.

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H-1B blast off countdown 2017