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UK General Election–immigration manifesto

What’s going to happen to UK immigration in a post-Brexit era? That’s the million-dollar question. While there has been huge speculation as to what our immigration system and net migration figures are likely to look like going forward, little clarity has been provided as yet.

Jeremy Corbyn has sent the message that he intends to toughen up on immigration. The Labour Party has acknowledged that free movement of workers across borders is likely to not be possible once the UK leaves the EU, but has stated that imposing new immigration controls will not be at the top of its list of priorities if it wins the election. It’s not really clear where that message leaves us when trying to predict what the new model is going to look like.

The Conservatives, for their part, have indicated that they will stick by pledges made in David Cameron’s 2010 manifesto to cut migration to “tens of thousands,” despite having missed the target after making the same promise in 2010 and 2015. Again, it’s not clear from their rhetoric how they hope to achieve this, although Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated that when the UK leaves the EU, the nation will have the opportunity to make sure it has control of its borders.

Meanwhile, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has gone one step further, as it is prone to do, pledging to cut net migration levels to zero within five years by asking skilled workers and students to get visas and banning migration into the UK for unskilled and low skilled workers. This time it’s not clear how UKIP intend to do the math to achieve a net migration level of zero.

And then there are the Liberal Democrats who are against stricter migration controls. Tim Farron, their leader, recently tweeted that “immigration is a blessing and not a curse.”

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UK General Election–immigration manifesto

Byron Burger: A cautionary tale?

UK Border Controls

Popular UK “posh” burger chain Byron Burger has been at the center of a media flurry over the past week or so, as 35 members of its staff were rounded up and arrested in a controversial immigration sting. The controversy largely relates to Byron’s involvement in the sting.

The UK Home Office confirmed that on the morning of 4 July 2016, immigration officers raided Byron branches and arrested 35 “migrant workers” of Albanian, Brazilian, Egyptian and Nepalese nationality. In the initial reports, a senior manager in one of the branches alleged that staff, some of whom had been employed by Byron for as long as four years, had been falsely duped by Byron into attending a health and safety meeting at 9:30 a.m., when immigration officials quickly arrived and started to interview people.

Byron has confirmed that it facilitated the raid at the Home Office’s request but has refused to respond to the claims that it set up the staff meetings on false pretenses. Sometimes silence speaks a thousand words, as they say.

As such, in amongst the few messages of support for Byron, the critics have shouted louder, calling for a boycott of the chain. Two London branches have already been targeted in the backlash, where activists went so far as to release cockroaches and locusts into the restaurants, forcing them to be closed to customers.

But what are the rights and wrongs of this incident? First, the Home Office has acknowledged that Byron complied with its legal obligations, in particular its obligation to carry out “right to work” checks. The Home Office has issued guidance on what checks UK employers need to carry out on new workers (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/536953/An_Employer_s_guide_to_right_to_work_checks_-_July_16.pdf). Provided that an employer has carried out the appropriate checks, it will have a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty if it later comes to light that any worker has been working illegally in the UK. Employers must therefore ensure that the necessary checks are carried out, as the penalty for failure to do so (up to £20,000 for each illegal worker) could be substantial.

The issue with the Byron workers is that, in the course of its own investigation, the Home Office identified that those workers at the center of the alleged immigration breaches had provided false or counterfeit documentation as proof of their right to work in the UK. The Home Office then made a specific request to Byron to assist it with its investigation, which Byron did.

Perhaps, then, the PR nightmare that is the Byron story should be treated as a cautionary tale of how not to assist in a Home Office investigation. The recent trend seems to show that the Home Office is really cracking down on illegal workers and, accordingly, Home Office investigations are likely to become a live issue for a number of employers. Employers need to balance their legal obligations against their more human responsibilities to their staff.

No one is condoning illegal working or the falsification of documentation. However, arguably, if Byron had dealt with the issue more sensitively and compassionately, it could have mitigated the negative press it received. In an era when people have the world at their fingertips, consumers are calling out to see the human face of business.

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Byron Burger: A cautionary tale?

Faster entry into the UK for Australian, Canadian, Japanese, New Zealand and American nationals: Registered Travellers Scheme

Welcome to Britain

After the success of the Registered Travellers Scheme pilot, the scheme has now been rolled out permanently. The scheme allows registered members to get through UK border controls faster than they otherwise would be able to. For regular travellers this can be nothing but a welcome addition to UK immigration controls.

Benefits of becoming a registered member

  1. No need to fill in a landing card.
  2. Can use the ePassport gates if you have a biometric passport.
  3. Use faster entry lanes at:
    • Edinburgh airport;
    • Gatwick airport;
    • Glasgow airport;
    • Heathrow airport;
    • London City airport;
    • Manchester airport;
    • Stansted airport;
    • Brussels Eurostar terminal;
    • Lille Eurostar terminal; and
    • Paris Eurostar terminal.

Application criteria

An applicant must:

  1. be a citizen of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand or the US;
  2. have visited the UK at least four times in the last 52 weeks;
  3. be at least 18 years old; and
  4. be either:
    • a “visitor”; or
    • a visa holder (includes all visas apart from Tier 5 Sporting and Creative Concessions; EEA family permit holders; those with discretionary leave to remain; and those with leave to remain that is outside of the immigration rules).

Application

Applications are made via the online system.

Costs

To become a registered member costs £70 for the year (£50 of which will be returned if the application is unsuccessful). There is a further £20 fee for members who get a new passport and consequently need their membership details updating. There is, however, no further fee incurred for updating visa details.

Approval and activation of membership

Membership approval can take up to 10 working days and activation of membership occurs at the UK border when the traveller next visits the UK.

Evidence of membership

Members will be provided with a card to use as proof of membership. It is advised that, upon the first use of the scheme, members take a printout of the email confirming the success of their application as further evidence.

As with any relatively new scheme there will of course be teething issues. Potential areas of challenge that have already been identified are (1) integrating this new service with the current systems in place and (2) managing the transition and renewal of pilot members to the new permanent scheme. However, according to statistics published by the Government, overall user satisfaction with the scheme (from October 2014 until May 2015) was, at its lowest, 85.3 per cent – a very high percentage for such a new scheme.

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Faster entry into the UK for Australian, Canadian, Japanese, New Zealand and American nationals: Registered Travellers Scheme