The beginning of the new financial year often heralds changes in UK immigration law and procedures. Two new procedural changes that are likely to affect those wishing to enter the UK otherwise than as a visitor, are the roll-out of Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) for all visas with durations in excess of six months issued to non-EEA nationals, as well as the introduction of the "NHS Surcharge ".
Biometric Residence Permits
Until recently, applicants applying from outside of the UK for a UK visa have received entry clearance vignettes in their passports valid for the full duration of the immigration leave granted to them. This process is changing to ensure all applicants for UK visas which grant permission to stay in the UK for more than six months are issued with BRPs – identity card-style permits which bear the migrant's photograph, immigration status and validity of leave – as soon as they arrive in the UK. Entry clearance vignettes will be granted with a validity of 30 days, and migrants must enter the UK within that validity period, and complete their immigration processes in the UK by collecting their BRP cards within 10 days of arrival from the designated post office stated in their visa approval letters. Failure to collect the BRP within 10 days of arrival in the UK may result in a financial penalty or the permission to remain in the UK being curtailed.
The introduction of this process is to be phased in by country of application in four stages, and the full scheme is to be implemented by 31 July 2015.
The Immigration Act 2014 which came into force in May 2014 contains provisions for NHS cost recovery through the implementation of an NHS Surcharge. The secondary legislation to enact the surcharge provisions has now been passed and from 6 April 2015, non-exempt applicants who wish to enter the UK for more than six months are required to pay a health surcharge before making their visa applications to enter the UK. Those already in the UK and subject to immigration control must pay the surcharge when they extend their leave to remain in the UK.
The introduction of the NHS surcharge is expected to recoup up to £1.7 billion over the next ten years to contribute to the cost of NHS treatment given to overseas visitors and migrants. The surcharge will be payable at a rate of £150 per year for students, and £200 per year for all other applicants, and must cover each year for which the visa will issued. In instances where the visa application is refused, the NHS Surcharge will be refunded in full. If the visa is granted, but the migrant does not travel to the UK or the migrant leaves the UK before the end date of the visa, the monies paid in respect of the surcharge will not be fully or partially refunded.
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