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Nowhere to turn: How immigration rules are preventing people from getting support during the coronavirus pandemic - Citizens Advice

A report entitled ‘Nowhere to turn: How immigration rules are preventing people from getting support during the coronavirus pandemic’ was published by the Citizens Advice Bureau in June 2020.  The 13 page report can be read: here

Impact of the Pandemic

In summary, the report identifies:

“The coronavirus pandemic has had an especially severe effect on migrants in the UK. Tens of thousands of migrants – as well as their British family members – face destitution, difficult choices about returning to work, huge future costs relating to their immigration status, and the prospect of loved ones being forced to leave the UK. 

Different groups of migrants have been impacted in different ways. Some migrants are less likely to have experienced problems due to their immigration status during the pandemic, including European Economic Area (EEA) migrants with settled status and non-EEA migrants with indefinite leave to remain (ILR”).

The following areas were highlighted as particular difficulties that clients experienced:

  • Not being able to access benefits due to the condition of no recourse to public funds
  • Not being able to prove the ‘right to reside’ or pass the Habitual Residence Test (HRT) in order to claim benefits
  • Not being able to demonstrate the £18,600 minimum financial requirement
  • Being moved from the 5 year route to settlement to 10 year route, involving additional delay and fees/costs

No Recourse to Public Funds Condition

We recently looked at the no recourse to public funds condition, impact and how to make an application in a series of three blog posts, Public Funds Part 1: Public Funds and CoronavirusPublic Funds Part 2: Claiming Child Benefit  and  Public Funds Part 3: Change of conditions to allow access to public funds.

The Citizens Advice report notes that the restrictions on benefits and minimum income requirements “have therefore both forced many migrants, and their family members, to continue working when it has been unsafe for them to do so. As lockdown restrictions ease, many more will face the same dilemma”.

The NRPF requirement has particularly adversely affected those shielding and unable to work, those with precarious employment or zero hours contracts, who cannot access the furlough scheme etc., those who are building debt and those with partners trying to support them.

The report reads: “If this condition is not lifted, many migrants will be forced to go to work when they may have coronavirus symptoms or when it is dangerous for them to do so, for example when they are falling into arrears or destitution and their employer re-opens their place of work”.

Minimum Financial Requirement

In relation to the financial requirement,  the report identifies that “Clients are weighing up continuing to work – even when they are worried it is unsafe to do so, for example because they are pregnant – because they have been refused furlough but cannot afford to see their income drop and thereby cause problems with their partner’s immigration status”. 

The report also notes the impact on those who are self-employed: “For those who are self-employed, a loss of annual income due to coronavirus between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 will generally be disregarded, along with the impact on employment income from the same period for future applications. However, visa renewal may not be possible for partners of people who are made redundant, or self-employed people whose income continues to be affected beyond 31 July”.

Switching From 5 Year to 10 Year Route

The report further identifies the impact of switching from the 5 year route to the 10 year route, resulting in additional cost, including the high application costs, legal costs and the Immigration Health Surcharge.  This comes at a time when individuals have perhaps lost their jobs resulting in the switch in the first place. 

Recommendations

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • The No Recourse to Public Funds conditions be suspended;
  • The Habitual Residence Test be suspended;
  • The minimum financial and accommodation requirement be suspended for those applying for family visas;
  • All those on the 5 year route to settlement, who are affected by the financial requirement should not be moved onto the 10 year route to settlement. 

We will need to wait to see if any of the recommendations are implemented and how the government will support those impacted financially by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

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