UK settlement 3 year limbo beckons for 80,000 couples

Garuda Publications, publishers of the most recently published study guide to passing ‘The Life in the UK Test’, has been following the current UK Border Agency Consultation on the family migration route due to close 6 October 2011.

When the previous government brought in the Life in the Test there were no transition arrangements. Those who had entered the UK on one of the UK settlement routes before the introduction of the test were still required to meet the newly introduced Knowledge of Life and Language in the UK requirement (KOL).  That requirement is generally achieved by passing the Life in the UK Test.   This changing of the goalposts for those already in the UK and accepted on established settlement routes, where there had been no previous requirement to pass The Life in the UK Test, impacted tens of thousands of migrants.

The latest round of consultation on the family migration route suggests increasing the probationary period before spouses and partners can apply for UK settlement from 2 to 5 years.  The consultation document does not give an estimate of how many couples already in the UK will be affected by this change but it is likely to be at least 80,000 based on the statistics that accompany the consultation.  

If any new rules only apply to new UK entrants then well and good.  However, to impose a further 3 year wait on 80,000 couples already in the UK before they can normalise their immigration status, ie be free of immigration controls, does look like a change to the goal-posts.  

Implications include a further three years for couples of having to keep ‘documents in joint names’ to be able to satisfy the visa requirements as well as the nagging uncertainty and stress that families endure from not having permanent residency.   Statistically more couples will divorce over these additional 3 years which will create further complications for the immigration authorities especially if children, most likely British Citizens, are involved.  And during the further 3 years what guarantees do those couples have that the settlement rules will not be changed yet again?

The UK government has already announced a target date of April 2012 for rule changes following the consultation.  Based on the track record of previous policy implementations there is no reason to anticipate that any rule changes will only apply to new entrants.

One inevitable aspect of these changes will be to increase the pressure on those migrants taking The Life in the UK Test to secure their pass test certificates in plenty of time so that they can apply while the UK settlement probationary period for spouses and partners remains 2 years and avoid a further 3 years in immigration limbo.

Garuda Publications titles have been developed to help individuals pass the Life in the UK Test so that they are ready to apply for UK Settlement and can become free from immigration control at the earliest opportunity.

 Andrew Thompson, Publisher, Garuda Publications

“The UK Border Agency is consulting on, amongst other things, whether to extend the probationary for spouses and partners wishing to settle in the UK from 2 to 5 years.  

The consultation pages suggest that it is proposing to start implementing these changes in April 2012 and there is no talk yet of any transition arrangements for those already in the UK.

If the proposals are accepted many people will be unable to avoid being caught up in the new rules.  However, if you are in the position where you meet the current UK settlement requirements but have not yet passed the Life in the UK Test it would seem sensible to get on and aim to pass the test now and lodge your UK settlement application before any new changes come into force.”

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