The British government released a policy statement on 19 February 2020 about the future of the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) immigration system, and the proposed changes will make it very costly for U.K. companies to employ European Union (EU) citizens. Following the U.K.’s departure from the EU last month, freedom of movement for EU citizens to the U.K. and for U.K. citizens to and within the EU will cease at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. The government will also scrap the labour market test and the cap on the number of visa applicants.
The Immediate Post-Brexit Landscape
The new relationship between the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the European Union (EU), set in motion by the U.K.’s official departure from the EU, will very likely lead to significant changes to the U.K.’s immigration system, and we are beginning to see a few indications of where the U.K. might be headed.
Currently, we are in a transition period where all rules will stay the same until 31 December 2020. Although little will change until then, negotiations between the U.K. and the EU will begin imminently on the new relationship for 2021. Last week, the British government unveiled a new Global Talent visa route, and the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) released their report on the future immigration system.
On January 31, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, effective February 1, 2020, the majority of its international field offices will no longer accept I-130 immigrant petition filings by locally resident U.S. citizens on behalf of their immediate relatives, absent exceptional circumstances meeting a limited definition. Of note, the field offices in Accra, Ghana, and London will continue to accept such filings until April 1, 2020. The announcement is not entirely unexpected as USCIS has given notice previously of its intention to adjust its international footprint. However, the issuance of the news on a Friday before cessation of service the next day was sudden.
Following the end dates described above, unless they meet the limited definition of exceptional circumstances, all I-130 immediate relative petitions will need to be filed online or with the relevant USCIS lockbox in the United States.
On October 21, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new version of the Form I-9. Employers may use the new version starting on January 31, 2020, but will be required to use the new version starting May 1, 2020. Using earlier versions of the form will not be acceptable after that date.
The Form I-9 is a document that employers must complete to verify the identity and employment authorization of every new hire (both citizens and noncitizens), hired after November 6, 1986, to work in the United States. Employers are liable for all errors on the form (even errors made by the employee in completing Section 1), and employers must retain I-9s for inspection for a certain period of time after an employee leaves the company (either one year after the date of termination or three years after the hire date, whichever date is later).
Visa issuance fees and validity periods are set based on reciprocity. If a country charges U.S. citizens $50 to receive a visa, then the U.S. will charge citizens of that country a similar amount for a U.S. visa. In 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13780, which requires that the U.S. State Department undertake a worldwide review of reciprocity arrangements with a view to updating any discrepancies.
Without notice, and effective immediately on January 31, 2020, the U.S. State Department’s visa reciprocity chart was updated to reflect new visa issuance fees for Dutch citizens applying for Treaty Trader (E-1) and Treaty Investor (E-2) nonimmigrant visas. Additionally, E-1 and E-2 visa validity periods have been significantly shortened — from five to three years. The chart below highlights the most significant changes to routinely used visa categories:
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