Immigration chaos forces lawyers to shun regulations

Mounting Home Office delays force executives to ignore UK ‘leave to remain’ laws


A crisis of delays at the Home Office has forced immigration firms to advise executives of multinational clients to flout immigration restrictions and allow their families to stay in the UK illegally.

Partners at Bates Wells & Braithwaite and other firms were advising top executive clients to withdraw their applications for Further Leave to Remain (FLR) due to lengthy delays at the Home Office. Instead, clients have been counselled to depart the country and apply for work permits overseas, leaving their dependents residing illegally in the UK.

Bates Wells head of employment Philip Trott said: “This is not a situation I condone, but it’s the only way for our clients to carry on their business.”

However, at a crisis meeting last week, the Home Office vowed to introduce a queue-busting team to deal with the backlog. As of 19 July, existing FLR applications will be ringfenced and handled expeditiously.

The drama follows changes in the Home Office’s processing of applications for FLR under the UK’s Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).

Amendments introduced in April saw fees introduced for FLR applications for the first time and the processing of FLR outsourced to Cannock-based private contractor Atos Origin.

The changes have resulted in waits of up to nine weeks for applications that previously took a maximum of a fortnight. In some cases, credit card payments are taking three weeks to process.

Partners at US law firms have also been affected, with some unable to return to the US for Independence Day celebrations. One immigration partner even advised her clients to lobby the US ambassador to have applications expedited.

However, Julia Onslow-Cole, head of immigration at CMS Cameron McKenna said the Home Office’s move does not go far enough.

It is understood a summit between industry leaders and the Minister for Immigration, Des Brown, is scheduled for mid-July at Camerons’ Aldersgate Street offices.