In the Spring of 2015, when extensions closed for Tier 1 general migrants, I initially filed a FOI request with Home Office, trying to get them to tell me how many people are left in this category. (They initially answered completely off point, and  it took a new request a year ago, and several complaints to the Information Commissioner, to get the correct answers). If these are the correct numbers, I am stunned, because they are way, way more than I expected. I am also pretty sure they are FALSE, because they include people noted as “British citizens”, so clearly whoever provided them is just REALLY DUMB – because they are unable to read a question and do a simple database query. Such entries logically cannot exist in response to such query, although you clearly have to be stupid enough to work for the UKVI in order to not see that. But the numbers still indicate SOMETHING.

HERE IS THE PDF WITH THEIR FULL ANSWERS (I redacted out the cover letter because it had my home address on it)  FOI 41804 a

My work with, and knowledge of, UK immigration originated from Tier 1 general category and the community of the first cohort of those who entered it in 2008. Tier 1 general was my home. I am therefore greatly concerned for the plight of many of those who are now, years later, stuck with Tier 1 visas, many able to renew them several times, but unable to achieve settlement, most often because they cannot comply with the maximum allowable amount of absences 180 days per 12-month period.

I recall telling people even a couple of years ago, that I bet in the end there will be “only a couple of hundred people” in Tier 1 general — my firm belief was that overwhelming majority of people in this category have by now achieved settlement. I thought that then, the govt may make some concessions if it is faced only with a couple of hundred families in a policy conundrum, who have never broke the law and have paid thousands in fees.

I was half-right, because the number is exactly this in the primary demographic of my own clients – Russians and Ukrainians- who number respectively 110 and 35 on the list. Most of the other countries are in single and double digits, with comparable numbers – a couple of hundred people — from Sri Lanka, and 410 from a slightly more populous Nigeria. There are also 200+ Americans and Australians, the latter seem to be in slightly disproportionate numbers, but in both of those countries we may well be talking about people who lost interest and returned to home countries or took up other categories.

Numbers of remaining Tier 1 migrants from Pakistan (745) and India (3180) are, to me, absolutely stunning. Population of Pakistan is comparable to that of Russia, and population of India is 9 times bigger, which does not account for 31-time difference. I do not think the government will make significant concessions for 6000 families (my FOI request was for principal migrants only). As the final closure day for Tier 1 general, after which it will no longer be possible to apply for settlement in it, is upon us, these 6000 families — and in almost all cases there will be 2-3 people, including children, per principal migrants – face a very narrow palette of choices.

For some, making an attempt at an ILR while seeking some concessions on absence requirements, is an option. Others are too far off the mark, or fail on income requirements. There is also a significant number of people who have had, so to speak, committed liberties with their accounting and taxation during past extensions and may now be imperiled by scrutiny which is inevitably to come should they apply for ILR.

Now, I know some professionals from Pakistan who indeed went to work in Saudi Arabia instead and were very highly paid (notwithstanding the fact that they have families who lived in, and children who grew up, in the UK all this time and are now stuck). It is the international mobility that precisely disqualified them from being able to settle. But I assume they are in a minority in this statistic.

Does the fact that literally thousands of people from India, and hundreds of Pakistanis and  Nigerians, are stuck on Tier 1 general with no apparent further recourse, having paid thousands in entry and extension fees – indeed illustrate the failure of this category that many had pointed out, when they derided “supposedly high skilled migrants delivering post and driving cabs”?

For those who do not know/remember, Tier 1 general category did not preclude driving cabs, or doing nothing or anything, so long as one could demonstrate employment or business income of whatever threshold was applicable to them. So you could drive cabs, if you were capable of making enough money while doing it. Because the threshold had kept rising from 2008, when the category opened, to 2013, hardly anyone entered Tier 1 general after April 2011.

Initial income requirement — which applied at extension and settlement – was a factor of age and educational level, and was adjusted, depending on a country of origin, by an “uplift coefficient” , which, in the mind of the scheme’s designers, was supposed to represent a difference in living standards in different countries, compared to the UK, for people of the same educational level and similar professional occupations. Uplift coefficient applied on entry only, and you could still use overseas income — from anywhere in the world – on extension, but you had to meet the threshold by direct conversion of foreign currencies to pounds. T

Uplift coefficient for Russia was 3.5, and it was yet higher for Ukraine, where living standards are appreciably lower. It was higher still for India — where living standards are yet lower, on average. With coefficients applied, a tremendous number of people in these countries, which were uniformly education-rich but where many professionals were relatively cash-poor,  suddenly found themselves eligible for an unrestricted immigration to the UK.

I recall that my own salary as an upper- mid-level reporter for a large government-owned media outlet in Russia was, after the uplift coefficient applied, and with the then-strong pre-crash rouble, was directly sufficient to meet the requirements, considering I also had a US Masters Degree. Was a reporter for a major media organisation, with a Masters degree, the sort of person program architects envisioned? I suppose so. But were the skills of a reporter and former political aide, no matter how high profile or not, from Russia, directly transferable to the UK market for someone to start making 3.5 times the money? No. Indian engineers and It professionals’ skills were, without doubt, more transferable. But their numbers were overwhelming. They got more computer engineers over there, than our entire population. All of them nominally qualified for Tier 1 general, but our economy had no jobs for them.

I am sure it must be true that some subsequently took to driving cabs, while others re-trained in the UK for new (or the same) careers.  But there were also quite a lot of people, who had been at a higher end of the professional spectrum in their countries of origin — something UK industries usually cannot distinguish – for whom re-training or taking entry-level jobs made no sense. After some time in the UK, during which their families usually settled in and children started in school, they simply took jobs in other countries with higher wages and more open job markets, which were back home for some, United States or Middle East for others. Overseas wages were enough to maintain homes here and obtain Tier 1 General extensions, which never required any time spent in the UK nor that income be earned within it (although UK earnings did warrant some extra points). But most of these people now, months before the category is to close forever,  cannot settle  – just as their children, in many cases, are finishing school and find themselves ineligible for student aid.

People who have, for years, brought into UK economy and spent there, often, large sums of money earned overseas – and paid thousands in fees — now are about to remain without recourse. Many knew this was going to be the case come 2017-2018 – some had taken steps to switch to Tier 2 or something else – but there was also an indeed that the government will provide some “out”, and now with Brexit of course it is the last thing on anyone’s mind. I then thought that the remaining “couple of hundred” people will enjoy higher concession — but not, I think, if the govt thinks there are 6000 of them, without dependents.

Tier 1 absence rules had been once relaxed — just about as the first wave of T1G migrants, disillusioned, started to leave the UK, because it was not possible to survive and keep to its initial requirement of absences no more than 180 days in the whole 5 years. The scheme accounted for those who were on business trips, but this did not save many. They then quite suddenly turned into 180 days per 12-month period, and Tier 1 General ILR became a wonderful sport of moving the application date every which way to stuff existing absences within those guidelines, by moving the boundaries of 12-month periods. This created a bit of a scramble of returnees-  people who’d previously given up on T1G but thought they could meet the new standard. The new (and current) standard aided, again, some people, but not all. Huge science was developed as to what sort of excessive absences may and can be allowed, and how far can discretion stretch in allowing excessive absences (I still hold a lot of past wisdom on that — so, remaining T1G’s feel free to call).

But those strategies cannot help everyone. I know Tier 1 General cases that are not salvageable before 5th April 2018, when the curtain falls on points based system (because this was the only category in it that was ever truly points based).

Below are the numbers HO gave me, although I am still struggling to understand what date they pertain to (the geniuses wrote to me — last week — that they are subject to “30 Sep 2016” cut-off, and also that they are from “live database”, so that moment is still a bit fuzzy.

**please also note the data again must be erroneous because it says there are “British citizens” in it, which can’t possibly be true based on the question. I REALLY do not understand why the Home Office has such a problem quering a database.Clearly – LOGICALLY — the answer to the question asked cannot possibly include “British citizens” because their BRPs would not be currently valid, even if because they’d been substituted by ILR BRPs in the interim? ******

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5) Please provide the following information – How many people currently REMAIN with CURRENT LEAVE as migrants in Tier 1 General category? This does NOT include dependant family members or those who have obtained settlement, naturalised or switched categories. This will, for avoidance of doubt, include only those who hold CURRENTLY VALID BIOMETRIC RESIDENCE PERMITS that have been issued in category Tier 1 General migrant, and are still valid. Nationality data will have also been included on the BRP.

ANSWER The total number of people is 6,150

5a) Please provide breakdown of these by primary nationality of the migrant.” (SIC)

ANSWER The information you request is provided in the table below.

Nationality Number of Persons

Afghanistan 5

Albania *

Algeria 5

Argentina 5

Armenia 10

Australia 245

Azerbaijan 20

Bahamas * 5

Bangladesh 65

Barbados *

Belarus 5

Bolivia *

Brazil 10

British Citizen 20    **REALLY, DUMMIES? YOUR RESULT FOR A QUERY OR VALID BRPS WITH CATEGORY – TIER 1 GENERAL MIGRANT INCLUDES 20 PEOPLE WHOSE NATIONALITY ON THE SAME BRP ALSO SAYS BRITISH CITIZEN?*

British National (Overseas) 5

Burma (Myanmar) *

Cameroon 5

Canada 45

Chile *

China 125

Colombia 10

Cuba *

Dominican Republic *

Egypt 60

Ethiopia 5

Gambia *

Georgia *

Ghana 10

Guyana *

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China *

India 3,180

Indonesia 5

Iran (Islamic Republic of) 40

Iraq 5

Israel 15

Jamaica 5

Japan 10

Jordan 5

Kazakhstan 15

Kenya 15

Kosovo *

Kyrgyzstan *

Lebanon 10

Libya *

Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of) *

Madagascar *

Malaysia 40

Maldives *

Mauritius 10

Mexico 10

Moldova, Republic of *

Montenegro (the Republic of) *

Morocco *

Nepal 5

New Zealand 130

Nigeria 410

Pakistan 745

Palestinian Authority *

Peru *

Philippines 10

Portugal *

Russian Federation 110

Saudi Arabia 5

Serbia (the Republic of) 5

Sierra Leone *

Singapore 20

South Africa 75

South Korea (Rep of Korea) 5

Sri Lanka 180

Sudan 10

Syria Arab Republic 5

Taiwan (Republic of China) 5

Thailand 5

Trinidad & Tobago 10

Tunisia 5

Turkey 60

Uganda *

Ukraine 35

United Rep of Tanzania 5

United States of America 230

Unspecified Nationality *

Uzbekistan 5

Venezuela 5

Vietnam 5

Yemen *

Zambia *

Zimbabwe 10

Sum: 6,150

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