Football fans may be wondering why Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was missing from the stands of Wembley on the day that his team beat Manchester United to the FA Cup title.
His Tier 1 visa renewal application – a route which supports about 700 other wealthy Russians across the UK – is stuck in a backlog that the Home Office is currently trying to clear. Mr Abramovich’s visa expired in April, and he’s chosen not to come back into the UK until it’s renewed.
Recent changes to the Tier 1 route, which place more stringent requirements on applicants, are the likely cause of Mr Abramovich’s visa’s delay. But, the Russian government is linking it with an alleged ‘review’ by the Home Office of the immigration status of wealthy Russians living in the UK – in the wake of Sergei and Yulia Skripal’s poisoning earlier this year.
The backlog comes amid reports that the limit for restricted certificates of sponsorship under Tier 2 has been reached for a fifth month, and that employers are struggling to source the skills that some migrants offer. The Home Office is prioritising applications from the better paid, with reports suggesting that only those with salaries of £50,000 or more stand a chance of being issued a visa.
The UK immigration system is in trouble, and the backlog is only going to increase once the post-Brexit visa system for Europeans comes into force. Employers looking to sponsor a migrant should note that it’ll take time and, in some cases, several applications before they can lawfully employ a non-EEA national.
Chelsea fans can rest safe in the knowledge that, currently, there is no suggestion that the club’s owner will have his application denied.