The Ankara Agreement
In 1963, the Turkish European Communities Association Agreement was set up (part of the “Ankara Agreement”) in order to promote trade and economic relations between Turkey and the European community, “paving the way for Turkey’s eventual accession to the Community”.
Under this agreement, Turkish nationals can apply for leave to remain in the UK if they have the intention to set up in business as a self-employed person.
Leave to remain under the Agreement
People granted leave to remain in this category will initially be granted 12 months’ leave to remain (see Home Office guidance here) and after completing one year of self-employment, can apply for further leave to remain – usually granted for 3 years at a time.
Until recently, a Turkish ECAA Business person could submit an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR, or “settlement”) if they could show they had spent a continuous period of 4 years in the UK, of which the most recent period of leave was as a Turkish ECAA businessperson. See page 25 of the Home Office guidance for more details.
Changes to the right to settlement
The Agreement is subject to an additional protocol known as the “standstill clause”. That means that the UK cannot introduce new restrictions that are less favourable than the rules in 1973, the time when the Additional Protocol came into force.
However, a 2017 judgment from the Upper Tribunal (in a case called Aydogdu, which you can download here) found that the settlement of Turkish nationals and their dependants did not fall within the scope of the provision of the European Community Association Agreement with Turkey (the “standstill clause”).
Subsequently on 16 March 2018, the UK Home Office withdrew the right to apply for settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) for people in the UK under the Turkish European Communities Association Agreement Business Persons category.
The Home Office says that “No new ECAA ILR applications will be accepted on or after 16 March 2018”. See their website here.
What this means
That means roughly 12,500 people (figures from a recent Freedom of Information request), who entered the business persons category with the expectation that they would be eligible to apply for ILR in four years’ time (and have official letters from the Home Office confirming this), are no longer able to do so.
The Home Office have said they intend to introduce a new ILR category for people in this situation, but there is no time-frame for this and it is not known what the requirements will entail.
All the people whose businessperson visas will expire before the new ILR category is introduced are completely in limbo.
People affected by these changes are taking action, and you can support them. As campaigner Leni Candan says:
Similar unfair and unexpected changes may well impact other migrant communities in the future, so it’s important that all migrants speak out against this decision.
Sign the petition against the changes here.
Support the crowdfunder for a legal challenge to these retrospective rule changes here.