Stop discriminating policies at Lancaster University that leave non-EEA staff in debt

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Lancaster University celebrates its international outlook, but is putting its international staff into thousands of pounds of unexpected debt. More than 9% of Lancaster staff are citizens of countries outside the EU. They are facing spiralling costs of visas and Indefinite Leave to Remain applications, without any support from the University.

We, the signatories of this letter, members of the Lancaster University community, believe that:

  • Non-EU staff are crucial to Lancaster University’s standing as a leading international university
  • Non-EU staff should be treated as an asset and supported to continue working for the University
  • Non-EU staff should not be left in debt, nor face undue financial hardship in order to obtain visas, relocate or obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain so that they can continue working for the University
  • Non-EU staff should not be left to navigate the UK’s hostile environment without the support and guidance of their employer, Lancaster University.

We therefore urge Lancaster University to commit to reimbursing all cost associated with applying for visas, settlement or Indefinite Leave to Remain for all non-EEA staff and their dependents.

Context

The spiralling costs of visas and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) applications are a serious and immediate hurdle that international staff in British academia have to contend with.  At Lancaster University, non-EU staff do not currently received any financial nor professional support from the University for visa, visa renewals, NHS, ILR fees and other associated visa costs.

This is not fair.

In essence, non-EU staff have to take a pay cut simply so that they can continue working for the University.  The costs of ILR and visas, leave international staff worse off than their British and EU colleagues, and counteract the effects of progression and promotion.  In fact, a recent study by Gareth Edwards at UEA showed how a non-EU staff member with a partner and 2 dependents would have to pay over 30% of their take-home salary just to cover visa fees.

The HE Sector also has hugely varied policies on international staff, from the ‘gold standard’ at places such as St Andrews University, where all initial visa, visa-renewal, NHS and ILR (indefinite leave to remain) costs are covered for all staff and dependents, through to situation at Lancaster University where non-EU staff are negotiating this expensive and punitive system entirely on their own, without support from their employer. 

Lancaster University should seek to be a leader in this area, matching best practice in the sector such as the current policy at St Andrews, and echoing the recent changes to policy made by the University of Sheffield, University of Manchester, University of East Anglia and the University of Edinburgh.

Without this, Lancaster risks falling behind.

Non-EU staff at Lancaster University, and at other universities, have raised these matters individually with HR and management, often to be shut down and left to navigate the process, and its associated costs, alone.  There is a interest-free loan available to staff, however it has a limit of £10,000, does not include legal fees and the financial liability remains with non-EU staff and their families.

This is simply not fair.

We ask that the University support its non-EU international staff adequately and equitably via the following procedures;

  1. Acknowledge the issue facing non-EU staff, and recognise their value to the University;
  2. Provide comprehensive information, HR support and corresponding legal advice to non-EU staff, or inquiring on behalf of family members and dependents;
  3. Reimburse initial visa costs and Indefinite Leave to Remain costs to non-EU international staff;
  4. Reimburse costs for non-EU colleagues with international dependents in meeting visa, indefinite leave to remain, and associated costs; and
  5. Revise and extend the provision of initial relocation costs for non-EU staff to acknowledge visa costs as a separate expense.

More information

https://lancsinternational.home.blog/