New UK Immigration System: July Update

With the Covid-19 crisis throwing a spanner into the works of so many government departments and dominating the media, there’s been little news regarding Priti Patel’s new points based immigration system since the bare bones were released in February (discussed here). That changes today (13/07/2020) with a 130 page document published by the Home Office providing ‘Further Details’ of the new system, which is still on schedule to go into force from January 2021 . We will discuss the new developments and what they might mean for you below.

 

Proving Immigration Status for EU Citizens – Currently non-EU migrants working in the UK receive a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which demonstrates their right to live and work in the UK. EU citizens have thus far not been issued with a similar physical document, prompting concerns that EU citizens may struggle to prove their immigration status to employers and landlords. The document addresses this concern, indicating that while no physical document will be issued, EU citizens will be able to access an online service which can be used to confirm their rights and access to services where necessary.

This will simplify right-to-work checks for employers by making information available in real time and removing the need to check physical documents. Similar plans are in the pipeline for landlords.

 

Biometric Requirements – EU citizens will not have to attend a Visa Application Centre to enrol biometrics but will instead be able to do so via a smartphone app. The long term aim is to expand this so that all visitors and migrants are supplying biometrics under a single system, which prioritises self-enrolment integrated with the digital application process.

 

Fees – The application fees will continue to apply as they do now, however the Immigration Skills Charge will now be applicable to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens in addition to other migrant workers.

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will continue to be payable to at the higher rate (£624 PA) announced earlier this year, however a discounted rate will be available for children and the government intends to exempt frontline workers in the NHS and healthcare sector.

 

Switching Visa Categories – ‘Most migrants’ will be allowed to switch from one immigration route to another without having to leave the UK, the exceptions are listed as those on short term routes such as visitors or seasonal workers. While the government has not said explicitly, this implies that individuals hoping to switch from Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visas and other long term visas which currently require return to the applicants home country would therefore be able to switch in country.

 

Sponsoring Students and Skilled Workers – The Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) will be abolished along with the cap on skilled workers.

Existing Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT) sponsors will automatically be granted a new Skilled Worker licence or ICT licence.

 

Skilled Workers – Under the new system prospective skilled workers must score a certain number of points, some of which are tradeable. Meeting the mandatory criteria will net the applicant 50 points, and a further 20 points must be accrued through a combination of points awarded for salary, a job in a shortage occupation or a relevant PhD.

There are will be different minimum salary rules for workers in certain health or education jobs and for new entrants. The salary requirement for new entrants will be 30% lower than the experienced rate to a minimum of £20,480. For healthcare workers the minimum salary will be £20,480 and the £25,600 threshold required to score additional points will not be applicable. An exception will be made for nurses and midwives who can be paid a lower salary for their first 8 months in the UK until they achieve full UK registration as a nurse or midwife.

The definition of a new entrant has been expanded to include people “working towards recognised professional qualifications or moving directly into postdoctoral positions.”

 

Health and Care Visa – Aimed at incentivising people to come to work for the NHS, this visa route will have fast track entry, reduced application fees and dedicated support with the application process. Applicants will also be exempt from the IHS. This visa is still subject to the £20,480 salary threshold.

 

Global Talent Visa – This visa is aimed at attracting highly skilled migrants with specialist skills and replaces the Tier 1 (exceptional talent visa). Applicants must be endorsed by a recognised UK body as approved by the Home Office. Applicants should be internationally recognised at the highest level and should be leaders in their field or likely to become leaders in their field. There is no English language requirement and applicants will be able to settle on this route.

To facilitate access for scientists and researchers there will be a fast-track endorsement process available to individuals who are; in receipt of a named award or fellowship, in a senior academic position and, part of a publicly funded research team in receipt of prestigious funding or awards.

 

Students – No limit will be imposed on the number of international students and to further increase retention of promising students the government will launch a Graduate route in summer 2021 (the current Doctorate Extension Scheme will also close at this time). This will allow individuals who have completed a degree at a UK university to stay in the UK for 2 years after graduation during which they can work at any skill level and hopefully find a job which will enable them to switch into a skilled worker visa. Under the new scheme students will require 70 points which will not be tradeable (similar to the current system).

The current study time limit for postgraduate students will be removed although students will still have to demonstrate they are progressing academically.

 

Visitors Visas – The government intends to treat EU citizens as Non-visa nationals after free-movement is brought to an end. Individuals on a visit visa will be able to study for up to 6 months.

 

Intra-Company Transfer Visas – Unlike the current system applicants on this route will be able to apply to switch onto the Skilled Worker route (previously this was only available to those earning more than £159,600).  The cooling off period will also be adjusted so that applicants must not hold entry leave on an ICT visa for more than 5 years out of any six-year period (except where their salary makes them eligible to be granted an ICT visa for 9 years).

 

These changes (and more) will come into play from 11pm on 31/12/2020 and formal guidance and Immigration Rules will continue to be published up until this point. Please continue to follow us for the latest on immigration news.

If you need help with a UK visa for yourself or one of your employees or students, or would like some advice on any of the issues raised above, please get in touch for a consultation by emailing us at [email protected] or on 01403 801 801.

 

The New Immigration System and How it Will Affect You

The New Immigration System and How it Will Affect You.

On the 19th of February the government released its plans for immigration from 2021. Find out what impact this could have on you, your business or your students. It should be noted that EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will all remain non-visa nationals, capable of entering for 6 months without a visa under the normal visitor rules.

Changes to the skills based system

Despite the government’s claims to reduce low-skilled migration, they will be lowering both the minimum general salary threshold as well as the minimum necessary RQF skill level. The new rules will apply equally to applicants applying from both inside and outside the EU, although not to EU residents already in the country who have settled or pre-settled status.

The minimum salary will be lowered to £25,600 from £30,000, with the potential to go down to £20,480 if the applicant has strengths awarding them points in other areas (for example working in a shortage occupation or having a relevant PhD). This appears to lead to an counter-intuitive scenario where the stronger the applicant, the less the sponsoring company is required to pay them. It will be interesting to see how the government reconciles this with their pledge to attract the ‘brightest and best’ and to reduce wage undercutting.

The minimum RQF level of the job will be lowered from RQF6 to RQF3, essentially meaning that the required difficulty level of the job to be offered has gone from one equivalent in experience and difficulty to a Bachelor’s degree, to one equivalent in experience and difficult to A-levels. While this does not cover unskilled entry positions, it is still a big shift in the required skill level in order to sponsor an overseas worker.

The Resident Labour Market Test will be abolished along with the cap on the number of people who are able to come to the UK on the skilled-worker route.

The Global Talent Scheme will be opened to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, allowing highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer. This will also be expanded to be more accessible to those with a background in STEM subjects, although more details on this are not yet available.

The Seasonal Agricultural Visa pilot scheme is due to be quadrupled (from 2,500 to 10,000) as the government recognises this sector is reliant on low-skilled temporary workers to function. This would allow farms to hire workers for a period of up to 6 months, and is intended to ease pressure on the agricultural sector during busy harvest months. There is no other current path for unskilled workers to enter the UK, which does little to reassure employers in other sectors heavily reliant on unskilled or low-paid workers, including care-work, hospitality and construction.

International Students and Graduates

This appears to be largely similar to its current form however there are a few differences. Most obviously the student routes will now be open to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.

Secondly and perhaps most excitingly for those hoping to study in the UK and work here afterwards, a new immigration route will be opening in 2021. This will allow graduates who complete their degree from summer 2021 to stay for up to 2 years after the end of their degree to work or look for work. They can work at any RQF skill level during this period but if they wished to convert their visa to a skills-based visa at the end of the 2 years they would presumably need to secure a job offer meeting the minimum salary and RQF levels described above.

What should I do?

If you are an EU citizen in the UK, we strongly advise applying for the settled or pre-settled scheme as soon as possible to secure your right to live and work in the UK next year.

If you are an employer or educational institute considering sponsoring overseas workers or students in the future, we would advise applying for your sponsor license now. We can assist with this process, so call us on 01403 801 801 or emails us at [email protected] to arrange a consultation.

Becoming British – 6 Reasons to Take the Plunge

So you have indefinite leave to remain? 6 reasons why you should consider taking the citizenship plunge.

 

With the hurdle of indefinite leave to remain cleared it might seem tempting to consider yourself done with the difficulties of visa applications. There are, however, a number of good reasons which make it well worth the effort to take the final step and secure your immigration status as a British Citizen.

 

  • No need to worry about changing immigration laws.

With immigration law constantly changing and a climate of uncertainty around Brexit, British Citizenship can give you the security and peace of mind you need with a lifelong right to reside in the UK.

 

  • British Citizenship is for life, Indefinite Leave to Remain can be lost.

Indefinite leave to remain can be lost if you’re away for more than 2 years and it is at the discretion of the Home Office whether they choose to grant a returning resident visa. British Citizens can travel and live in other countries safe in the knowledge that they will always be able to return to the UK.

 

  • Benefit from visa free travel to more countries if your existing nationality does not provide this.

The British passport, at the time of writing, allows visa free travel to 184 countries and ranks 8th in terms of travel freedom. Depending on your existing nationality you may be able to visit many other countries much more easily. If anything should happen while you’re abroad, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing you will have access to hundreds of UK embassies and consulates all over the world.

 

  • Participate in elections and referendums

Only British Citizens are able to participate in elections and referendums. If you live in the UK you deserve a voice in important matters which directly affect you. Being on the electoral roll may also improve your credit. Unfortunately you cannot participate unless you have British Citizenship.

 

  • Wider array of jobs available in sensitive areas

Many sensitive jobs in both the public and private sector are only open to British Citizens. This includes the ability to stand for office if you’re interested in getting into politics. British Citizenship can open up a variety of new career opportunities!

 

  • Pass on your citizenship to your children.

Secure your children’s future in the UK by passing your citizenship to them. This guarantees them full access to all of the social and economic benefits associated with British Citizenship.

 

Anybody considering applying for citizenship or wondering if they are eligible should contact our team of experts for a consultation on 01403 801 801 or at [email protected]

No Automatic Deportation After Brexit

“No Automatic Deportation After Brexit”

This has been the latest revelation from Boris Johnson regarding the settlement of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. On the face of it this seems like a very positive message to EU citizens concerned about their future in the UK after Brexit, but let’s examine what it really means for EU migrants and their employers.

 

Does this mean people who fail to apply for settled status by the deadline will be allowed to stay after all?

In short, unlikely. The government has indicated that in order to avoid deportation after missing the deadline, EU migrants must ‘give grounds for why it was not possible to apply in the timeline, if no valid reason is given then the valid immigration rules will be applied.’ It is not clear exactly what the government would regard as a ‘valid reason’ but it is likely to be a difficult threshold to meet given that applicants have got until 30 June 2021 to apply and they have been able to apply since 30th of March 2019.

This would suggest that an applicant would need to provide evidence of a compelling impediment to application which spanned over 2 years. It is unlikely many people would be able to satisfy this criteria. While the wording of ‘valid immigration rules will be applied’ deliberately avoids the term ‘removal’, it is clear that this may be the fate of those who fail to apply in time.

 

Can those who have not yet applied for settled status continue to work in the UK now we have left the EU?

Yes. While a survey by the grassroots organisation ‘the3million’ indicates that 1 in 10 EU citizens have already been asked to provide evidence of their settled status, this is not a legal requirement. EU citizens may continue to work without applying for settled status throughout the transition period. A lack of clarity in government communications has left employers and employees alike confused as to what their duties are, but until the end of the transition period, EU workers can continue to work, although they should still aim to complete the settlement application at their earliest convenience.

 

What kind of proof will people receive of their settled status?

Controversially, the government has elected to provide no physical documentation confirming the settled status of EU migrants. All records will be electronic which the government claims will “future-proof [applicants] rights and is linked to their passport or ID card, replacing physical documents which can get lost, stolen, damaged, tampered with and expire”. 90% of survey participants however indicated they feared discrimination without a form of physical evidence which can be shown to employers, banks or landlords, and would prefer a card.

Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million has warned that the government is setting itself up for another Windrush crisis by failing to provide physical evidence which applicants may be able to later use to prove their right to live in the UK.

 

We will have to wait to see the full impact of the EU settled scheme, but as always, anybody concerned about their immigration status should contact us on 01403 801 801 or at [email protected] for a consultation.

MAC recommendations – Tier 2 overhaul, revolutionary or recycling?

 

The Migration Advisory Committee has released an extensive report on the Points-Based System and Salary Thresholds. This was commissioned by the Government in July and September of last year.

If you’re wondering how the system might affect you, or your employees, then read on for a brief introduction to the new system as imagined by the MAC.

 

What might change?

The 278-page report advises against a full-scale ‘Australian-style’ points-based system. Instead, it recommends retaining the existing Tier 2 structure with an addition of lower skill-level jobs and a lower salary threshold from the current £30,000 per year.

  • Foreign nationals hoping to come to the UK may now be able to do so without a job offer if they score high enough on the points system.
  • The report recommends the existing tier 2 system remain in place, with a salary threshold, as a route for migrants with a job offer. They do however recommend that this route be expanded to include medium skilled workers.
  • Potentially the threshold for migrants settling under the tier 2 route may be paused and the requirements for settlement reviewed to increase flexibility. This is due to concerns that required pay progression is too steep for settlement.
  • There may be greater flexibility in the salary thresholds for those that come to the UK as full-time workers then transition to part time after having a child.
  • Overhaul the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route and re-design it is using a points-based system but add safeguards to prevent abuse.
  • Introduce a separate pilot visa for ‘remote’ parts of the UK, which could include a lower salary threshold exemption.
  • Review the Shortage Occupation List after the new immigration system is introduced

 

Factors like age, education, work experience and English language ability are likely to be taken into account. It is not yet clear how the government will weight each factor.

 

What about the income threshold?

Until now foreign workers looking to come to the UK to work must have a job offer paying more than £30,000. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) however has just recommended that this be dropped to £25,600 in order to boost recruitment of skilled NHS staff and teachers who are unlikely to meet the current threshold.

The current system is a complex mix of occupation specific thresholds relating to average earnings in a specific sector, worker experience, and a general threshold. The MAC indicated this could be profitably improved by having new entrant rates at 70% of the experienced rate, and using national pay scales to calculate thresholds in sectors like education and the NHS.

They also recommend that differences in average pay across regions should not be taken into account, with one threshold for the entirety of the UK, citing concerns that lower thresholds in certain parts of the UK risk ‘institutionalising’ some parts of the UK as ‘lower wage’, as well as adding unnecessary complexity.

While some stakeholders would prefer no threshold aside from the minimum wage, the MAC justifies the continued wage threshold by arguing that it prevents the undercutting of the labour market (i.e. employing migrants because they are cheaper than British nationals), ensures migrants are making net positive contributions and makes sure that policy supports the current government’s “ambition to make the UK a high wage, high skill, high productivity economy”.

Concerns that sectors such as social care will still fail to meet this lower threshold and may suffer staffing shortages have been dismissed, claiming “the root cause of the problems there is the failure to offer competitive terms and conditions”.

 

We will watch with bated breath to see if these recommendations actually result in any material changes in immigration policy. As we have said  before, the introduction of the “Australian” points based system was never anything ground-breaking, so it will be interesting to see how the current government works to implement these MAC recommendations.

In the meantime, if you have any queries or concerns relating to your visa or the visas of your employees, you should contact us on 01403 801 801 or at [email protected] for a consultation.

Boris to review earning thresholds for migrant workers

While one of the current government’s selling points has been its pledge to crack down on immigration and to reduce the overall number of people coming to the UK, it has chosen to review the income threshold of 30K which prospective workers would have to meet in order to enter the UK. Let’s explore what this means in practice:

What’s the current system?

The current system for non-EU workers to come to the UK to work requires applicants to meet several stringent conditions. Applicants must currently meet an income threshold, although this varies based on the vocation, as well as the age and experience of the applicant. Applicants must also demonstrate a good knowledge of English.

Companies hoping to employ migrant workers from outside of the EEA also have to prove that they have not been able to find anyone within the UK or the EEA capable of doing the job unless the job is on the shortage occupation list. There is also a cap on the number of workers who can enter if they are not filling a position in a shortage occupation.

What’s Boris proposing?

Boris wants to replace the current system with a more holistic points-based system under which income would be taken into account alongside English ability, occupation, and qualification.  Each contributing factor would be assigned points, and the point total used to decide on whether the person would be a benefit to the UK.

What will change?

Critics of the current system argue that the income cap severely restricts the ability of industries which employ workers who are skilled but not particularly well-paid to fill positions. This includes the NHS, farm-workers and other industries which currently rely on EU workers to do low paid but skilled or crucial work.

Boris has pledged to cut ‘unskilled’ immigration but has not set out exactly who he will class as an ‘unskilled’ worker. This raises concern over the ability of organisations reliant on EU labour, such as care homes, to recruit enough staff, should their staff not be considered ‘skilled’ workers.

Hopefully, the removal of the wage cap will make the UK more appealing to skilled workers in low-paying industries to contribute to the UK economy, as well as mitigating some of the potential labour shortages as a result of Brexit.

What does this mean for me?

If you are a migrant worker or a company hoping to employ migrant workers and you want to find out more about how this might affect you, the team at UK visas can help.

Contact us now to arrange a free consultation and find out how we can support you.

New “Australian style” immigration policy

There is actually nothing new about the UK adopting an Australian style points-based system – we have this already.

 

The UK introduced the PBS (points-based system) in November 2008, with five tiers:  Tier 1 for highly skilled migrants, who were allowed to be self-employed or work for any business; Tier 2 for skilled migrants who had to be sponsored by their employer so needed a Certificate of Sponsorship; Tier 3 for lower managerial and blue collar/agricultural workers (this has never been opened up); Tier 5 for temporary workers and, finally, Tier 4 for students.

 

Steadily over the intervening 12 years or so, rules and conditions have been tightened up to the point that now Tier 1 is limited to a few exceptionally talented, or rich, individuals, whilst Tier 2, the arena in which we work together with you, the businesses that power this country, is restricted to highly skilled workers who, apart from a few exceptions, have to earn at least £30,000 p.a and are restricted in numbers from entering the UK.

 

There are a couple of recent changes which suggest there may be light at the end of the tunnel: nurses and doctors are excluded from the 20,000 annual cap and the list of shortage occupations has been increased significantly so reducing the number of resident labour market tests that need to be carried out and speeding entry for those candidates.

With the publishing of the MAC report today it is good to see that the new “Australian style” PBS Tier 2 (General) is envisaged to apply to both EEA and non-EEA citizens and to be expanded to medium-skill jobs with the cap and Resident Labour Market Test abolished and a simplified process introduced. It is proposed that the minimum salary levels will fall in line with this to £25,600 for experienced workers and £17,920 for new entrants.

 

 

 

How will the Conservatives’ election win affect the UK immigration system?

Conservative

As we reach the end of 2019, we approach not only a new year and a new decade, but also a new era for the United Kingdom’s international status. Now that Boris Johnson has firmly established his government’s control, we can expect Brexit negotiations to be finalised soon, with the Prime Minister targeting withdrawal from the EU on January 31st 2020.

What does this mean for the future of the country’s immigration system? As part of their election manifesto, the Conservatives laid out plans for what they claimed were revolutionary changes to the current system, including a new NHS visa and an Australian points-based process. But how much of this was really new, and how much was just electioneering? Let’s take a look at what we know so far.

 

NHS visa

 

During her speech in the House of Commons, which signalled the start of the Parliamentary year, the Queen revealed part of her government’s immigration plans to support the NHS: “A new visa will ensure qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals have fast-track entry to the United Kingdom.”

Boris Johnson went into more detail on these plans back on the campaign trail in November. The changes he mentioned included:

  • The application cost of a visa for medical professionals would be reduced from £928 to £464
  • A decision on the application would be guaranteed within two weeks
  • The minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas will be scrapped

However, dig deeper and these plans start to look less like a radical overhaul of the current system and more like tinkering around the edges.

For one thing, NHS doctors and nurses are already on the shortage occupation list and pay £464 for their visas, so this is misleading information unless Johnson meant it will be a £464 fixed fee for both a three-year and a five-year visa (a five-year visa is currently £928).

For another, visas on standard service are decided within 15 working days, and for an extra £220 overseas applicants will get the decision in five working days. Therefore, the Conservatives’ target of a two-week delivery is only five working days less than the current timeframe, which, as this article mentions, isn’t guaranteed as it is.

Therefore, in terms of real change, this really just leaves the scrapping of the £30,000 salary threshold for health professionals applying for a five-year visa.

This is certainly a welcome change. With an ongoing skills shortage continuing to impact the NHS, reducing the threshold will make it easier to recruit nurses and other health professionals on lower wages from outside the UK. And with their stated intention to also remove the cap on the number of migrant health professionals allowed into the country each year, it should help health services to recruit for much-needed positions.

 

Australian points-based system

 

“A modern, fair, points-based immigration system will welcome skilled workers from across the world to contribute to the United Kingdom’s economy, communities and public services.”

This statement of intent, also from the Queen’s Speech, is another part of the government’s claims to initiate radical reform of the UK’s immigration system, but, as with those made around the NHS visa, there is little new here to impress the well-informed.

We already have a points-based system for non-EU nationals. This was introduced in 2008 and was itself based on the Australian points-based system but has, over the past decade, become frustrated by complexity and increasingly stringent rules.

As visa and immigration advisors working with UK immigration policy on a daily basis, we’re the first to welcome change if it addresses the difficulties inherent in the current system. The UK needs a points-based model that meets our industry needs. However, while it is early days for this government, so far the changes to the UK immigration system they’ve set out seem to be focused more on satisfying their voter base rather than bringing about the changes necessary for industry.

As ever, we will be keeping a close eye on events and ensuring that we remain up-to-date and compliant with any changes to UK immigration policy. As this article shows, it’s a complicated business fraught with pitfalls, which is why we always recommend soliciting the support of an expert. Our team is available to provide advice and assistance to businesses and individuals – contact us now to arrange a free consultation.

Expanding the Shortage Occupation List won’t halt Britain’s recruitment crisis, warns UKVisas.co.uk

According to a report by the British Chamber of Commerce, three quarters of UK businesses are struggling to fill vacant roles in their organisations. The second Quarterly Recruitment Outlook for 2019 shows that while 53% of 6,000 businesses polled attempted to hire new employees, 73% of them found it difficult to successfully recruit for these roles.

The report places the blame on a lack of skilled candidates, and with Brexit still on the cards, the situation is only likely to get worse. If EU nationals become subject to the same UK Visa restrictions as other overseas candidates, the pool of freely available qualified talent will become even more limited. The situation has wider implications for our economy, and a solution must be found within the next few months if UK businesses are to continue to operate effectively.

As a response to the growing crisis, the UK government has announced a radical revision of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The list defines jobs that employers can offer to migrants without first checking local labour availability, and its purpose is to expedite recruitment for roles that are traditionally difficult to fill.

In the past, the types of roles on the list were considered specialist, but the latest additions include more commonplace occupations such as IT professionals, nurses, and social workers, further indication that the government has acknowledged the skills shortage is affecting areas of the jobs market that were previously considered well serviced.

The news that the SOL has been expanded will be welcomed by UK employers, but this measure alone is not enough to avoid an impending national recruitment crisis.

While the number of occupations on the list has risen dramatically, the 20,700 cap on the number of migrant workers that can enter the UK each year has not. When this limit has been reached, UK firms will be unable to employ any more overseas workers for the rest of the year, regardless of whether their occupations are on the SOL or not.

Our Managing Director, Jamie Bryant, comments: “The reason for the unchanged cap may be due to the government’s pledge to reduce net migration, but this is at odds with the realities of the situation; until a domestic solution to the skills shortage can be found, UK businesses must be able to rely on overseas workers to fill positions.”

“The government needs to acknowledge this and raise the annual cap on migrant workers accordingly. Until they do, it will only be a matter of time before Britain’s businesses, and therefore its residents, suffer the consequences of understaffing.”

If you have any questions about the SOL and how it may affect your business, contact our team of UK immigration experts for advice.

UK labour: new Shortage Occupation List proposals

According to the Office for National Statistics, the first quarter of 2019 saw the number of EU nationals employed in Britain hit an all-time high of almost 2.4 million. Despite ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, UK businesses have continued to invest in recruitment, creating 100,000 new jobs in the first three months of the year, and EU nationals have helped them to fill those positions. However, impending changes to immigration rules are almost certain to affect this trend and create challenges for UK recruiters.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, as of October 31st, EU nationals are likely to become subject to the same restrictions other overseas nationalities currently face when seeking employment in Britain. This means UK businesses who wish to continue employing EU workers post-Brexit are likely to need to hold a valid sponsor licence, and ensure sponsored applicants obtain a valid working visa.

The additional complexity of the recruitment process could lead to UK employers experiencing difficulties in filling vacancies. However, one measure that seeks to avoid this situation is the recent update to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).

The list defines occupations that are especially under-recruited, and therefore subject to exceptions from immigration employment laws. In anticipation of the possible impact Brexit could have for UK recruiters, the government engaged the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the SOL for the first time since 2013. Published in May 2019, the proposed list includes the additions of such diverse occupations as veterinarians, web designers, and secondary school teachers.

Employers recruiting for roles on the SOL can benefit from the following advantages:

  • No need to pass the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), which shows an attempt has been made to recruit domestically. This makes a saving for employers in terms of vacancy advertising and recruitment time
  • These jobs are automatically granted a high level of points in the visa system, so a migrant cannot be turned down for sponsorship, even if the annual cap on the Tier 2 scheme has been reached
  • The job does not need to meet the minimum salary threshold required for settlement after five years
  • Visa application fees are lower if the occupation is on the SOL, making it more attractive to foreign applicants and their dependants

If you are involved in recruitment and want to find out more about how Brexit and the changes to the SOL may affect the process, the team at UK Visas can help.

Contact us now to arrange a free consultation and find out how we can support your organisation in recruiting from outside the UK.

EU Settlement Scheme – keeping your homegrown talent

What is the EU Settlement scheme, how does it affect EU workers in Britain, and why should employers take notice?

The EU Settlement Scheme is a government programme that allows EU, EEA or Swiss nationals currently living in the UK to apply to remain here following the country’s exit from the European Union. Successful applicants who have lived here for five years or more will be given settled status, while those who have been here for under five years will receive pre-settled status.

It’s imperative that those responsible for the recruitment and management of overseas workers in their companies are aware of the scheme and what is required during the application process. While it’s not yet clear what will happen to EU employees in Britain without a registered status, it’s safe to assume they will no longer be able to work in the country once the deadline has passed. Along with causing disruption for both the worker and their employer, there may also be legal ramifications for both parties.

What can I do as an employer to keep my EU employees?

Firstly, there are a couple of dates for UK employers and their EU employees to be aware of. If Britain and the EU agree a Brexit deal by the 31st October deadline, then the final date for registering for settled status will be 30th June 2021. However, if no deal is reached, the date moves forward to 31st December 2020. The government’s website explains the process here: https://www.gov.uk/eusettledstatus

As an employer, there are a number of steps you can take to prepare

1. Undertake an audit to identify which of your employees are affected
2. Make use of the factsheets, posters and videos that the government has provided to raise awareness in your workforce
3. Check the expiry date of your Tier 2 sponsor licence. This system is likely to be extended to EU nationals after 2020
4. Make a diary note to conduct Right to Work checks in 2020 in order for your business to remain compliant with new immigration rules
5. Encourage your employees to review the options open to them. For instance, if they are eligible for Permanent Residence it might be more appropriate to apply for that instead of the EU Settlement Scheme

If you’re concerned about the possible pitfalls of the process, the UK Visas immigration team offers expert assistance. Let us help you by:

• Reviewing the status of your EU employees and their family members
• Assisting with applications
• Advising employees of their options
• Performing compliance reviews
• Examining your Right to Work checks and providing advice on best practice post-Brexit

Contact us now to arrange a free consultation and find out how we can support your organisation and assist your EU employees in securing their long-term status in the UK.

How HR can prepare for changes to immigration post-Brexit

HR managers, is your company Brexit-ready?

As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, it’s important for UK companies employing EU workers to ensure they’re ready for the changes that will follow. Those responsible for recruitment should be aware of these changes and understand what they mean for both the company’s current EU employees and its future recruitment strategy. 

Some steps that can be taken to ensure a smooth transition for businesses and their employees include:

Keeping your current EU workers

Firstly, it’s important to ensure that any EU, EEA or Swiss nationals currently employed by your company can continue to stay in the UK after 30th June 2021 (if a deal is not agreed, the deadline will be 31st December 2020). The government’s EU Settlement Scheme gives these people the opportunity to apply to continue living in the UK following its exit from the European Union. Applicants who have been here for five years or more will receive ‘settled’ status, while those who have lived here for less than five years will get ‘pre-settled’ status.

The process is free, and the government has provided a step-by-step set of instructions on its website to guide applicants. HR officers should familiarise themselves with the process so that they can advise and support any of their company’s employees who need to apply. You can visit the site here.

Preparing to recruit from outside the EU

Once Brexit has taken place, the process of hiring workers from the EU will become more difficult. As a result, companies may choose to start recruiting people from further afield, although they will need to prepare for this shift in focus.

According to a recent survey, 76% of businesses have no contingency funds for future recruitment outside the EU. The cost, in terms of both money and time, of sponsorship licences and Tier 2 Visas means companies must determine whether they can afford to hire from abroad, as well as identify the resources necessary to carry out their recruitment plans.

What is a Tier 2 (General) Visa and why do workers need them?

Tier 2 (General) Visas are the most common type of visa. They apply to skilled workers earning £30,000 a year and upwards, and require sponsorship from the company offering employment. Proof of sponsorship comes in the form of a certificate of sponsorship (CoS).

Once Britain has left the EU, EU citizens without settled or pre-settled UK status may be subject to the same rules that apply to people from the rest of the world, meaning they will need to apply for a Tier 2 Visa if they intend to work in the UK.

How much does an overseas Tier 2 Visa application cost for a single applicant on a 3-year contract?

  • Application fee – £610
  • Immigration health charge – £1,200
  • Immigration skills charge (per year of contract) £1,092 to £3,000 (depending on whether your company is categorised as large or small)
  • Certificate of Sponsorship £199
  • Priority visa service £220

Due to the cost, complexity, and potential pitfalls of the visa application process, recruiters would be wise to work with an expert in the field. At UK Visas, our team guides companies through the hurdles of bringing staff into the UK, and facilitates the movement of employees globally.

Our experience allows us to assess eligibility quickly and to spot issues before they develop into problems, providing clients with practical and commercial solutions.

Our services include:

  • Advising on all aspects of the points-based system and assisting with the sponsor registration process
  • Work and business routes, including those for sponsored workers, business visitors, permitted paid engagement visitors, investors, entrepreneurs, high value migrants and representatives of overseas businesses
  • European applications such as family permits and permanent residence, and other applications including dependent family members and British nationality
  • Prevention of illegal working including audits of right to work documents, staff training, hotline services and objections to fines
  • Challenging decisions via administrative review

If you need help understanding how Brexit will affect your company’s EU nationals and overseas recruitment, our friendly and knowledgeable team is ready to answer your questions. Get in touch now to arrange a free consultation.

Latest information regarding BREXIT

The future immigration arrangements for EU citizens and their family members will be set out in UK Immigration Rules as is the case now for non-EU nationals. The proposed visa routes will be opened in autumn 2020, to enable those who wish to come to the UK to apply in good time. (Read more)

So effectively, there will be a single route which gives access to highly skilled and skilled workers from all countries. Those coming to the UK on this route will need an employer to sponsor them and applicants may add their spouse/partner and children as dependants.

Currently there is a cap on numbers coming into the UK and this will be lifted along with the need for a resident labour market test. The Home Office are also claiming they will make the new system as straightforward and light touch as possible, and low cost to employers.

It also looks likely that Tier 5 YMS visa holders will be able to switch into Tier 2 “in-country” rather than having to go home to apply.

The new skilled route will include workers with intermediate level skills, at RQF 3-5 level (A level or equivalent) as well as graduate and post-graduate, as the MAC recommended. The MAC recommended retaining the minimum salary threshold at £30,000 and the Home Office say they will engage with businesses and employers as to what salary threshold should be set.

There will NOT be a route for low skilled workers although the Home Office recognises the challenges faced by these employers, particularly in sectors like construction and social care, who would find it difficult immediately to adapt. They are proposing, as a transitional measure, to institute a time-limited route for temporary short-term workers. This route will allow people to come for a maximum of 12 months, with a cooling-off period of a further 12 months to prevent people effectively working in the UK permanently.

Although the Home Office do not intend to open sectoral labour schemes, they may consider running one for seasonal agricultural work, and so will be running a small-scale pilot scheme for agricultural workers in 2019.

 

For EEA nationals already here in the UK their situation is much more secure and they can apply for either settled or pre-settled status depending on how long they have been in the UK.

Come 29th March 2019, or later if the deadline is extended, all EEA nationals who wish to remain here after 31 December 2020 must apply for “pre-settled status” document – if they have been here for less than five years – or “settled status” document if they have been here over five years.  This document shows they have had the right to live and work here prior to 29th March 2019 ie: before Brexit.

Your EEA staff who have been here for over five years already can, if they wish, apply for “permanent residency” now.  This would entitle them to apply for British citizenship 12 months later, but they may still have to apply for a settled status document to accompany their application.

Here is a link to the EU settlement scheme employer toolkit, which you may find useful:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-employer-toolkit?utm_source=7057ffdc-5bae-4f45-8db1-a4b98b87fc26&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate

High Skilled Workers to trump EU workers

Brexit will no doubt have a great impact on the business immigration sector.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s long-awaited report on the effect of European migration to the UK has been published last month.

According to reports, the MAC does not see ‘compelling reasons’ to give EU citizens any preferential treatment over non-EU citizens. Recommendations are made largely to loosen the Tier 2 system itself and have a more open policy like in countries such as Canada.

Below is a summary of the key recommendations for work migration post-Brexit

1. Making it easier for higher-skilled workers to migrate to the UK than lower-skilled workers.

2. No preference for EU citizens

3. Abolish the cap on the number of migrants under Tier 2 (General).

4. Tier 2 (General) to be open to all jobs at RQF3 and above.

5. Maintain existing salary thresholds for all migrants in Tier 2.

6. Retain but review the Immigration Skills Charge.

7. Consider abolition of the Resident Labour Market Test. If not abolished, extend the numbers of migrants who are exempt through lowering the salary required for exemption.

 

However, if all foreign migrants are bought into the same system then employers will need to become extra vigilant as risk of civil penalties faced by employers will increase significantly.

Hiring costs will increase and if medium skilled jobs are also included as more businesses will require to get on the sponsor licence register meaning increased administrative burden on organisations and a significant effect on businesses which have previously not had any engagement with the wonderful immigration system.

Further clarity re Brexit

The UK and EU have agreed on a “large part” of the agreement that will lead to the “orderly withdrawal” of the UK.

The transitional period will last from Brexit day on 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020 and EU citizens arriving in the UK between these two dates will enjoy the same rights and guarantees as those who arrive before Brexit. The same will apply to UK expats on the continent.

As a part of this process, the Home Office need to process huge numbers of people very quickly, from a legal status based on EU free movement to one based on the new post-Brexit category of ‘settled status’. And EU immigrants want to have a simple, hassle-free system for retaining their right to be in the UK.

With 3.7 million EU citizens and tens of thousands of non-EU partners. The Home Office are going to have to process around 5,000 people a day, every day, for two years.

To achieve this the Home Office are developing an app. which the user should find incredibly simple – just three questions: The first will ask if you are an EU national, the second will ask if you live in the UK and the third will ask if you have a criminal record.

Usually visa forms demand that the applicant supply the proof of their rights to stay, but here the work is done by the government.

This system is designed to give settled status to any EU citizen who has been in the UK for five years. Negotiations with the EU are still ongoing, but chances are that that five year period can start at any stage, up to the last day of transition on December 31st 2020. If someone applies before they’ve been here five years, they will be given ‘temporary settled status’ – although the Home Office intends to change this name to make it sound less tenuous. This then transforms into ‘settled status’ once the five years are up.

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UK VISAS NO WIN NO FEE PROMISE

We provide a ‘No Win – No Fee’ guarantee for all points-based system visa applications unless expressly stated at the time of appointment. We will guarantee our service for these applications by offering a full refund on our fee should it be unsuccessful.

These guaranteed terms are conditional upon the client being able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Home Office that they have earned the income claimed or that they have the necessary funding in place for maintenance or are fully conversant with their business plan in the case of Tier 1 Entrepreneurs.

It also presumes that neither the applicant nor their dependants have previously come under scrutiny or been under investigation by the Home Office for any immigration matter. In order that we can do our job properly the necessary information and details required should be made available and they must genuine as well as accurate.