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.