The UK’s involvement in European Free Movement ended on 31 December 2020. In its place, a new immigration system will enable employers to recruit the skilled workers they need from overseas, but largely exclude the entry of workers for low skilled and unskilled work. Ian Robinson from Fragomen has put together this blog to help you to understand the new immigration system and to ensure you are prepared for the changes!
It feels like the end of free movement has been inevitable since the EU referendum in 2016. Despite that, employers have not had a great deal of time to plan – it has taken time for the Home Office to develop and release policy and in the meantime, all eyes have been firmly placed on the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the new regime will fundamentally change the way many London employers plan and budget recruitment which needs careful consideration.
The London Business Hub is here to help you and you can find our webinar on the new immigration system here. We will also be making more resources available in our HR hub and the Home Office has published a number of materials to help employers understand the new Rules. But, before you get to all of that, it is worth understanding how the system fits together.
- Europeans who were in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020 will be treated differently. They will be able to confirm their status under the EU Settlement Scheme, a reasonably straightforward process that is free and will provide a permanent right of residence after five years in the UK. Non-European family members of Europeans can also apply and you can learn more about the scheme here.
- From there, we will have a single system for all immigration other than from Irish nationals, for whom nothing will change. There will no longer be a difference between how European and non-European people who coming to the UK are treated.
- Under this new immigration system, Skilled Worker visas will be available to workers who are sponsored, taking skilled jobs (considered RQF3 level and above), speak English and meet a minimum salary requirement – normally set at £25,600 but with lower rates for younger workers, people with PhDs and others or higher in some higher paying jobs.
- The big hurdle for many employers will be sponsorship. You will need to be licenced by the Home Office to sponsor workers, having successfully demonstrated that you can comply with immigration rules and regulations. Securing a licence takes times so think about applying soon if you know you will recruit from overseas in 2021.
- Cost also needs to be carefully considered. UK immigration is not cheap and government fees add up. Cost will differ by length of time, type of employer, number of family members and so on but will add up and needs to be planned for.
- If all of these requirements can be met, the visa process will be reasonably quick, certainly compared to immigration systems overseas. It remains to be seen how quickly a work visa application can be compiled and considered, but a four to six week wait seems a reasonable assumption (albeit one that needs testing).
- The big gap is low skilled workers. There will be no visa category for low skilled workers so it will be difficult to construct a business plan around recruiting lower skilled workers from overseas. That said, people holding Spouse and Partner, Youth Mobility, UK Ancestry and one or two other visas will be able to work at any level.
There is an awful lot here and even more in the Immigration Rules and associated guidance. It therefore all needs to be carefully considered. UK immigration is complicated and there are serious consequences for non-compliance. If you are learning about this for the first time you may be wondering where to start. We would suggest:
- Familiarise yourself with the policies or find an expert to do that for you.
- Map your workforce against those policies – where could you find it more difficult to fill vacancies, where do you need to plan for the extra costs.
- Make sure your existing EU workers understand the EU Settlement Scheme and the importance of applying. The deadline is 30 June 2021.
- Help the business to understand what is coming. Overall the system should work as well as any around the world, but the new costs and friction could cause concern. Forewarned is forearmed.
None of this is rocket science but it mustn’t be taken lightly. The end of the year is fast approaching. If you haven’t had a chance to think about it yet, what are you waiting for? For further information, please click here
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