Post-Brexit immigration plans

The government has published its White Paper setting out its plan for a new single, skills-based immigration system post-Brexit which will apply from 1 January 2021.

The proposed changes will represent the biggest shake-up in immigration since the introduction of the Points Based System in 2008. The main provisions of the White Paper largely follow the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee published in September 2018.

EU free movement rules will end and the same rules which apply to non-EU nationals will apply to EU nationals from January 2021 – fundamentally meaning that businesses will be required to employ EU nationals under the sponsored Tier 2 visa route for skilled work.

However, there will be some significant changes to the rules and requirements for sponsorship, given their wider scope. Some of the key highlights for employers from the proposals are:

  • The annual limit on the number of sponsored skilled work visas will be removed.
  • Employers would no longer be required to carry out a resident labour market test to obtain a sponsored skilled work visa.
  • Employers would require a sponsor licence to employ both EU and non-EU nationals on sponsored skilled work visas.
  • The skill level required for sponsored skilled work visas will be lowered - currently these are for degree level or managerial roles only (although there would be no lowering of the current skill level required for intra company transfers from linked offices outside the UK).
  • Employers will be consulted about reducing the current minimum salary threshold of £30,000 for sponsored skilled work visas.
  • The Youth Mobility Scheme allowing people aged 18-30 to come to the UK for two years for work or study would be expanded to encompass a UK-EU YMS scheme.
  • There would be no limit on the number of genuine international students who can come to the UK to study. They would be granted a six-month period to stay and work in the UK on completion of a MA or BA degree in the UK.

Karendeep Kaur, immigration analyst at Migrate UK, says that the White Paper ‘won’t necessarily safeguard EU workers’ future in the UK if Britain ends up with a ‘no deal’ Brexit, or help with the skills shortage. While a no deal would mean no transitional period for EU workers to transfer to pre-settled status. It would also result in a likelihood that companies would immediately be required to hold a sponsor licence, which can take up to four months to secure and thereafter issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to their employees. To safeguard additional skill shortages, HR should apply for a sponsor licence now so the business has the correct permitted documentation to employ EU workers whether there’s a deal or no deal. Identify all your EU workers and their current status in the UK – have some already got a registration certificate (RC) or a permanent residency (PR)? If not, for the sake of just £65, depending on their status, employers should help employees to arrange either a RC or PR and obtain a passport which is going to be a requirement in place of the National ID cards. If they have EU family currently in the UK with them then they can do a combined EEA Family Member application with the RC or PR application’.