The UK Government has published its long awaited White Paper for a post-Brexit immigration system. The Government has largely accepted the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). These changes will come into effect from the end of the Implementation Period, i.e. from 1 January 2021. Key changes to the current immigration system include:
- Abolish the current cap for high-skilled workers entering the UK on Tier 2 (General) visas (sponsored work visas).
- Abolish the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), which currently requires employers to advertise the role to the local workforce for 28 days.
- Expand the list of occupations and jobs which are eligible for sponsorship – i.e. lower the skill level required for a role to qualify for sponsorship. Workers with intermediate level skills (A level or equivalent) will also now be eligible for sponsorship. This change should make substantial additional occupations eligible for sponsorship (many existing hospitality, care and retail jobs currently do not qualify for sponsorship).
- Nationals of certain countries will be able to apply for a work visa from inside the UK instead of returning to their country of nationality (or residence) to submit a fresh application. These will be low risk countries and are expected to include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, USA, Singapore, South Korea and other countries with whom UK reaches a specific agreement as part of bilateral negotiations. In practice, given EU nationals will not have preferential treatment, this will depend on whether the UK and EU come to an agreement. It is likely to include either the entire EU and no individual country given the EU negotiates trade deals as a bloc;
- A transitional measure allowing lower skilled workers to come to the UK for a maximum period of 12 months; and
- Allowing students who have bachelor’s and master’s degree six months and those who have completed a PhD 12 months to find permanent skilled employment in the UK.
Although the MAC recommended a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 for employers to sponsor workers, the Government has confirmed that it is reviewing this figure and will publish details after consultation with businesses and employers. Although the Government has not announced a timeline for this, it is expected that this will be after Spring 2019.
Although these proposals should in theory make it easier for businesses to hire and sponsor skilled workers from outside the UK, it should be noted that these are proposals set out by the Government and are subject to changes after debate and consideration in Parliament. It must also be kept in mind that until a deal is agreed between the European Union and the UK, nothing is set in stone and is subject to change.
EU Settlement Scheme
The Government has been rolling out the new ‘settled status’ and ‘pre-settled status’ (please see here) for EU citizens living and arriving to the UK. The scheme is expected to be fully rolled out from March 2019. However, from 21 January 2019 the Government will be opening up a test phase, allowing all EU citizens with valid passports and their non-EU family members who hold a biometric residence card to apply for ‘settled status’ and ‘pre-settled status’.
Fox Williams will publish detailed guidance in January 2019 on the UK Government’s proposals for a post-Brexit immigration system. In the meantime if you are an employer who requires clarification on what your European/non-European employees should do to retain their right to stay and work in the UK, please contact Sacha Schoenfeld.