On 19 December 2018, the Government finally published its proposals for the new UK skills based immigration system. We look at the key proposals that we think will be good for our clients and those that are less positive.
The proposals, representing the most significant changes to the UK’s immigration system in decades, are contained in the White Paper (Cm 9722), entitled ‘The UK’s future skills-based immigration system’.
The new immigration system outlined in the paper is due to come into effect in early 2021, but some routes are likely to be open before then. Many of the plans are still to be finalised and extensive stakeholder engagement is due to take place over the next two years. Some of the proposals could therefore change.
The new immigration system will not differentiate between arrivals from the EU and those from outside the EU. The White Paper explains that more relaxed rules could be applied to some nationals on a risk basis and also where trade agreements have been reached.
The good news
Many of the proposals are welcome and the main ones are as follows:
- roles from RQF level 3 upwards are to be eligible for sponsorship under a revised skilled worker route;
- limits on the sponsorship of skilled workers are to be removed;
- the Resident Labour Market Test is to be removed;
- the sponsorship system is to be simplified for employers;
- the youth mobility scheme will be expanded;
- provisions for short-term business visitors from inside and outside the EU may be made on a reciprocal basis;
- the general scope of permitted activities for business visitors may be expanded, subject to further discussions;
- a new immigration category will be introduced for short-term workers for up to 12 months;
- many students will benefit from new post-study work opportunities – master’s and bachelor’s students studying at an institution with degree awarding powers will be offered six months’ post-study leave. A year will be offered to students who have completed a PhD;
- students will be able to switch to the skilled worker route three months before their course ends or, if outside the UK when applying, up to two years after graduation;
- a scheme is being piloted for workers in the agricultural sector;
- there will be a range of new digital services;
- a new ‘Innovator visa’ for ‘experienced business people who want to set up a business in the UK that is innovative, scalable and viable’, is confirmed;
- a new ‘Start-Up visa’ will be launched in Spring 2019, for those at an early stage of their career with an innovative business idea, who can then move into the Innovator route;
- the number of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) places is to increase.
The less positive proposals
The worst news for many is, of course, that Free Movement rights for EU citizens coming to the UK to live and work will end. In addition, the following strike us as particularly unwelcome:
- there is to be no relaxation to the harsh rules that family members of British citizens and those with settled status need to comply with;
- there are to be no significant changes to relax the current study rules for international students;
- there will be a minimum salary requirement, to be agreed in the future, for skilled workers;
- short-term workers will be subject to a 12 month cooling off period;
- there is likely to be an increase in deportations as harsher deportation thresholds are also applied to EU citizens;
- skilled workers will still require a sponsor and consideration is to be given to more umbrella sponsoring organisations.
The position for EU nationals
EU nationals who are residing in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to apply to remain under the EU Settled Status Scheme.
If the UK and EU reach a deal regarding the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU, the draft Withdrawal Agreement provides that EU nationals will be able to move to the UK under the terms of the EU Settled Status Scheme until December 2020 (and make applications under the scheme until June 2021).
However, if a deal is not reached, the White Paper indicates that, in relation to new arrivals from the EU seeking to live and work in the UK, the EEA Regulations, which currently implement the UK’s obligations under EU law, will be brought under UK legislation. This would be from 29 March 2019 until such time as new rules are laid.
In the New Year, we will provide in-depth analysis on how the new proposals may be relevant to various sectors, industries and individuals.
In the meantime, if you require any further information, please do contact us.