Published in People Management 9 April 2021
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Our Managing director, Jonathan Beech spoke to People Management about the new Immigration Rules and whether Brexit and the new rules will attract less talent.
For many industries the full effects of Brexit are yet to be felt.
Although, recruitment may not be a current priority for organisations, many have realised that bringing in new staff from overseas has become more complex. Brexit and the introduction of the new immigration system, can cause hurdles and delays in recruitment plans for employers relying on EU workforce. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that there is fewer talent entering the UK then those leaving because of the pandemic. This has raised concerns that the change may be due to Brexit and limitations of the new immigration rules.
Since many organisations are still working remotely this means the impact of Brexit and new immigration rules has been minimised.
Brexit & the new Immigration Rules
The requirements of the new immigration rules are arguably less onerous than they could have been: the salary and skills thresholds were lowered from original proposals. There is a new graduate visa route, open from 1 July. This will allow firms to hire foreign citizens who have finished their studies in the UK for up to two years. There is no minimum wage threshold or skill level. “This is huge, especially for smaller businesses,” says Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK. Organisations will need to think ahead. If they find graduates they want to retain after two years they’ll need to think about sponsoring them under the skilled worker route six months in advance. “The graduates themselves will be savvy to this too, asking employers to sponsor them sooner rather than later.”
The Home Office also abolished the resident labour market test, which required prior advertising to UK applicants. Another change is that employees on the intra-company transfer route can change their immigration status ‘in country’. This means they can stay longer and switch employers without having to do a long cooling-off period. “This changes things massively for mobility,” adds Beech. “We see this a lot with tech companies that recruit many staff from India. Previously they would finish a project for an employer, go back overseas and have a cooling off period, not able to return for sponsored employment here for 12 months. Now they can come back immediately under the skilled worker route, for the same employer or for another, filling permanent vacancies that can lead to settlement.”While lower skills, salary thresholds and new jobs added to the shortage occupation list have widened eligibility for visa sponsorship, sectors hiring at lower skill levels and pay rates could still face challenges in filling vacancies.
Advice for employers regarding Brexit & the new immigration rules
Slow going for recruitment plans and employee mobility while travel and working restrictions are in place, doesn’t mean businesses shouldn’t get their houses in order.
Due to Brexit, immigration rules will vary depending on state and HR will have to check that, meaning there will be more delays and less flexibility in terms of workforce. It is recommended to anticipate the skills required and where they might come from.
Those who need to recruit from overseas, should start the process of obtaining a sponsor licence as this can take weeks to get in place. Workers who frequently travel to other countries on projects may need a frontier visa worker for each country or have to apply for a temporary work permit in each of those countries. Marja Verbon, chief operating officer of recruitment firm Jump.Work, says most companies are focusing on recruits who already have a right to work in the UK rather than getting to grips with the new immigration rules. “When businesses do decide to go through with sponsorship it tends to be for higher-paid and more senior roles. Getting the sponsorship licence is still a cost and time investment, as well as a responsibility” she says. Once the economy reopens after the pandemic more businesses will realise the urgency of going down the route of sponsorship as there are not enough candidates to choose from.
The pandemic, Brexit and the new immigration rules will clearly influence the supply of UK labour. The impact of Brexit and the new immigration rules is so inextricably linked to the fallout from Covid that we’re unlikely to see the full effects for some months yet.
The Home Office announced a new graduate visa route that will open to applicants from 1 July 2021. Any international student who has completed an eligible course at a UK university can apply, and stay for a maximum of two years (or three for doctoral students). Employers can use that time to plan ahead for acquiring longer-term sponsorship via the skilled worker route.In 2020, the MAC published a review of how the shortage occupations list works ahead of the introduction of the new points-based system and it has been recommended that the list of roles is reviewed more frequently to respond to the uncertainty created by coronavirus.
What about existing EU staff?
Those living in the UK before the end of 2020 must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021. If they have been in the UK for less than 5 years may be granted pre-settled status, and switch to settled status after they’ve reached five years.
What might be on the horizon?
The government plan to launch a new ‘elite’ visa in spring 2022. The eligibility requirements are yet to be published. This might enable highly skilled migrants in ‘scale up’ industries such as fintech to gain fast-track access to a visa without needing sponsorship or third-party endorsement. The innovator visa is also due for a review. A new visa category known as global business mobility may also be launched. This covers intra-company transfers and aims to make it easier for overseas businesses to establish a presence in the UK and transfer existing staff. The MAC is due to publish its recommendations in October.
If you need more information on the new immigration rules or the graduate route contact Migrate UK 01235 841 568 or firstname.lastname@example.org