Does the UK need an 'Australian-style' immigration system?

 

In the run up to the general election and the Brexit countdown the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has announced that he intends to introduce an ‘Australian-style’ points based Immigration system to limit the number of migrant workers entering the UK. Some Immigration solicitors say that the Home Office already operates a points based Immigration system that isn’t dissimilar to the Australian model. Furthermore, some Immigration advisors say that with low UK unEmployment figures, the UK needs unskilled and medium-skilled workers just as much as highly skilled migrant workers. In this blog we look at the Australian points based system Immigration proposals and the current Immigration opportunities for highly skilled non-EEA workers to secure visas under Tier 1 of the Immigration Rules.

 

Work and business visa solicitors    

 
If you are interested in coming to the UK to work but you don’t know your best options because of talk of Brexit and the impact on EU citizens and their ability to work in the UK after Brexit or if you are a non-EEA national and you are concerned about your visa options then speak to the business immigration team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123. 
 
If you are an EU citizen in the UK or planning to come to the UK to work OTS Solicitors can help you secure pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. If you are a non-EEA national we can help you with a Tier 1 or Tier 2 visa application or look at your visa extension or visa switch options and UK settlement routes.  
 
Call us on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.
 

The Australian based Immigration plan 

 
It is proposed that the UK introduces an Immigration points based system that would separate future UK visa applicants into three tiers or categories, namely:
 

• Those who are classed as having exceptional skills or talent; and 

• Those who are classed as having work skills and who have a job offer from a UK employer; and 

• Those who are unskilled where only short term entry to the UK would be envisaged. The short term UK entry would not lead to settlement in the UK. 

 
To Immigration solicitors what is being suggested may not be all that radically different to the current Tier 1 and Tier 2 entry visas. Where it will be radical, and hard for some employers to get to grips with, is after the end of free movement there will be a need for EU citizens as well as non-EEA nationals to apply for  work visas and UK entry clearance. That may make recruitment more bureaucratic but also more time consuming and expensive. 
 
For employers who are reliant on large numbers of unskilled EU workers the proposals are likely to impact on them the most because at present there are no restrictions on recruiting EU workers, save for the need to comply with right to work checks and illegal working legislation that applies to UK employees whether they are British citizens, have Settled Status or are workers from overseas, whatever their country of origin. 
 
Under Boris Johnson’s proposed Immigration plans the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) would gain greater powers as it is envisaged that MAC, as a statutory independent committee, would decide on Immigration quotas and visa allocations. Only time will tell if that is a radical departure from the current Immigration system where a government agency, UK Visas and Immigration, make Immigration decisions under Home Office jurisdiction. 
 

Work options for non-EEA nationals under current Tier 1 visas

 

The Tier 1 visa category is currently available to non-EEA nationals who are thought to have exceptional talent or promise or are investors or entrepreneurs who have funds available to set up or invest in a business in the UK.
 
Under the Tier 2 visa category, if you are a non-EEA citizen, you can apply to enter the UK for work purposes. For example, by securing a Tier 2 (General) visa and sponsored Employment or working in a job on the UK Shortage Occupation List you can enter the UK and live and work in the UK, subject to Immigration controls.
 
 As the Tier 1 visa is intended to try to attract investors and entrepreneurs to the UK it is generally the case that the Tier 1 visa provides more favourable visa terms and earlier routes to settlement in the UK than other visa categories. Therefore Immigration solicitors will always want to see if your skills fit the Tier 1 visa category, rather than applying for a Tier 2 (General) visa or even a Tier 4 visa.
 

The Tier 1 visa scheme options

 
The Tier 1 visa scheme is broken down into four separate categories of visa but all require investment and/or talent. The visa options are:
 
Tier 1 (entrepreneur) Visa – although you cannot make a new application for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa as the category has closed. However, you can apply for an extension of an existing Entrepreneur visa until April 2023. You have until 5th April 2025 to apply for UK settlement under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa route. If you are an entrepreneur and you don’t already have an Entrepreneur visa then your best options are likely to be the Innovator visa or Start up visa; 
Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa;
 

Tier 1 Investor Visas

 
This Tier 1 visa is for investors who have money to invest in the UK. The eligibility criteria for investor visa applications are:
 

• You have a minimum of £2,000,000 to invest within the UK – the money must be held in one or more regulated financial institutions and must be available to spend in the UK on business enterprises; and 

• You must be able to comply with the Immigration Rules on proving the source of the investment funds and that they belong to you; and 

• You must be a non-EEA citizen who is over the age of eighteen; and  

• You must have a UK bank account; and 

• You meet a minimum points score of 75 on the current UK points based system of Immigration.

 
 
To successfully apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) Visa, you will need to be able to provide:
 

• A current and valid passport or travel identification document; and 

• Proof of your £2 million available investment funds – there are complicated Immigration Rules on proving that the money is yours and that the money has not been laundered.

 
A Tier 1 (Investor) Visa can lead to a UK settlement application as you will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain  and in time British citizenship
 

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa 

 
The Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa is for applicants who want to work in the UK and who either have exceptional talent or show exceptional promise in one of  seven fields, namely science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology, fashion or the arts.
 

To secure a Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa you need to be:

 

• Endorsed by an industry specific Endorsing Body as a recognised leader with exceptional talent or showing exceptional promise in your particular field of expertise. Once you have endorsement your application to the Home Office for the visa can proceed; and 

• Be a non-EEA citizen who is over the age of eighteen; and 

• Meet a minimum points score of 75 on the Immigration points based system. 

 
 

Start Up visa

 

The Start Up visa is designed to cater for the needs of non-EEA nationals wanting to set up their first business in the UK. The Start up visa is open to all applicants, whether they are a graduate or are a non-graduate. Importantly, there is no requirement to have investment funds available to secure a Start-up visa but you do need a viable, innovative and scalable business idea and business plan. 
 
The application process for the Start-up visa is in two parts:
 

• You will need to apply to be endorsed by an Endorsing Body. Each Endorsing Body has its own industry specific criteria;

• Once you have secured endorsement from the Endorsing Body you have three months to make your Start-up visa application to the Home Office.

 

Innovator visa

  
The Innovator visa is similar but different to the Start-up visa. The Innovator visa is designed for experienced business people but you still need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea. The figure required for investment into the business is £50,000. You don’t have to personally have the £50,000 because the Immigration Rules say that the investment can be sourced from an approved body, such as a venture capitalist.
 
The application process for an Innovator visa is similar to that of a Start-up visa, namely endorsement by an Endorsing Body and then an application to the Home Office for a visa. The application process is however more rigorous than the Start-up visa as it is designed for those with business experience rather than new entrepreneurs. This visa route can lead to UK settlement and an Indefinite Leave to Remain application.
 

Next steps

 
Taking legal advice on your visa options is often the best idea as you may not be aware of all the visa categories that may fit your business, personal or financial circumstances. For example, an Immigration lawyer at OTS Solicitors met with an applicant for a student visa. The restrictions of a student visa were explained and the student thought the restrictions would be irksome. With the help of family money the investor visa was the best option for the fortunate student as there were far less restrictions on the investor visa and it leads to an earlier opportunity for a UK settlement application. 
 
In another scenario, a talented individual approached OTS Solicitors about applying for a Tier 2 (General) visa provided that they could secure sponsorship from a UK employer with a Sponsor licence. Talking to the applicant about their background and expertise resulted in our Immigration solicitors being able to advise that the applicant met the eligibility criteria for a Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) visa on the basis of exceptional promise. This type of visa gives far greater scope than a Tier 2 (General) visa as it does not restrict Employment to employed positions with a Sponsor licence holder and so was the best option for the applicant.
 

Do you need help with your Tier 1 visa application?

 
As work and business visa solicitors, the Immigration team at OTS Solicitors specialise in Tier 1 and Tier 2 visa applications. We will talk you through your best visa options, depending on your circumstances, goals and priorities.
 
We will guide you throughout the visa application process, from choosing the right visa route for you, helping with your choice of Endorsing Body, making sure you have the right professional support with the preparation of your business plan, preparing your application and advising on the best supporting documents and how to prepare for a visa interview, all to ensure a successful visa application.  
 
The role of the Immigration team at OTS Solicitors doesn’t end there. We can help you with visa applications for your dependants as well as visa extension applications and your UK settlement applications.
 
OTS Solicitors expertise in work and business immigration law is recognised by inclusion in the two leading law directories, Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession. 
 
For trusted practical legal advice on your Tier 1 and Tier 2 visa options call us on 0203 959 9123 or use our online enquiry form.
 

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