Immigration white paper released on the 19 December detailing post Brexit immigration policy
By Oshin Shahiean, managing partner at OTS Solicitors in London
The white paper sets out the governments proposed new laws on Immigration before they are formalised into a government bill. They will then have to pass through parliament and the House of Lords.
The White Paper has three aims:
• To say freedom of movement ends when the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019;
• That there will be a single Immigration system applicable to all migrants. There will be no preferential treatment for migrants from the EU;
• The Immigration policy will place emphasis on skills rather than the nationality of the migrant.
The white paper – key points:
• A 12-month consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 per year for skilled migrants applying for visas to work in the UK; and
• Low-skilled workers from certain “low risk” countries will be able to apply for a work visa for up to a year.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
If you have questions about how the new Immigration policy will affect you or your business and need advice on how to plan for change, then call OTS Solicitors. We are specialist London immigration solicitors, ranked for business immigration law in Legal 500, who can help you prepare for Brexit and beyond.
Please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London immigration solicitors.
The white paper proposes scrapping the current cap on the number of skilled workers allowed to come to work in the UK each year from EU and non-EEA countries.
The current limit of 20,700 is the number of skilled non-EEA workers who can apply to enter the UK using the Tier 2 visa scheme. The visa can last up to 5 years. The migrant must have been offered a high skilled job in the UK.
The high-skilled category includes professions such as doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, some types of teachers, engineers and architects. teachers.
In most cases, under the current Tier 2 visa rules, the migrant worker will need to earn at least £30,000 per year (or £20,800 for new entrants) or the "appropriate rate" for their job if the figure is higher. Some professions, like nurses, are exempt.
Migrants who apply for jobs on the shortage occupation list are also eligible to apply for the Tier 2 visa, even if the job they are applying for is less highly skilled.
The government has accepted the recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee to abolish the limit of 20,700 of Tier 2 workers.
In the opinion of top London immigration solicitors, that is good news for business and employers like the National Health Service who have traditionally had to rely on migrant workers filling roles in the health service.
The white paper talks of net migration being kept to “sustainable levels”. The document does not set a target for net migration. However, the prime minister has acknowledged the conservative party manifesto commitment to border control and the stated manifesto aim to get the net migration figure down to about 100,000.
The latest Office for National Statistics net migration figure (which is defined as the difference between the numbers of people leaving the UK for at least a year and those coming to the UK for at least a year) is about 273,000.
A 12-month consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 per year for skilled migrants applying for visas to work in the UK
The income threshold proposal is at the centre of the new Immigration system that will apply equally to EU and non-EU migrants.
If the salary requirement is accepted then migrant workers, from around the world, will be allowed to enter the UK if they have a skilled UK job that pays above the threshold. There will be no cap on migrant numbers.
The £30,000 salary threshold will be the subject of a 12-month consultation period. Therefore, the salary threshold could be removed or the salary level changed.
top London immigration solicitors expect a lot of debate on the minimum salary requirement as business leaders are saying that the minimum income of £30,000 is set too high for most sectors.
It is also being said by industry leaders that it is too crude to define skilled workers based on their salary.
To put the £30,000 salary proposal into context, the £30,000 minimum earnings rule already applies to non-EU workers applying for most Tier 2 visas. If the white paper becomes law, it would also apply to migrant workers from the EU.
Already many National Health Service trusts are saying that imposing a £30,000 salary level for skilled migrants to be able to enter the UK to work could affect the NHS's ability to recruit as some midwives and paramedics are paid less than £30,000 per year but are classed, in all other senses, as skilled professionals.
The minimum salary proposal for high skilled workers policy will be implemented at the end of the post-Brexit transition period. In other words, at the beginning of 2021.
The 12-month consultation period over the threshold salary will mean businesses may have no more than a year to adapt once the threshold is set.
Low-skilled workers from certain “low risk” countries will be able to apply for a work visa for up to a year:
The temporary route would only be available to all nationalities provided their country is classed as “low risk” countries. The likely low risk countries are likely to be:
• EU member states; and
• Some Commonwealth countries, such as Australia.
The proposal is likely to prove to be very controversial proposal if it is seen as a “green light” for unlimited numbers of low-skilled migrants from around the world to come to the UK to work.
Campaign group, Migration Watch, has said the proposal is shocking. At present, only EU migrants who are low skilled can come to the UK to take low skilled jobs.
It has been stated that the measure, which would last until 2025 if implemented, is intended to protect the parts of the UK economy that are reliant on a migrant workforce. According to the Home Office minister, the proposal will not create a backdoor route to permanent settlement.
The white paper proposes that low-skilled workers will be able to enter the UK for a maximum of 12 months with a cooling-off period of another 12 months to prevent migrant workers in effect working in the UK permanently.
Low-skilled workers would be able to move between employers without sponsorship. The white paper states that it is the intention to make the paperwork behind the current Sponsor Licence system less onerous with less bureaucracy.
If a low skilled worker were to enter the UK on the proposals then they would not be able to access to public funds or switch to another visa.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says the main issue with the white paper proposal is that migrants earning below £30,000 would only be able to stay in the UK for 12 months. They accuse the government of putting Immigration restrictions before the UK economy.
The document says the reason for the proposal is that some sectors have built up a "reliance" on migrant staff from the EU and require a "period of time" to adjust to the end of freedom of movement. However, for critics of the proposed scheme, if implemented, it would be in place until at least 2025.
The white paper says the government wants to enact the new Immigration policy at the end of the transition period. This is currently set as January 2021.
The visa scheme would be opened in autumn 2020. That would allow migrants to apply in advance.
However, what would happen if the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no deal in place? It is being suggested that a system would have to be put in operation as early in April 2019.
Current EU migrants and settled status
EU citizens who are already living and working in the UK and want to stay in the UK will have to register for a new “settled status”. They will have until June 2021 to do so.
EU citizens who are living and working in the UK, and who want to be joined by family members, will need permission for the family member to come to the UK. Permission will have to be obtained before they enter the UK.
Irish citizens will not have to apply for settled status or a new visa.
Visitors to the UK
EU Visitors to the UK will get special treatment under the white paper proposals. They will not be required to obtain a visa in advance of travel to the UK.
The government intends to let EU visitors use the current electronic passport gates at airports to allow quick entry to the UK. It is not known, at present, if the EU would have a reciprocal arrangement with UK visitors to the EU.
Short-term visitors from non-EEA countries would not require a visa.
First reactions to the white paper
Mr Javid has previously suggested that the white paper proposals are not dependent on the UK leaving the EU on 29 March with a Brexit deal in place. The message was that the proposals will apply “deal or no deal”.
First reactions to the white paper from London immigration solicitors, politicians, sections of the media and business leaders are mixed.
Concern about the social and economic impact of Immigration was a leading force behind the 2016 referendum decision and vote to leave the EU.
The white paper may not go far enough for some politicians and sections of the media. It does not set a cap on migrants and furthermore it does not set a documented target for migrant numbers.
The previously expressed commitment by the government was to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands” as set out in the conservative party manifesto do not appear in the white paper aims in the view of the best London immigration solicitors, which will disappoint many hard line brexiteers.
On the other hand, concerns about the impact of a restriction in migrant workers coming to the UK on the UK economy, at a time of Brexit uncertainty, appears to be at the heart of business leaders’ worries about the white paper proposals.
OTS Solicitors are specialists in personal and business immigration. We have substantial expertise in securing Tier 2 (General) visas. The Legal 500, legal directory, rank OTS Solicitors for business immigration services. In addition, OTS Solicitors have Law Society accredited solicitors status as trusted specialists in Immigration law.
For advice on how the Immigration white paper may affect you or your business, your current Immigration visa options and future migrant workforce strategy, or any other aspect of personal or business immigration law please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London immigration solicitors.