New UK Points Based Immigration System: is your business ready for the end of free movement?
Immigration solicitors know that many employers are exhausted with dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on their business, are weary of Brexit and wonder just how much more change their business can cope with. The reality is that more change is on the horizon. On the 9 April 2020, just before the Easter break and during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in London, the government released its promotional material entitled ‘’The UK’s points based Immigration system: an introduction for employers’’. In this blog we look at the essentials of the post Brexit points based immigration system and what your business can do to prepare for January 2021 and the end of free movement.
London Immigration and employment law solicitors
Whether you are a multi-national, SME or start-up business it is best to prepare for January 2021. If your business doesn’t get ready for the new points based Immigration system and the end of free movement, you may not be able to recruit or retain the workforce you need to operate. UK immigration solicitors can best get your business prepared for post Brexit immigration and employment changes. Call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here.
The new points based Immigration system
The new UK points based Immigration system is set to be introduced in January 2021. With the end of free movement for EU citizens, both non-EEA and EU citizens will need a job offer and a sponsoring employer to come to live and work in the UK on a work visa. Whether a worker will secure a work visa will depend on if they meet the points criteria under the new points based Immigration system and whether their sponsoring employer has a Home Office sponsor licence.
You may have thought that you don’t need to know about immigration laws and procedure as your business doesn’t employ non-EEA nationals. However, with the end of free movement, all business owners and HR personnel need to have an understanding of the key changes coming into effect with the introduction of the points based Immigration system and how best to make sure your business is Brexit ready and can deal with:
Retention of any existing EU citizens in your workforce
Recruitment needs in shortage occupations given historic low UK unEmployment figures and also the UK skills gap
The new regulations on the need for a Home Office sponsorship licence to recruit EU citizens who come to the UK after January 2021 and who don’t have settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or permanent residence status
Complying with illegal working regulations
Ensuring that you have the systems in place to manage your existing sponsor licence, particularly if you are going to have to recruit EU citizens through Sponsorship Licence and, if you are a new sponsor licence holder, ensuring that you meet all the rigorous compliance issues that go with holding a Home Office Sponsor Licence.
What are the key points of the January 2021 points based Immigration system?
In January 2021 free movement between the UK and the EU will cease. That is a massive change but one that hasn’t been fully prepared for by many UK businesses partially because of a lack of appreciation of how the change will impact on them and due to the massive effect of coronavirus and the consequent diversion of business planning.
Under the new points based Immigration system, work visa applicants from both non-EEA countries and EU citizens will only secure a work visa if they obtain sufficient points. Those visa points are allocated by the Home Office for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and for shortage occupations. Visas are awarded to those who gain enough points.
What should businesses do to prepare for the end of free movement?
Doing nothing isn’t a realistic or sensible option as the best way to get ready for the points based Immigration system changes and the 1 January 2020 is to assess your needs and prepare accordingly. It is vital that your assessment takes place now as if you decide that you need to:
Apply for a Home Office sponsor licence or
Carry out a recruitment drive or
Help your existing EU workers secure settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
Train your existing workforce or new UK or EU recruits to help meet any potential skill or workforce gap through not being able to recruit lower skilled workers from the EU after the end of free movement
Then this all takes months rather than days or weeks. Failing to plan could be a very costly and expensive mistake to make as after the end of free movement it will be harder and more time consuming to recruit EU citizens and, as there is no lower skilled visa route in the government’s current end of free movement Immigration policy, potentially extremely difficult to fill what can be key roles in your business, albeit classed by the government as ‘’lower skilled’ ’and therefore not falling within the new points based Immigration system.
If you are a business that relies on a more skilled workforce (who meet the RQF 3 qualification or secondary education to A level standard) then you may need to apply for a sponsor licence for the first time to recruit overseas workers, whether from the EU or from non-EEA countries.
Immigration solicitors say that there is likely to be an enormous increase in sponsor licence applications in December 2020 which in turn may impact on Home Office Sponsor Licence processing times leaving businesses unable to recruit the workers they need. The April 2020 government points based Immigration system guidance says that businesses can apply for a Sponsor Licence now even if they don’t plan to use it yet or only plan to recruit secondary level educated workers (rather than the current graduate level RQF 6 workers) once the new work visa rules come into force on the 1 January 2021.
Don’t forget that the government has said it remains committed to bringing in the end of free movement and the new points based Immigration system with effect from the 1 January 2021, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic devastation and fallout the coronavirus outbreak has created. Immigration solicitors say that the government plans don’t provide for temporary measures to ease the pressures on businesses that routinely recruit and rely on EU citizens to fulfil key roles. There is no provision for allowances to be made if a business hasn’t secured a Home Office Sponsor Licence or is facing a recruitment nightmare as there simply aren’t sufficient numbers of suitable UK and settled workers to meet UK business demands for lower skilled workers when the free movement route for such EU key workers is cut off on the I January 2021.
Some immigration and employment law solicitors are using the analogy of a tap turning off to symbolise the end of free movement. When you know there is a water shortage and hose pipe ban coming you prepare for it in the best way that you can. The 1 January 2021 is no different save for its scale and the economic impact if your business isn’t ready.
UK Immigration and employment law solicitors
If you know that you haven’t kept an eye on what the end of free movement will mean to your business and know that you need to assess what you need to do and when then it may be best to call in the professionals to help you come up with a Brexit business solution and to then provide the legal support to help you implement your plan.
OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration and personal immigration law and are recommended in the two leading law directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession. The specialist lawyers offer fast, efficient, easy to follow immigration and employment law advice looking at your best Brexit options and follow-up advice and legal services from applying for a sponsor licence, sponsor licence management services, settled status one day application service for existing EU citizen employees and HR staff training on sponsor licence compliance and reporting duties.