The 2021 Budget for Immigration – the Elite Points-based Visa
You may have assumed that the March 2021 budget would all be about whether the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, would extend the furlough scheme or the stamp duty holiday for property purchases under £500,000. Not only was there good news there but for immigration solicitors there were some positive signs that the January 2021 new points-based Immigration system will be changed to further reform the UK Immigration system.
UK immigration solicitors London based OTS Solicitors are specialists in business immigration law. For information on the points-based Immigration system call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available by phone call or video call.
An elite points-based visa for the elite
You could be forgiven for thinking that elite schemes only apply to athletes and Olympic hopefuls. Not content that the points-based Immigration system, only introduced in January 2021, is attracting the brightest and best to UK shores the new visa, referred to as the elite points-based visa, will be designed to offer fast track Immigration for UK scale up businesses. UK companies will have to wait until March 2022 for the new elite points-based visa but the elite points-based visa will be primarily focused on scaleup “fintech” financial and technological businesses.
Is an elite visa necessary? At the moment skilled overseas workers can apply for a skilled worker visa if they have a job with a sponsoring employer who holds a Home Office issued sponsor licence. The elite visa applicant on what is referred to as a “scale up stream” will also need a job offer from a UK employer but their application can then be fast tracked to support UK businesses scale up and grow without UK companies being hampered by bureaucratic systems and delay. Immigration solicitors are cautiously welcoming the new elite visa but say more information is needed on how the elite points-based visa will be distinguished from the skilled worker visa where, with specialist legal advice and paying for an expedited premium service from Home Office officials, sponsor licences and skilled worker visas can be secured within a matter of days.
The feedback from UK businesses on the planned introduction of the elite points-based visa will also be important as they are in the best position to judge what Immigration help, they need to scale up after Brexit and COVID-19. Immigration solicitors suspect many SMEs and multi-nationals will say that the problems in the new UK points-based Immigration system lie not in the recruitment of elite or highly skilled employees but in being able to recruit sufficient numbers of reliable lower skilled workers. Historically the UK has been heavily reliant on EU workers but the end of free movement has meant the supply of lower skilled workers from EU countries has effectively dried up since the 31 December 2020. The full impact of losing a significant number of migrant workers, who enjoyed the right to live and work in the UK under the principle of free movement, hasn’t been felt yet because the UK economy, as well as the population, have been in semi-lockdown for large parts of 2020 and 2021.
For the UK population, the elite points-based visa may sound good as the name implies that Immigration will be restricted to the elite or upper echelons of talent but the reality is that the majority of people in the UK want their new homes built and parcels delivered. With a construction industry that in some areas of the country employed up to thirty percent of its workforce from the EU, the majority of people may soon realise the importance of focussed lower skilled Immigration to keep the UK building and moving.
What else is new for Immigration in the 2021 budget?
The government has said that it is intending to modernise “the Immigration system to help the UK attract and retain the most highly skilled, globally mobile talent – particularly in academia, science, research and technology – from around the world. This will drive innovation, and support UK jobs and growth”.
You may question how this will be achieved but in addition to the planned March 2022 elite points-based visa the government has also said that it will reform:
The global talent visa – at present those with global talent need endorsement from an industry related endorsing body as the first stage in the global talent visa application process. The government plans to “allow holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for early promise to automatically qualify’’ for the global talent visa · The Innovator visa – the Innovator visa is intended for use by experienced entrepreneurs looking to set up business in the UK but take up of the new Innovator visa has been poor primarily because of the requirement for endorsement and the need for the proposed business to be both innovative and scalable. The government says it will make the Innovator visa “ easier for those with the skills and experience to found an innovative business to obtain a visa”
A new Global Business Mobility visa – this is to be launched by the spring of 2022 for ‘’overseas businesses to establish a presence or transfer staff to the UK’’. Immigration solicitors are already questioning whether the new global mobility visa will replace the sole representative visa · Sponsor Licence reform – this reform is intended to make the Home Office Sponsor Licence system easier for UK business owners to use. A reduction in Sponsor Licence reporting and recording duties would certainly be welcomed by most HR directors. The “roadmap” to Sponsor Licence reform will be published in summer 2021
Global entrepreneur Programme expansion- the government plans to “establish a global outreach strategy by expanding the Global entrepreneur Programme, marketing the UK’s visa offering and explore building an overseas talent network”.
What is next?
None of these planned further Immigration reforms will happen quickly. Perhaps that is just as well as most UK business owners are still getting to grips with the end of free movement , the need to encourage existing EU employees to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme and formulating their post-Brexit and hopefully soon to be post-COVID-19 business immigration strategies.