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UK immigration after Brexit

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Whilst we now know the results of the 2019 UK general election and everyone can recite that it is government policy to ‘get Brexit done’ what many people have limited information about is how UK Immigration policy will be affected by Brexit and how that will affect everyday lives in the UK. You may think that Brexit won't touch you as you have British Citizenship, Indefinite Leave to Remain or Settled Status but the reality is that Brexit will affect all of us in ways many of us haven’t really thought about. In this blog we look at how UK Immigration policy after Brexit may affect individuals and UK employers.

UK Immigration solicitors

Central London based OTS Solicitors help individuals and companies with all aspects of personal and business immigration law providing the best Immigration outcomes and Brexit solutions. If you have questions about how Brexit will affect you or your company call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

Fair and compassionate Immigration

Fair and compassionate Immigration is what the Conservative party promised in its election manifesto. There was also a lot of publicity about the planned move away from the UK’s current Immigration system to an Australian points based system of Immigration.
For those affected by the hostile environment Immigration policy or victims of Windrush, the prospect of a fair and compassionate UK Immigration system sounds good although some say that the policy is currently short on detail.

The end of free movement

One thing that was crystal clear in the Conservative party manifesto was the planned end of free movement for EU citizens after Brexit. What hasn’t necessarily been spelt out yet is how the end of free movement will affect:

• UK employers looking to recruit EU nationals to work in the UK after Brexit

• EU nationals looking to move to the UK after Brexit, for example, to marry or to join their spouse or simply to visit friends or family

• EU nationals currently living in the UK who either have permanent residence or Settled Status or Pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme

• EU nationals who have not applied for Settled Status

The government has however said that the end of free movement will herald an Immigration policy of EU citizens being treated in exactly the same way as non-EEA nationals. With the end of free movement for EU citizens this would also result in EU citizens not being able to access UK benefits for five years. No access to UK benefits for a five year period may deter low skilled workers from coming to live and work in the UK from EU countries, especially if there are more attractive job opportunities and work conditions in other EU countries. How this will affect UK employers who are heavily reliant on EU workers in an age of low UK unEmployment figures and ongoing UK skills shortages is yet to be seen.

The EU Settlement Scheme

It won't surprise most people to hear that the government remains committed to its EU Settlement Scheme and will therefore continue to encourage EU citizens who are already living in the UK and exercising treaty rights to either sign up to:

permanent residence

• Settled Status

• Pre-settled Status

If you are an EU national based in the UK then immigration solicitors are urging that you take action to get Brexit ready. That is because if you have not applied to regularise your position before the Brexit deadline then you will potentially lose out on all the benefits of Settled Status or Pre-settled Status and be treated in the same way as a non-EEA national would be.
If you don’t know how to go about applying for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme then Brexit solicitors offer advice and a Same day Settled Status application service.
The main point to remember is that if you are an EU citizen in the UK the option of doing nothing is not an attractive option unless you plan to leave the UK before the 31 December 2020. If you are an EU citizen who wants to live and work in the UK but you have not come to the UK yet then you should do so before the 31 December 2020 and apply for Pre-settled status. The new Immigration system (whatever it eventually looks like) will apply to you if you are an EEA national who arrived in the UK after the 31 December 2020, so you will be treated in the same way as a non-EEA national with no preferential Immigration treatment.

Brexit and the workers

There has been a lot of publicity about how, post Brexit, a new Australian style points based system of Immigration will be introduced into the UK. However, if you ask many London immigration solicitors they will tell you that the current UK Immigration policy is a points based system that is already similar to the Australian model.
To most Immigration solicitors the striking difference in the Immigration scene before and after Brexit will be the end of free movement and EU citizens being treated in the same way as non-EEA nationals. Not only may this impact on Immigration figures but it may add to the bureaucracy of employing any overseas worker and therefore add to employer’s overheads despite the government intention to simplify visa application systems and to digitalise processes as far as practicable.
Any new post Brexit Immigration system will be introduced from January 2021 with three categories of worker or economic type visa under a new points based system:

• Exceptional talent or contribution

• Skilled worker

• Sector-specific rules-based

Brexit and the Exceptional talent or contribution visa

The current government plan for the Exceptional talent or contribution visa is that EU or non-EEA nationals will be eligible to apply for UK entry clearance if:

• They have received awards in a qualifying field or have been endorsed as a recognised leader or an emerging leader in their field or

• They are an entrepreneur setting up a new business in the UK and they have a sponsor or

• They want to invest in the UK.

You may be forgiven for thinking that these categories are remarkably similar to the current Exceptional talent or promise visa or Tier one visa scheme. There will be no requirement on a visa applicant to have a job offer before applying for a visa and the government has said that entry on the category could lead to settlement in the UK through applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain. For some there will be an accelerated path to UK settlement after three years, rather than the standard five years residence in the UK.

Brexit and the Skilled worker visa

With the end of free movement the important point about the new Skilled worker visa is that you will need a Skilled worker visa and an employer to sponsor you to work in the UK whether you are a non-EEA citizen or an EU national.
The government has said that it plans to reduce the red tape and the bureaucracy that surrounds the current Sponsor Licence application process and Sponsor Licence management but in essence the Skilled worker visa and requirement for a sponsor is similar to the current Tier 2 (General) visa, although extended in scope to capture EU job applicants.
One important point to note is that the government proposals for Skilled worker visas differ from the Australian model as in the Australian points based system a skilled worker does not need a job offer before being able to apply for a visa.
It is said that the Skilled worker visa will also lead to UK settlement through an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain and that the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will have a role in advising on whether there should be a cap on the number of Skilled worker visas to take into account any UK skills shortage.
In addition to the standard Skilled worker visa there will be special rules and visas for specific categories of work such as nurses and doctors to help address the National Health Service skills shortage with reduced application fees, accelerated routes to UK settlement and no cap on visa numbers if you are coming to the UK on a National Health Service visa to fill a job on the acute shortage list.

Brexit and Sector-specific rules-based visas

The category of Sector-specific rules-based visas will be for temporary or low-skilled workers to fill industry specific job shortages, such as in the agricultural sector. Importantly, these visas will be required for both EU and non-EEA nationals and will not lead to UK settlement.
You may question how the Home Office will cope with the administration of the Sector-specific rules based visa and the processing of applications from both non-EEA nationals and EU citizens. The short answer is that the Home Office won't. The longer answer is that the administration of the visa category is planned to be outsourced to the Migration Advisory Committee. With an expanded job role, the MAC will try to balance reducing Immigration numbers with managing the needs of the UK economy.

Immigration planning

Whether you are an individual or a UK company, Immigration doesn’t usually just happen overnight. Individuals need to plan their move to the UK and employers need time to assess their recruitment needs. How does Immigration planning fit with the current government plans? Business groups such as the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses have said that the government plan does not say how the proposed new points based system will work and that is worrying when some firms need to already be planning their recruitment hires in 2021.

New Immigration principles

Although we may be short on detail on the three new planned visa categories what the government has clearly said is that:

• A fundamental principle of their new Immigration system is that the government will be in control of Immigration

• A full digital system will be introduced to help prove Immigration status and to assist with enforcement

• Visas will be time-limited and only those with skills or talent will be able to settle in the UK through applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain

• All visa applicants will need to pay the health surcharge for every year of their visa until they gain Settled Status

• EU and non-EEA citizens will be treated the same for Immigration purposes unless the EU national has permanent residence, Settled Status or Pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme

• The new Immigration points based system will be clear and easy for applicants and employers to understand and flexible so it can be adjusted according to the needs of the UK economy

• The MAC will advise annually on whether caps or incentives are required to assist with Immigration but the new Immigration system will prioritise people who can prove their knowledge of the English language, are skilled or are entrepreneurial and will be law abiding.

What next?

Whilst it is impossible to predict the future you can try to make sure that you, your family or your business is Brexit ready, especially now the government message is that Brexit will get done.
At central London OTS Solicitors the Brexit team of specialist Settled Status solicitors and Immigration lawyers can help advise you on your best Brexit options and help you with our same day Settled Status service. Alternatively, if you are in business and are concerned about how Brexit will impact on your recruitment needs and expansion plans then our business immigration solicitors can make sure your business is ‘Brexit proofed’ so you are ready to go. For information on how we can get you ready for Brexit call the Brexit team hotline on 0203 959 9123 or use our contact form.

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