UNITED KINGDOM: Post-Brexit Immigration System - Update

At a recent event held by senior immigration policy officials, the Home Office affirmed its ongoing commitment toward an updated immigration system, to be introduced in January 2021.

Following the publication of a government white paper last December, as reported here by Newland Chase, the Home Office is undertaking an extensive 12-month programme of engagement with over 1500 stakeholders from the private, public and voluntary sectors, as part of its plan to help shape the policy and implementation of the new system.

What are the features of the proposed system?

The single, digital immigration system, encompassing all nationalities, aims to place emphasis on talent and skills, with greater priority for the highly skilled.

Skilled Workers

In line with recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the Tier 2 visa cap will be removed to make it easier for highly-skilled workers to come to the UK post Brexit.

Other reforms will see the Resident Labour Market Test scrapped and a minimum salary threshold likely to be set at £30k. The requirement to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of English will continue to apply.

The skilled route will be expanded to include jobs at RQF level 3, or A-level equivalent and above.

The Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer (ICT) category will maintain the £41,500 minimum salary threshold. This category will not lead to settlement, as per current rules, although there may be scope to allow in-country switching into Tier 2 General and Changes of Employment.

The Tier 2 cooling off period, which prohibits a return to the UK for a period of twelve months after the expiry of a Tier 2 visa, is to be reviewed.

Commentary: Although specific details are not yet available, the Home Office has indicated its intent to streamline the immigration system, with reduced interaction between UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and employers.

Coupled with an intended reduction in processing time for skilled worker applications to 2-3 weeks, there is a possibility that we could see a return to a system similar to that before the points-based system was introduced, whereby employers submit an application to the immigration authorities for consideration, rather than the self-administered scheme in place currently.

Visitors

After the UK leaves the EU, everyone from outside the UK and Ireland will need permission to travel to the UK.  

EU citizens will not require a visa, and will be able to use ePassport gates at the border.

As part of its process of engagement with stakeholders, the Home Office will also discuss whether the existing rules governing visitors should be simplified or extended, although the period of time for which visitors will able to come to the UK will remain at six months.

Temporary Workers

A Temporary Worker route will be created as a transitional measure to give businesses sufficient time to adapt to any new immigration system.

This route will be available to workers of any skill level from specified countries for a maximum of twelve months, and will include a cooling off period. The route will not lead to settlement.

Students

As per the current arrangements, there will be no cap on the numbers of overseas students wishing to study in the UK.

As per recommendations from the MAC, students that have completed their master’s degree in the UK will get a six-month extension of post-study leave, while PhD students will have one year.

Commentary: The proposals bear a resemblance to immigration policy from the early 2000s, and it appears the new system will exercise a degree of flexibility in order to adapt to emerging trends in the post-Brexit economy. That said, once the economic outlook is more positive, it is likely that an eventual re-tightening of the provisions will be introduced.

Our Advice

The above is, as yet, a series of proposals and, upon the conclusion of the stakeholder engagement process, are subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

Current UK sponsors should ensure they are fulfilling their compliance obligations under existing UK immigration rules.  Employers concerned about UK immigration rules post Brexit are encouraged to contact their Newland Chase specialist for more specific advice.

For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to the UK, please email us at enquiries@newlandchase.com

Darren Faife has over 20 years’ experience of UK immigration and is a frequent speaker at industry events. Together with Tony Butterworth, Darren leads Newland Chase’s extensive corporate immigration practice in the UK. He can be contacted by email at darren.faife@newlandchase.com or visit our website at Newland Chase.