Immigration after the Coronavirus

Morton Fraser Partner Stuart McWilliams
Stuart McWilliams
09 July 2020

Since March, we’ve all wondered what the future would be like. At first, people asked how long lockdown would last, and the short to mid-term economic impact. Now, as the UK starts to ease restrictions, thoughts are turning to the long term and what life will be like in the coming years. 

My colleague Alan Stewart wrote an interesting article on trends in Real Estate, and that got me thinking about the future trends in immigration. The next 12 months was already due to be one of upheaval for immigration lawyers, with a new immigration system coming into force in January 2021 but Covid-19 means more change. As with everything coronavirus related, there are likely to be a few twists and turns before things settle, but here are my predictions for immigration in the "new normal":

  1. Net migration will fall, but it won’t be permanent. It seems clear that this will be a low migration year. Many visa centres are still closed and many businesses are postponing international assignments until the position with travel is clearer. However, it's worth remembering that during the last economic crisis, migration to the UK was still over 500,000 a year. As restrictions ease we'll see the number of visa applications increase and I expect there to be a spike in work related visas, as UK businesses recruit skills to help them recover.
  2. The Global Talent Visa will become more popular. Recent changes were made to make this visa category more popular, and it offers an excellent route into the UK for experts in digital technology, engineering, science and medicine (all fields that will likely be a focus of the economic recovery). With EU nationals moving to the UK from 2021 onwards needing a visa, this route may be the way to bring key skills into the country.
  3. There will be pressure to reform the Innovator and Start Up visa categories. These visas replaced the Graduate Entrepreneur and Entrepreneur visas in 2019, but uptake for the Innovator visa has been low. In the first year of the new category, there were less than 200 successful applications for the Innovator visa and it has been argued thatthe endorsement criteria does not attract potential businesses to the UK.

    As the UK looks to attract investment to stimulate growth, we can expect to see discussions about reforming this route. Alternatively, we may see greater focus on the Points Based System Unsponsored Route that is due to open in 2022 or 2023, as this will create a new route for business owners to move to the UK.
  4. There will be an increase in Spouse Visa applications. The Coronavirus has led to a global economic downturn, and unfortunately that means many UK nationals abroad may lose their jobs. After lockdown, and being unable to travel to see their families, some are likely to decide to return to the UK, potentially bringing non UK family members with them. These applications are not straightforward, and the financial requirement can be tricky for those without concrete job offers. We may see concessions, or a greater reliance on Human Rights in these applications.

As an immigration lawyer, I’m used to the landscape changing on a regular basis. I’ve spent 10 years dealing with ever changing Immigration Rules and policies, and I expect the next few years will continue the trend as the Immigration Rules are altered to fit the new normal.

Whatever happens, we can help people navigate the system and secure long term rights to live in the UK, so if you are thinking about moving to the UK, or looking to remain here after the Coronavirus, please get in touch to find out how we can help.



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