What does the budget mean for immigration?

Morton Fraser Partner Stuart McWilliams
Stuart McWilliams
26 March 2021

When the budget was announced recently, it contained a number of immigration measures designed to help businesses bring in key skills to help rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At this stage, we only have the headlines and we will need to wait for the exact details of any reforms but the key changes are likely to be:

  1. A new Points Based visa aimed at highly skilled individuals. The Home Office had already indicated that such a scheme would be introduced in the future, but the budget indicated that it would be introduced by March 2022. Previously, indications were that this route would appear in 2023 so it looks to have been accelerated. The budget also announced, for the first time, that it would include a fast track route for people with job offers from recognised scale ups.
  2. A widening of the Global Talent visa to allow holders of international awards and scholarships to move to the UK more easily.
  3. A new Global Business Mobility visa which will be introduced by Spring 2022. This will aim to make it easier for overseas businesses to establish a presence in the UK. This looks to be a potential replacement for the current Overseas Representative visa, and it will be interesting to see how it is implemented. The current visa option restricts the involvement of major shareholders when establishing the UK business, instead requiring them to use the more restrictive innovator or start up routes which require external sponsorship.
  4. Reviewing and amending the Innovator visa route. This is not unexpected as, since it replaced the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, there has been a significant decrease in the number of applications from people looking to establish a business in the UK.
  5. A specialist visa for Fintech companies to recruit talent from outside the UK. This is likely to be introduced later this year.

In my view, other than the Fintech visa, the other amended routes are unlikely to be available until early 2022 at the earliest. In the meantime, businesses looking to recruit from outside the UK will need to consider existing visa routes.

In most cases, this will mean using the Skilled Worker and Intra Company Transfer routes, which replaced Tier 2 visas in December 2020. These involve businesses, with Licences from the Home Office, sponsoring individuals to fill roles which require a level of skill equivalent to A Level or Higher qualifications or above. Each role has its own minimum salary requirement and lower salaries can be paid in some limited circumstances. As of March 2021, there are just over 33,000 businesses in the UK who hold such a Licence, and we expect this number to increase over the coming 12 months although we recommend businesses carefully consider whether they will be able to use a Licence before they make an application.

In some cases, individuals will qualify for visas based on their own personal circumstances, but businesses should take care when recruiting to avoid hiring someone who does not have the Right to Work in the UK. The current penalty for a business, with no previous illegal working issues, is a fine of £15,000 so any mistakes in the Right to Work process can be costly.

If your business is looking to recruit from outside the UK, or trying to understand how the new immigration system affects your current staff and recruitment plans, please get in touch. We offer support to businesses of all sizes and we specialise in business immigration matters.



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