In the event of a deal, anyone who comes to the UK before the end of December 2020 will be covered by the same registration system as existing residents, but we also know what will happen in the event of a no deal Brexit.
As yet, there is still no clarity on what system will apply from January 2021 onwards. The Home Office initially published a White Paper suggesting that the new system would be based on the current system for non EU nationals. This would involve businesses sponsoring workers, and having to pay a minimum salary to ensure that the system could not be used to bring cheap labour into the country. The Home Office are continuing to hold consultations about this proposal but it appears increasingly unlikely to come into force. The paper placed an emphasis on reducing the burden on employers and making sponsorship easier.
At the recent Conservative Party Conference, the Home Secretary announced the UK would look into introduce a new Points Based system, which would be a significant departure from the White Paper. Although details are still to be published, the announcement is interesting for a number of reasons:
- Technically, the UK already has a Points Based system for some visas, including work related Tier 2 visas. This was introduced in 2008 but over time the requirements have changed and it is a points based system in name only. The last true points based category was the Tier 1 (General) visa but this was closed in 2015 due to concerns it was not being used by skilled workers.
The announcement suggests that the UK is considering a fundamental rethink of immigration law, and we may see the return of some old categories.
In recent years, the UK system has placed a greater emphasis on visas being sponsored by employers and other bodies. For example:
- Tier 2 and many Tier 5 visas need to be sponsored by an employer;
- Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs need to be sponsored by Universities; and
- Tier 1 Start Up and Innovator visas need to be sponsored by official bodies.
A Points Based system may still have a place for sponsorship, but traditionally they rely on candidates qualifying for visas on the basis of their skills and qualifications rather than job offers. This would be an equally effective, but different, way of reducing the burden on employers so it is consistent with the theme of the White Paper.
- While the focus of UK immigration law has been to reduce net migration in recent times, Points Based systems are generally used to increase the number of skilled workers in a particular area.
It remains to be seen what changes happen after Brexit, but there are positive signs for employers. Many of the potential changes would see a reduction in the burden on employers who have become increasingly used to acting as immigration enforcement officers.
Unfortunately, until more is known it is difficult for businesses to plan for a new system. Therefore the current emphasis should be on taking steps to secure the rights of their existing workforce to avoid large skills gaps after Brexit.
If you have any questions about what practical steps you can be taking now, or the future immigration system please get in touch.