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Government Publishes Post-Brexit Immigration Plan

on Thursday, 20 December 2018.

The government has finally published its White Paper setting out its plan for the immigration system after Brexit.

Sponsorship Required for EU Citizens

The government proposes that EU workers would in future have to earn a minimum salary in a job skilled to A-level or above to be sponsored for a UK work visa.

 'Low-skilled' workers not meeting these criteria would be restricted to short-term visas of one year at a time.

The proposals adopt many of the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), published in September.

Amendments to the Points-Based System

Workers from European Economic Area (EEA) countries will be required to obtain immigration permission in order to come to the UK to live and work, in the same way as non-EU workers.

Adjustments to the existing Points-Based System - as suggested by the MAC - have been proposed, which include:

  • Removing the existing (and some might say counter-productive) cap on sponsored work visas.
  • Reducing the skills threshold from level 6 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (degree-level) to level 3 (A-level).
  • Abolishing the requirement for employers to advertise roles before sponsoring skilled workers (the Resident Labour Market Test).
    The MAC and government say this does not offer protection against employers relying on migrant workers, instead serving in practice as a delay in the process. They prefer the idea of additional fees in the form of the Immigration Skills Charge to make employers think twice about sponsoring migrants.
  • Reducing the bureaucratic burden on sponsoring employers.

Minimum Salary

The MAC had proposed a minimum salary of £30,000 for workers sponsored on this basis, but this is the only recommendation which has not been adopted.

Prior to the publication of the White Paper, rumours of a rift in the Cabinet over this issue were reported, so instead of proposing a minimum salary, the government will instead consult over what level the minimum salary should be set at.

'Low Skilled' Worker Visas

The government proposes immigration routes for 'low skilled' workers as a transitional measure to support sectors which have come to rely on workers from the EU.

This immigration route will consist of a 12-month working visa followed by a cooling off period of a further 12 months to prevent workers effectively working here permanently.

Additionally, such workers will not be able to switch to other immigration categories, bring family members or qualify for permanent residence.

Graduate Employers and International Students

For graduate employers, the White Paper states that the government will:

"… improve the current offer to those who have completed a degree who want to stay on in the UK to work after they have completed their studies, by offering six months’ post-study leave to all master’s students, and bachelor’s students studying at an institution with degree awarding powers – giving them more time to find permanent skilled work and to work temporarily during that period. Those who have completed a PhD will have a year."

International students studying in the UK at degree-level and above will also be permitted to switch into the skilled worker route up to three months before the end of their course, and from outside of the UK for two years after their graduation.

Business Visitors

No substantive changes to the visitor route are proposed, although the government promises to consult on whether the current arrangements can be improved to reflect business need.

What Next?

The new immigration system will be phased in between now and the end of the Brexit transition period, with further reforms to follow.

For further information on immigration issues affecting your business, please contact Tom Brett Young in our Immigration team, on 0121 227 3759, or complete the form below.

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