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The new points-based immigration system designed to replace freedom of movement with the EU has passed its second reading in Parliament. The immigration bill was approved by 351 votes to 252 – mainly due to the large Conservative majority in the House of Commons. The new immigration system is expected to be implemented for the 1 January 2021 treating both EU and non-EU nationals equally under the points-based system.
Home secretary Priti Patel said the proposed new immigration system will be “firmer, fairer and simpler” and would “lay the foundation for a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy”. Critics argue the new rules will be too restrictive for key sectors including care, food production and supermarkets.
Key changes once the new immigration system comes into play on 1 January 2021 include:
Labour’s shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has criticised the Government’s salary threshold of £25,600 for “highly skilled” workers arguing that anyone earning less would be regarded under the new immigration system to be unskilled and unable to live and work in the UK. He commented “Are shop workers unskilled? Are refuse collectors unskilled? Are local government workers? Are NHS staff? Are care workers? Of course they are not.” Conservative former immigration minister Caroline Nokes told MPs she supported free movement but called for an extension of visas for care workers and warned that the bill should be phased in or risk staff shortages across crucial sectors.
Former Siemens CEO Juergen Maier and economist Vicky Pryce, signed a letter to the Home Secretary which was published by the Independent: “Preparing for the new system was already a huge challenge for employers, even before we were also facing the coronavirus pandemic… Many of us will have to adapt our recruitment policies, enhance our HR functions and adjust our budgets to reflect the big extra costs of visa fees, the immigration skills charge and the immigration health surcharge.”
One thing for sure is that Boris Johnson’s flagship post-Brexit immigration plans whether employers like it or not, will almost certainly be introduced from 1 January 2021 now that the crucial second reading has been passed. MigrationWatch UK boss Alp Mehmet confirmed the likeliness of the new immigration system being introduced: ”the government seem to be sticking to immigration proposals that have been overtaken by the Covid-19 crisis. As their own impact assessment suggests, the proposed system may well drive an increase in immigration.”
How can employers prepare for the inevitable introduction of the new immigration system from 1 January 2021?
It should be noted over 30,000 companies in the UK already hold a sponsor licence with the Home Office for hiring global talent. For EU citizens arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021, they will be subject to new UK immigration rules. EU citizens will be able to visit the UK for up to 6 months but will not be permitted to work and will be subjected to the same visa rules as non-EU citizens. Where employers recruit from either the EU or outside the EU, they will need to submit an application to sponsor these workers under the new system, currently called Tier 2. However, prior to being able to sponsor an EU or non-EU citizen, employers must have in place a sponsor licence with the Home Office. The sponsor licence can be used to recruit both EU and non-EU citizens under the new immigration system.
Given the significance of the changes from 1 January 2021, we anticipate a rush of sponsor licence applications from employers who will need to recruit skilled EU workers from the start of next year. Organisations with the immigration rule changes may also begin to source talent from outside the EU for the first time. At Cleaver Fulton Rankin, we are able to assist you in this process of obtaining a sponsor licence with the Home Office. We have experience in helping companies within a diverse range of sectors and sizes when applying for a sponsor licence and having this successfully approved. A key aspect of the sponsor licence application process is ensuring that as an organisation compliance obligations are followed stringently. This is because at any stage of holding the licence the Home Office can attend your offices to carry out a compliance audit. We regularly advise our clients on key areas to protect the licence once granted.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our immigration team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.