The Home Office published their White Paper on ‘the U.K.’s future skills-based immigration system’ on 19 December 2018. This long-awaited paper details the plans for the end of free movement, post-Brexit U.K. immigration system which is expected to be implemented commencing January 2021.
The White Paper proposes a single, skills-based immigration system, focusing on talent and expertise rather than country of origin. The White Paper proposes that it will bring EU workers within the existing Points Based System that applies to non-EU workers. It also appears to have accept almost all of the recommendations made by the influential Migration Advisory Committee earlier this year.
A summary of the White Paper’s proposed key points and changes includes the following:
- Disregarding Prime Minister Theresa May’s target to reduce net migration. The White Paper prefers instead to reduce net migration to “sustainable levels.”
- EU nationals will not be required to apply for a visa before visiting the U.K., just like non-visa nationals who are currently not required to apply for a visa, as long as there is a reciprocal arrangement for U.K. nationals seeking to visit the EU.
- Stricter criminality thresholds to be applied to EU nationals.
- No cap on the number of students coming to the U.K.
- All student visitors will require an Electronic Travel Authorisation prior to arriving in the U.K.
- Re-introduction of the post-study work scheme for students. Six months post-study leave for Bachelor’s or Master’s students, and 12 months post-study leave for PhD students.
- Students will be permitted to switch into Tier 2 up to three months prior to completing their course, and for two years after graduating. This includes students coming from outside of the U.K.
- To maintain the requirement for academic progression for student extensions.
- Expansion of the Youth Mobility routes beyond the current eight countries of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea and Taiwan.
- Removal of the Tier 2 annual cap for sponsored workers.
- Removal of the requirement to conduct the Resident Labour Market Test prior to sponsoring a worker.
- Reducing the minimum skill level required to sponsor a worker under the Tier 2 regime to include RQF levels 3-5. However, no separate low skilled worker route.
- Review with businesses, stakeholders and employers the minimum salary requirement of £30,000 per annum for Tier 2 sponsored workers, as well as reviewing the Shortage Occupation List across skill levels RQF3-6;
- Administrative burdens on sponsoring employers to be reviewed in order to make the system “as straightforward as possible”.
- Reduce the length of time to sponsor an overseas national to work in the U.K.
- Introduce a new “transitional” temporary short-term worker route for low risk country nationals with whom the U.K. has an agreement for a maximum of 12 months with a 12 month cooling off period. This route will have no right to bring dependants and no access to public funds. This route is not planned to be a sponsorship-based working visa. It is proposed to enable an individual to change employers from within the U.K. This route, if implemented, will be kept under review for the next few years with a full review in 2025.
- The ability to apply from within the U.K. for a work visa for low-risk country nationals. Not required to leave the U.K. to submit the application.
- A short-term agricultural worker route to be piloted in 2019.
- Introduction of innovative tech solutions to streamline operations. It is proposed to introduce electronic visas verifiable by airlines and border officials, digital checking services for employers and landlords, and automatic record of exit data.
- Sharing of data between government departments such as Department of Work & Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs and online immigration status checks;
- Visitors will continue to be permitted up to six months’ stay in the U.K. and permitted activities will be reviewed.
- No significant changes proposed for the family routes or for settlement criteria. What has been proposed is that the Life in the U.K. Test will be “refreshed” and there is an indication that the English language requirement will be reinforced.
- Maintaining immigration checks by employers, landlords and banks. However, it is proposed to introduce an electronic system to do these checks.
- No retrospective Right To Work checks required for EU nationals post-Implementation Period.
- Fees for using the immigration system will remain burdened on those applying for visas.
- No certainty on how the U.K.’s obligations will change under the EU Dublin Regulation, the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, or the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme. These discussions are continuing.
- Commitment to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review and the immigration detention reforms.
- Expanding access to e-gates for Australians, Canadians, Japanese, New Zealand, the U.S., Singapore and South Korea nationals.
Please note that the White Paper is not legally binding and is not yet set in stone. The U.K. Parliament will need to accept the proposed draft laws before it can take effect.
Faegre Baker Daniels will continue to monitor and advise on Brexit related developments as they occur in 2019.
This is a high-level summary of the White Paper. If you have any questions, please contact your FaegreBD lawyer for further information.