Chapter 3 | New Points-Based Immigration System and changes to sending your workers to the EU
I'm going to look now at the post Brexit immigration system. What does this look like? Effectively a new points-based immigration system has been introduced to replace the previous scheme, which was also called a point base system but was more complex and relatively inflexible. Free movement ends for EEA nationals and therefore they are brought under the new scheme and they don't receive any preferential treatment under the new regime, so everybody is treated the same regardless what country they're from. To an extent the new scheme will be a smoother system, which is apparently going to work faster and more flexible for migrant workers to the UK, that'll apply obviously to those from outside the EU but there will be a increased cost and regulatory burden for employers recruiting EU nationals due to the ending of free movement. I've drawn out here some of the key points about the new immigration system and and the various routes that employers will be interested in knowing about. It's a single system as I said for EU and non-EU nationals and there's a new skilled workers route, which replaced the previous tier 2 general visa that you may have come across in the past and this route is open to all nationalities. As I mentioned the home office hopes that the new
system will be simpler and faster than the previous points base system. From the number of applications I've assisted on recently it has been relatively quick and effective but it's also clear that home office officials are still getting to grips with the system and some of the new rules and we've had queries coming back on applications where we've had to go and say actually if you look at the new rules this is what it says and the application should be approved and then they are fairly swiftly to do that. Just to flag that up, as they get the grips with it there can be some delay at times. There's a new cap on the number of migrants under the new system, previously there was an annual cap and it divided down into a monthly cap and and that on occasion did cause concern with applications and getting processed, it was less of an issue towards the end of it but it's good to know that there's no cap in place now You also may have heard about the resident labour market test or have experience of that under the old scheme, it was a fairly onerous test where employers had to go through a recruitment process and advertise rules and basically demonstrate to the home office that they couldn't recruit from the domestic labour market and that's been done away with, so that's helpful it removes one administrative burden in terms of bringing in a migrant under this new scheme. I've a flagged here the global talent route that previously exists, it's in a similar form it remains largely the same and provides a route of entry for leaders in the fields of academia research, arts and culture and digital technology, where an individual has been endorsed by certain accredited bodies as a leader in those fields or a potential leader.
It's worth bearing in mind that there depending on your field and what you're looking to bring a person in the skilled worker route is going to be largely the key one but that global talent is something that's worth knowing about, likewise the inter-company transfer this can be very useful, particularly for companies with a number of businesses or a number of group entities across EU countries such as the Netherlands and the States have helped a number of businesses in those circumstances apply for a sponsorship license for inter company transfers and go through the visa application process. It allows reasonably easy transfer of people into the UK on effectively a medium-term basis to fill skills gaps or lead out the development of businesses here, so where in the past businesses may have had a Dutch group company with key individuals that traveled here regularly to assist the business in the UK or Northern Ireland that won't necessarily be possible due to the ending of free movement but the intercompany transfer may provide a valuable option to bring someone into the UK for effectively a few years. There's a new health and care visa that's been introduced, this has actually been with us from the 4th of August 2020 and has been retained under the new scheme and it presents a faster and relatively cheaper route of entry into UK for healthcare professionals working for eligible employers and if you work in that field, it's definitely worth taking a closer look at and it could be very beneficial in terms of getting quick and ready access to migrant labour. There's also a new graduate visa, which is to launch
in summer of this year and this will enable international students to extend their stay in the UK following graduation for up to two years after a degree or three years after a PHD with no restriction on the type of work they can do. I'd flag this because it doesn't require a sponsorship initially and may have an impact on employers looking at graduate recruitment and so you don't need to be turned off by the fact that somebody is maybe in the UK on an education visa they will basically be able to at least stay for two years without a sponsored visa to work and then you can look at whether you need to transfer them onto a skilled worker visa and on that note I'd actually flag that another key development which is on the slide is that there's a significant policy shift on switching and switching means changing between different types of immigration visas when in the UK and previously there's quite a lot of restriction on that but this will now be allowed in most cases and the flexibility this presents is really very welcome. One of the key aspects of the new scheme is that there's no provision for any low-skilled work visas and I've referenced here though the seasonal workers pilot as many employers and particularly in the the agri-food sector do rely on migrant labour, this seasonal workers pilot is still running for 2021, there's no guarantees that will continue to run but it's really the only route of entry at the minute for loose gold workers. Ultimately the present sponsorship system will remain the same, so those who held a tier two general sponsorship license under the old scheme will be transferred automatically across the new scheme and the home office has suggested that over the next five years the sponsorship system will be simplified further.
We've assisted a lot of employers at the minute and applying for sponsorship licenses, it's even to keep options open in terms of recruitment over the coming years, it's quite a straightforward application, there can be some complexity around some of the questions in the application in terms of understanding what you're applying for, in terms of the the various locations of your company and the type and the setup of your business in the UK and also I would flag that it can be quite difficult to get the correct supporting documentation in place. There is supporting documentation guidance that you really do need to look at when an application is being made and then whenever you go through the online application form the submission sheets generated at the end with a few tick boxes on supporting documentation and the list it offers a very simplified description of the documentation that you need to provide and if you don't look at the guidance you won't be able to provide the correct document in most cases. We help quite a lot of organisations look at that to make sure that they're providing the correct documentation just flag that. Looking at the skilled worker visa in a bit more detail because this is the one that most employers are going to be considering, this is the key route for workers entering the UK post-Brexit. Migrants need to meet a number of criteria and score sufficient points in order to qualify for the visa, I'm not going to go into the criteria in detail but unlike the prior system, which was point base to name only there is an element of flexibility around how the points are allocated and in total migrants must score 70 points. 50 of the points are in three mandatory and non-tradable criteria, basically they must have a job offer from a home office licensed sponsor, the job must be at an appropriate skill level so that's RQF3 or above, that's A level or equivalent and they must have English language skills at level B1 on the common European framework of reference for languages, which is an intermediate level and then the next 20 points are tradeable, they can be made up of combination of points based on their salary, whether the jobs in a shortage occupation or if they hold a relevant PHD or if they're aged under 26 and classified as a new entrant to the labour market, so that you can then reduce the salary level that they're going to attract and traded off against some of those additional criteria.
The minimum salary thresholds apply unless the going rate for the job is higher, so a flag the salaries there at £25,600 or £20,480 if the going rate for the job on the appendix the immigration rules, which sets out standard occupational codes is higher then that's what you need to pay, so it's worth if you're thinking about recruiting and you're going to have to look outside the UK, it's worth looking at that list to see if the job is firstly at the required skill level and on that list and then what the going rate for the job is and in most cases if it is a skilled job the rates are fairly reasonable, the going rates are not generally excessive, it is worth looking at that list and when you are recruiting, if you think that you're going to need to look outside the domestic labour market, it's also worth bearing in mind that the home office may vary the tradeable points criteria in future, there's frequent updates and reviews of migration to the UK and if the advice comes through to government that they need to change this in order to address some imbalance then the tradeable points criteria could be changed. It's worth keeping an eye on that if you are regularly going to recruit from outside the UK. I've highlighted some cost considerations here as well for employers, there really are significant costs for employers who are recruiting EU nationals because in the past this has been effectively free, so one of the most significant changes I've mentioned is the minimum salary thresholds that apply but employers also need to pay for and manage their compliance under an EU sponsorship license, the cost of the license isn't generally excessive, you get a license for four years before you need to renew it and the cost spreads itself out over that period to quite a low level really, if you have that in place and you keep your options open really but where you are sponsoring an individual there is the £199 sponsorship charge that applies to each migrant worker that you issue certificate of sponsorship to, then there's the costs of recruitment with the sponsorship skills charge of a £1,000 or £364 if you're a small employer per year of the visa an immigration health surcharge, which is £624 pounds per worker per year and not to mention the visa fees themselves. There is a cost involved in this and employers need to be aware of that and budget accordingly if they think they're going to have to look outside the UK for workers and I suppose while the change in the system is a significant increase in the cost of recruitment from the EU it should ultimately reduce the cost and regulatory burden for employing those from outside the EU that you will have experienced in the past, to look at the bright side.
I'm just going to look very quickly now at sending workers to the EU. We've looked very closely at the changes on migrant workers coming into the UK into Northern Ireland to work here but what if your business needs to send staff members to the EU, say you have contracts where you have to service in France or Germany - Can you still send your staff there to work? There's effectively similar changes in reverse, is the best way to describe it in terms of those who you're coming into the UK versus those where you're sending UK nationals abroad to work. Some of the key points, passports of staff, they must have at least six months left in order to travel into the EU to work. I've flagged travel insurance that covers healthcare, so obviously
everybody here will have previously had an e-heck card, there's going to be a new g-heck card, which will thankfully provide very similar cover that people had previously but it's worth having a look at your travel insurance and ensuring that you're confident that employees are adequately covered. I've flagged driving documentation, so a lot of people will have received the green card and listen to car insurance, if they're going to drive their own car across the border, it's worth flagging that with employees if they will be driving their own vehicle. In most cases normal driving licenses will be fine but there are some exceptions to that where people have paper licenses and an international driving permit would be required, so just to flag that as well. Tourism is effectively, there's no need for a visa as long as a person is only in the EU for 90 days in the 180 day period but for work, study and business travel country specific rules will apply. In most cases UK nationals will need a work permit in order to enter an EU country for the purposes of work and it is going to vary depending on the country that you're going to, it will depend very much on the rules that they have, for example; the Netherlands, they have a work permit where you're going to be working there for less than 90 days and you apply for that but if you're going to work there for more than 90 days then you would need a residence and a combined work permit. When you're sending staff abroad to the EU
you need to check the country specific rules that apply, you need to get advice in terms of how many rules will need to be met in order to send your staff there and I must flag that that applies to British nationals, UK nationals that you're sending. Irish nationals will retain free movement, so you may have staff members that would be traveling under an Irish passport and in the short term that doesn't present any issues. I do mention that and I say you need to be careful because you have to also look at your operational setup in terms of we have free movement workers but we also have to look at the freedom to provide services in another member state which is lost through Brexit. If your company is providing services in another member state you may need to look at how you're doing that, what your contractual framework is, that's kind of outside the scope of this talk but it's something to consider. Lastly, I've just flagged that there's recognition of professional qualifications, you just need to be careful of, that may change, I think there's a lot of reciprocity in terms of recognition of professional qualifications in most cases but if you've any concerns about that in terms of whether your staff can actually perform their functions in another member state you should check the national authorities, the regulatory bodies that apply in each member state and make sure that you don't have any issues there.
Looking finally at some key actions for businesses, it is really crucial that businesses do look at these issues and try to manage any of the uncertainty that they may still face even though Brexit has taken place and just continue to keep on top of the situation as potential impacts develop. A key thing is to look at your workforce makeup you'll want to take action probably to prevent EU worker attrition and keep on top of turnover staff and plan for future recruitment whether that's from within the UK or outside the UK and ultimately ensuring that you have a competitive edge in terms of your staff and taking on board obviously the potential impact on costs and budgets. It's worth looking at your present recruitment practices and developing those strategies for staff retention, looking at salary levels building in lead time for visa application processes and the costs involved in that as I've mentioned how you're going to continue to service contracts in the EU - Have you developed a plan to give yourself operational flexibility and sought advice on how to ensure employees have the right to work in any particular EU member state? What are your workforce planning options? Do you need to apply for a sponsorship license? We recommend that you do if there's any chance you're going to recruit from outside the UK if the skill level of roles is up, that A level equivalent or above demand is likely to impact decision time frames as the new system is brought into effect over the coming months and for a relatively small upfront cost now you can obtain a license that will be valid for four years and give you that flexibility and then also you need to keep up to date with development changes to future guidance and particularly in terms of right to work checks - How is that going to look from June 2021 on? Ensure that your policy is up to date, ensure that the staff who are responsible for implementing them know what the policy is and what they should be doing. Those are key issues that you need to take a closer look at.