What is the change? Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that people from Europe and the rest of the world will face the same immigration rules if they want to come to live or work in the U.K. after Brexit, heralding “an end to free movement for once and for all.”
What does the change mean? Employers can now expect the U.K. to have a single, unified immigration system for migrants from Europe and the rest of the world in which low-skilled migration is substantially cut and high-skilled migration prioritized, beginning in 2021. There will be no “preferential treatment” of EEA nationals under existing or renegotiated EU free-movement principles.
Below are the key provisions in the immigration plan.
- Travel: Business visitors and tourists from all “low risk” countries (e.g., the United States, Canada, Australia) will have passports scanned at e-gates on arrival to the U.K.– an expansion of the system currently available to EU citizens only. Additional bureaucracy when traveling from the U.K. to Europe remains possible and will presumably be announced by the EU following negotiations.
- Security: Criminal records checks will be carried out prior to entry to the U.K., similar to the U.S. system of prior authorization.
- Net Migration: The commitment to delivering “sustainable levels” of migration perpetuates the 100,000 net immigration target set by former Prime Minister David Cameron, despite being widely criticized.
- High-skilled work: Skill will be equated with salary and prioritized. Minimum salary levels for workers are expected to replace the Resident Labour Market test, to “ensure (migrants) are not competing with people already in the UK,” with the possibility of the current 20,700 quota being lifted to accommodate European Tier 2 migrants.
- Low-skilled work: Employers in care, hospitality, construction and other sectors have lobbied for sector-based systems to recognize the essential contribution of low-skilled labor. Other than the agricultural permit pilot announced earlier this month, May has ruled out making “lots of exceptions” for different industries. The expectation is that employers must bear the substantial cut in low-skilled migration post-Brexit.
- Dependents: Sponsored high-skilled workers should be able to bring their dependents under the existing Tier 2 rules. (Note: This means they would need to be sponsored.)
- Students: No cap will be applied to the number of Tier 4 student visas to maintain the current flow rate of students from Europe to British universities.
- EU mobility: A future trade deal with the EU could still include a reciprocal agreement on “mobility” of each other’s workers, but on similar terms as trade deals with other countries such as the U.S.
- Timing: New rules would be expected to take effect after any Brexit transition period, currently set to end Jan. 1, 2021, but are potentially at risk if Brexit negotiations yield a “no deal” outcome.
Background: Following the Migration Advisory Committee’s influential report on regulating European migrants in the U.K., the Cabinet had agreed to the principle that EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals should follow a single set of immigration rules once European “free movement” ends post-Brexit. Tuesday’s announcements detail government thinking on the U.K.’s post-Brexit immigration plan.
Analysis & Comments: Tuesday’s announcements are relevant to employers and individuals interested in the long-term plans for migration in the U.K. The government has already confirmed that the rights of EU citizens already living and working in the U.K. will be protected after Brexit and this announcement does not alter that position. The EU Settlement Scheme is already undergoing a pilot pending rollout prior to March 29, 2019, allowing these EU citizens and their family members to register with settled or pre-settled status and continue to live and work in the U.K. Employers must still await the conclusion of EU negotiations, expected in November, when a white paper should be published with comprehensive detail of the U.K.’s revised immigration system.
Source: Bal News