TheCityUK, an industry-led body representing UK-based financial and related professional services, in association with one of the big four, namely Ernst & Young, have published a report proffering their views on the future of the UK’s immigration system and, in particular, post-Brexit access to overseas talent.
In light of concerns raised by employers that the current points-based system and the mechanisms by which it operates might not be appropriate for the UK post-Brexit, the report proposes a new streamlined immigration system that leverages off the Tier 2 programme currently in place, but also incorporates a number of key changes which include:
- A new flexible short-term immigration system allowing international staff to transfer to their employer's UK office for up to six months without applying for a visa prior to travelling, thus giving companies a more agile global workforce.
- The creation of an independent Skills Advisory Board responsible for, inter alia, monitoring and reviewing the annual limits on migration and the formation and operation of the Shortage Occupation List. The rationale here is that said independent body would help to ‘de-politicise’ policy decisions responsible for skilled, employer sponsored migration.
- Allowing employers to sponsor visas for medium-skilled roles that do not currently qualify for sponsorship if the applicant possesses additional “top-up” characteristics i.e. they have the potential to become highly skilled workers. These “top-up” characteristics would be set by the aforementioned Skills Advisory Board on an annual basis, in consultation with industry, to reflect the individual skills that are high in demand. Such a change aims to offer employers a greater level of staffing flexibility.
- The introduction of new Dynamic Shortage Occupation List to provide employers with a mechanism by which they can report acute skills shortages. After an independent assessment of the facts in line with a set of agreed criteria, where appropriate, the relevant role would be added to the Dynamic Shortage Occupation List. This would serve to bolster the existing Shortage Occupation List which would remain in place and focus on long-term shortages.
- The introduction of a STEM Post-Study Work visa scheme to enable graduates in STEM subjects to work in the UK for up to two years after graduation. Holders of this visa would not require sponsorship from an employer but would be expected to work in a STEM field for at least 12 months during the two year validity of the visa.
These are just a few of the changes being suggested by TheCityUK. The report and recommendations can be found in their entirety at: https://www.thecityuk.com/assets/2018/Reports-PDF/The-UKs-future-immigration-system-and-access-to-talent.pdf.
Brexit is just around the corner and with it comes apprehension and uncertainty around the future of the UK immigration system. This report by TheCityUK aims to allay some of these concerns by offering recommendations for a fair and flexible post-Brexit immigration policy that will encourage talent to come to and remain within the UK. It certainly recognises that indiscriminately applying the current immigration system for non-European citizens to European citizens after Brexit is unlikely to work and that a more considered and nuanced approach may be required. However, whether the Migration Advisory Committee takes its suggestions into account before publishing its report in October is impossible to say.