Chetal Patel, Partner in our Immigration team, has commented on the latest government announcement on forthcoming changes to the UK’s immigration system.

The new immigration framework, inspired by the Australian points-based system, will fundamentally change the current immigration arrangements, with UK borders soon to be completely closed to non-skilled workers.

Responding to today’s announcement, Chetal Patel, Partner said:

“Previous governments have wanted to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. Historically, we’ve seen the government trying to fuss around the edges of immigration policy to keep a lid on net migration. It seems like this latest overhaul of our immigration system will be more severe and there will be more casualties as the government want to attract the ‘brightest and the best’.

“We’ve had a decline in EU migration since 2016 but that isn’t surprising. In my view that’s down to two things, it’s the ripple effect following the EU referendum result and the political uncertainty in the UK. The number of non-EU nationals coming for work reasons has remained stable over the last two years. 

“These figures suggest that, while the UK remains an attractive location for many EU and non-EU nationals looking for employment, there is a growing awareness that the door through which workers of all skill levels can come to the UK is closing. Take the low skilled workers, we know that the government will not introduce a visa for these roles so businesses and individuals will need to ‘adapt and adjust’ to the new immigration system. As some sectors are going to be severely disrupted by this, will some organisations move elsewhere or fold all together? 

“As pieces of the future immigration system had been missing, a number of businesses had brought forward recruitment plans to ensure that key staff had status that is recognised under either EUSS or the current points based system. This provided some security at a time when there was no real clarity as to what the future would hold. Do we have more clarity now?

“The government intends to open key routes from Autumn this year in anticipation of individuals applying for a visa ahead of the new system kicking in at the beginning of 2021. Employers who are not currently registered as sponsor licence holders are encouraged to apply now for a sponsor licence if they want to have the privilege of sponsoring skilled workers, including EU nationals in 2021. The process of getting a sponsor licence is not just a tick box exercise; businesses need to have the correct systems in place to comply with their sponsor duties and need to have key people within the UK organisation to administer the sponsorship process. This is by no means easy and smaller businesses with tighter purse strings or less infrastructure may struggle. 

“A concern for businesses over the years has been the huge costs associated with work visas. These costs are here to stay for now as the government has confirmed that the Immigration Health Surcharge and the business levy on companies known as the Immigration Skills Charge will remain. 

“It appears that there will be further iterations of the system as the Home Office will continue to ‘refine the system’. Surely this is going to mean more work for businesses?

“It’s clear that the government needs to urgently provide more details on what the points-based system will entail from 1 January 2021 and the “comprehensive” campaign needs to be launched sooner rather than later. Businesses and individuals need time to adjust to the new regime. The engagement process will be critical.

“Whilst the government acknowledges the new system will bear significant changes for employers, my concern is that the suggestions of a more streamlined and simplified route will not go far enough.”

If you’d like additional written comment, or would like to speak with Chetal concerning this story or any other immigration-related topics, please contact Sam Hunter, Senior Press Officer, on +44 (0)20 7551 7906 or [email protected]