After 18 months of waiting, speculation, and fraught debate, we finally have it, the Government’s Immigration White Paper. The 168-page document sets out the government’s plans for a ‘future skills-based immigration system’, which will replace freedom of movement (excluding the Common Travel Area with Ireland), bringing EU and Non-EU citizens into the same immigration system. The new system won’t come in force until the transition period ends in 2021, and freedom of movement will continue until then. You can see REC’s immediate response here.
While there are still many unanswered questions, we were pleased to see recognition for the importance of ensuring the future system supports a flexible labour market and welcomed that a number of our recommendations to government have been heeded.
Reforms to the skilled (Tier-2) visa route
Following the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s recommendations to significantly reform the Tier-2 visa system to make it less bureaucratic and costly for employers, the government have committed to the following:
Year-long consultation on salary thresholds
Much of the press preceding the White Paper, was around the £30,000 salary threshold for a Tier-2 visa – this would effectively exclude many low pay roles in sectors such as hospitality, social care, and logistics. After much public pressure, the government have decided to have a year-long engagement process with business on what the salary threshold should be. This is a welcome concession, and REC will ensure REC member views are heard on this and we hope that the Government will listen.
New temporary shot-term work visa
In recognition that a number of sectors would find it difficult to adapt to the new system, the government are proposing a transitional measure, of a 12-month work visa. This will allow an individual to work at all skill levels, move between employers, and won’t require any sponsorship on behalf of employers. However, there will be a 12 month cooling off period, and these visas won’t lead to permanent settlement, or allow for switching to another visa. The government will consult with businesses on this proposal, and will review it in 2025. This is a step in the right direction but many questions still remain around the finer detail.
As further details emerge we will be consulting with members to see how this system would work in practice. Given the potential importance of the Shortage Occupation List in the new system it is important that members respond to the MAC’s call for evidence closing on the 6th January. To respond please go here