May 24, 2017

Reducing net migration: what can we expect?

Business immigration

The proposals on how the Conservatives will cut net migration are thin on the ground, particularly given their commitments to attract the “brightest and the best” from around the world to work in Britain, and to ensure that our world class universities can “attract international students”.

What can we expect?

If the Conservatives win on 8 June, they intend to “bear down” down on immigration from outside the EU, with a heavy financial burden on employers seeking to employ international workers. Employers sponsoring a migrant under the points based system will pay an additional £5,000 under the Skills Charge for a worker with a five-year visa - an increase of 50%.  The Immigration Health Surcharge will be increased to £600 per year for workers, while students will pay £450 per year.

These proposals follow sweeping changes in April 2017 aimed at deterring businesses from employing overseas talent. As well as the introduction of the Skills Charge, which currently costs large employers £1,000 a year for each migrant, the minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 (general) workers was increased from £25,000 to £30,000 per annum.

To avoid having to advertise a vacant position under the Resident Market Labour Test, a business will now have to pay a non-EU worker at least £159,600 per annum.  And the minimum salary threshold for migrants coming to the UK under the Intra Company Transfer route has been increased to £41,500 per annum.

What is still to come?

We still don’t know whether the Tories plan to introduce visas for EU workers already in the UK and those coming to the UK after Brexit, although it looks increasingly likely. They have pledged to allow the 140,000 EU workers to carry on working in the health and social care sectors so sector specific visas may be inevitable. While the Party has stated that it will address skills shortages, it has not outlined the steps it proposes to take, nor how it proposes to deal with the huge numbers of EU workers who carry out low skilled but fundamental jobs in industries like farming, food production, construction, and in the retail and leisure sectors.

What you can do!

Don't wait for 8 June before you seek professional legal advice on immigration and support with the following to help protect your business:

  • the implications of Brexit, as well as recent and proposed immigration changes
  • workforce audits to check the nationality and immigration status of your staff
  • providing internal advice and support to your workforce to boost confidence, and dispel fear and anxiety
  • incentives to recruit and retain international and EU workers, including access to legal advice, assistance with permanent residence/citizenship applications, and financial contribution to visa fees.
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