The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid has announced in today’s immigration white paper that low-skilled workers from EU countries will not have the automatic right to work in the UK after Brexit. The department plans to phase in the new system from 2020.

Mr Javid added that the proposed rules would reduce net migration to a “sustainable level” and would be assessed on skills rather than where people came from.

Other proposals include:

  • Abandoning the cap on the number of skilled workers from the EU and elsewhere
  • Low-skilled workers may be able to apply for short-term visas of up to 12 months
  • EU visitors to the UK will not need visas

There will also be a consultation with businesses and employers on a proposed minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants from the EU seeking five-year visas.

The consultation comes after the business community and some members of the cabinet disapproved of the cap, citing concerns that it would hinder recruitment of staff particularly in the public sector. This rule already applies to non-EU workers.

Chris Brazier, business immigration lawyer comments:

Whilst it is the minimum salary level that has been the biggest talking point, businesses should be alive to the fact that, under the proposed system, they will be responsible for sponsoring any skilled migrant that they seek to employ. Unless there is a dramatic overhaul of the application process for obtaining a sponsor licence and simplification of the Sponsor Management System, this will place onerous obligations on businesses to obtain and maintain a licence.

Further, if the licence fee is retained at its current level (£1,476 for medium/large businesses) this cost, along with related visa application costs (such as the immigration skills surcharge) will undoubtedly increase recruitment and compliance costs for businesses, at a time when the availability of those skilled workers will be at its lowest. We can expect the CBI, IOD and FSB amongst others to be taking a very active role in the consultation that will follow in 2019.

Finally, it’s important to note that there have been no immigration plans announced under a no-deal Brexit (where there may be no Implementation Period). As this is now a very real possibility, businesses should encourage EU nationals to act quickly to obtain Settled Status once this is implemented and make sure any recruitment of non-resident EU nationals is completed before this date.

However, it is anticipated that there will not be an immediate restriction on free movement on the 29 March 2019 as an interim period will be needed due of the complexity of implementing a new system.

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