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UK immigration system post-Brexit

Just before Christmas, the Government published a White Paper on its proposed future skills-based immigration system.

The full paper can be read here.

Its key points are:

  • There will no longer be one immigration system for non-Europeans and another for EU citizens
  • Priority will be given to skilled migrants
  • The new system will not come into play on 29 March when the UK leaves the EU – rather it will take effect, in a phased way, at the end of the Implementation Period as agreed in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement (which is still to be approved by Parliament). The Implementation Period is proposed to end on 31 December 2020


EU Settlement Scheme (further information available here)

  • In the meantime, the Government will implement the EU Settlement Scheme which will give EU citizens protected by the Withdrawal Agreement security as to their future status
  • Irish Citizens will not need to apply for this as their current rights to live and work in the UK are preserved in the Common Travel Area
  • The Settlement Scheme will be opened to all other eligible EU and EFTA Citizens by 29 March
  • The Settlement Scheme will be open until 6 months after the end of the Implementation Period
  • The Settlement Scheme establishes the principle that EU Citizens must obtain a specific, individual permission to stay on in the UK after the end of the Implementation Period
  • The application is fully digital with EU Citizens immigration status recorded in a digital database – thus making it easier to share with employers
  • EU Citizens who have been living continuously in the UK for 5 years will be eligible for settled status
  • EU Citizens who arrive before the end of the Implementation Period, but have not yet been here for 5 years, will be eligible for pre-settled status, enabling them to stay until they have accumulated 5 years, after which they may apply for settled status
  • Close family members will be able to join an EU Citizen in the UK at any time in the future


What happens next?

  • The Government will introduce the Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill to end free movement and protect the status of Irish Citizens once free movement ends (end of 2020)
  • Future immigration arrangements for EU Citizens will be set out in UK Immigration Rules as is the case now for non-EU nationals. The proposed visa routes will be opened in Autumn 2020
  • The revised UK Immigration Rules will be published in a year or so, to allow for proper consultation on their detail


What detail is available on the proposed future system now?

  • Following the Implementation Period those who intend to work, study or join family in the UK will need permission to do so – normally in the form of an electronic status which must be obtained before coming to the UK
  • For simplicity, this rule will apply to all non-UK or Irish Citizens
  • The new digital checking service – already available for non-EU nationals, makes it easier for employers to confirm an individual’s rights and eligibility, based on their immigration status
  • Currently a dual system of admittance exists – high skilled workers from outside the EU and workers of all skill levels from the EU
  • A single route will be created instead of this – giving employers access to highly skilled and skilled workers from all countries
  • Those coming on this route will need an employer to sponsor them
  • Such individuals will also be allowed to bring their dependents, extend their stay and, in some cases, settle permanently
  • There will be no cap on the number of skilled workers
  • Employers should not use migrant labour, however, to put downward pressure on wages where there is a ready supply of labour. That being said, the Government will no longer require employers of skilled migrants to carry out a resident labour market test as a condition of sponsoring a worker
  • The Government intends to process the great majority of work visas within 2-3 weeks
  • The new skilled route will include workers with intermediate level skills – this is defined as RQF 3-5 level, A level or equivalent
  • The minimum salary threshold will stay at £30,000
  • However, the Migration Advisory Committee is currently looking at the Shortage Occupation List and the compilation of a Northern Ireland-specific one – this is an ongoing consultation which the Federation is making a submission to. The MAC will report in the spring
  • There is no specific route for low skilled workers
  • However, in construction, the Government recognises that some employers would find it hard to immediately adapt. Therefore there will be a time-limited route for temporary short-term workers. This route will allow people to come for a maximum of 12 months, with a cooling off period for a further 12 months
  • All applicants will pay a fee for their work visa
  • Other than what has been outlined, there will be no sectoral specific schemes – except potentially for agricultural work
  • A full review will be conducted in 2025
  • In an economic appraisal of the new system, the Government has estimated that the changes for skilled workers could result in an 80% reduction in in-flows of long-term workers from the EU

Obviously there is still a lot of detail to be resolved and a lot of engagement still to happen. If you have any queries at all then just get in touch with David Fry on 028 9087 7143 or