What would Brexit mean for immigration in the UK?
Tony Butterworth is a Senior UK Immigration Consultant with 23 years’ experience in UK immigration, seven of which were spent in the Home Office as Executive Officer. He works with large multinational companies and individuals of all nationalities, such as skilled migrants, investors and high net worth individuals who are seeking work authorisation for economic based activities. Here he offers his insights into the Brexit implications on immigration in the UK, recent regulatory developments in the sector and what it means to be an immigration practitioner.
As a thought leader in the segment, what would Brexit mean for immigration in the UK? Do you believe that leaving the EU will actually reduce immigration in the country?
Whilst the true impact of Brexit on UK immigration remains to be seen, it will inevitably lead to changes to the current EEA policy. Following the Prime Minister’s speech earlier this month, we know now that the United Kingdom intend to impose restrictions on nationals of EU states wishing to enter the United Kingdom. The question remains as to when and how this will take form.
Currently, there is no legal requirement for EEA nationals or even their family members to register their residence with the Home Office. There could be significant numbers of these migrants living in the United Kingdom with no Home Office record. This issue has been addressed in the recent introduction of The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016. What is evident is that the introduction of stricter registration requirements on EEA nationals and their family members is almost a certainty. Another point to bear in mind is that removing free movement of EEA nationals into the United Kingdom does not necessarily mean a reduction of workers entering the United Kingdom. Employers will still be selective as skills and experience are required to fill posts. If these cannot be met by UK workers, they will be forced to continue to look for talent further afield. It is likely that any changes to immigration requirements, as a result of Brexit, will not deter employers from recruiting the best and most skilled workers.
What would you say was the biggest regulatory development to affect the UK Immigration sector over the last 12 months?
The UK Immigration Act 2016, came into force in May 2016. This Act is significant because not only did it introduce changes to Immigration law and policy, but it also covers housing, social welfare and employment. Significant changes include the right to freeze bank accounts and seize driving licences of migrants who are here unlawfully, imposing criminal sanctions on employers found to be recruiting illegal workers, and the right to remove all migrants from the United Kingdom pending their appeal against the decision to remove.
What do you anticipate for the sector in 2017? Are there any legislative changes on the horizon?
Following changes to the Tier 2 category which were implemented in November 2016, further changes are due to be applied in April 2017. This includes the introduction of the ‘Immigration Skills Charge’ under which employers will be required to pay a fee of £1,000 per year for each sponsored migrant, requiring Tier 2 (ICT) Migrants to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), increasing the Tier 2 (General) salary threshold to £30,000, and abolishing the Tier 2 (ICT) Short Term category. The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 will also come into effect on 1st February 2017. The main changes in the regulations are the introduction of a ‘genuineness test’ for Surinder Singh cases, the requirement for EEA applications to be completed on prescribed forms, and abolishing the right of appeal for extended family members.
What challenges does your work throw up regularly and how do you structure your approach in order to overcome them?
Immigration practitioners face challenges in keeping abreast of the ever changing and sometimes complex immigration rules and policies; monitoring regulatory developments, analysing their impact on both individuals and businesses, and implementing the necessary changes in the interests of our clients. It is important to actively engage in dialogue with regulators and participate in consultations, where possible. Our aim is to keep our clients informed of changes as soon as these are anticipated and to provide advice on overcoming any obstacles such changes will pose.
What are Ferguson, Snell & Associates’ major achievements?
Apart from ensuring our clients continue to receive the high level of service we have become known for, evidenced by the number of long standing client still with us, Ferguson, Snell & Associates continues our journey with a strong global team. By responding to our clients need for immigration and coordination services into the US, EMEA and emerging markets, we are growing from strength to strength. Our global team brings a new dimension to our business and sets us apart from our close competitors. Coming up with an efficient and strategic global immigration plan is a challenge when immigration is not included in the corporate agenda. But our skills in providing efficient and creative solutions is where we prove ourselves to our clients.
Client referrals and a professional, experienced and talented team is testament to our progress and reputation.