What Do the New UK Visa and Immigration Requirements Mean for Businesses?

The labour market was tight pre-Brexit. Post-Brexit it is frankly a disaster. Brexit means we no longer have free movement of people, unless already in the UK (pre 31 December 2020), all Europeans need work visas if they wish to enter and work in the UK. Unless a business is willing to sponsor workers from overseas it has lost Europe as a source of labour.

There are several downsides to this arrangement for businesses. Firstly, this will increase their recruitment costs as visas are not cheap; secondly, obtaining work visas can also be time-consuming and delay the hiring of talent. The reality is that the business immigration system needs an overhaul. Business immigration is a benefit to the UK and should not be confused with social immigration which is entirely different. Our immigration should not be governed by policies issued by the current government but, rather, based on the needs of businesses.

To ensure the UK remains one of the leaders in technology and development, we need to encourage the best global talent to come to the UK with a cutting-edge approach to gain talent and investors. In order to do that we have to have an adaptable immigration system that welcomes talent, decent businesses and the workforce we need.

It’s also imperative, in my opinion, that we let students come to the UK to study and work after they have completed their degrees. We have just allowed this again but only for 12 months! Not long enough in my view but it is a start…

A note on social vs business immigration

I have practised business immigration for over 20 years. Social immigration is an entirely different kettle of fish and colours the debate, making it impossible to set sensible goalposts for businesses. Many say most are opposed to immigration and yet most of us are a product of some form of migration. In reality, most are opposed to social migration rather than business immigration.

In all of my 20 years practising business immigration, all of the employees I have helped bring in have paid fees and taxes and the majority have left the UK after their assignment, few (if any) have taken jobs from local people. Some have remained, fallen in love with a person or the country and contributed greatly to the economy. Sadly, having practised criminal defence work for almost a decade before this I think it is still cheaper to obtain a UK passport or false papers on the black market than it is to go through legitimate channels.

Addressing business immigration needs

We are moving in the right direction but we need to take immigration policy out of the politicians’ hands and place it in the hands of businesses. Businesses need to be trusted that they will hire those they need. Most businesses want to avoid sponsoring individuals for visas unless there is no other option.

But the job has to be a certain pay grade and a certain level. Industries like hospitality are unable to sponsor the individuals they need as the skills they need are considered too low. A lot of that workforce left in the pandemic and are now stuck, unable to return to the UK. That is why our restaurants and bars are short-staffed.

So business is suffering. And the war for talent, and wages, is fierce.

Businesses must do as follows:

  1. Ensure all your existing staff have a right to work by conducting appropriate right to work checks. Taking a staff member’s word for it is not sufficient. You must have seen their original paperwork and keep a copy of it or use the Home office to verify their status. Failing to do this can result in a £20,000 fine per illegal found. Getting out of these fines is incredibly difficult and frankly only feasible if you have been given fraudulent paperwork.
  2. If you are a professional business needing talent then you need to apply for a sponsor licence ASAP. Or if you previously relied on European workers to staff your business equally you need to apply for a sponsor licence ASAP. This enables you to then potentially sponsor those from Europe and anywhere in the world who wish to work in the UK. Provided the job is at a suitable level. Beware the processing times are increasing as more and more businesses apply for a sponsor licence.
  3. Budget for increasing recruitment costs, work visas are not cheap and you will need to pay for them.
  4. Allow time to obtain work visas. Sadly our system is overwhelmed and this is likely to only get worse as the scale of the problem reveals itself.
  5. Certain sectors that have heretofore relied on lower skill levels need to campaign and raise awareness and push for change, ideally with backing from UK society at large, to help to enable them to hire and recruit the talent they need wherever it may be.

The most important thing is to keep being vocal about the ways the new immigration system is failing businesses. We need to campaign for the best, open-minded, straightforward business immigration system in the world. Let us lead the charge and suck up all the talent we can to ensure the UK remains Great Britain!

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