I’m sure you have heard, but Brexit is coming. What it means for the future of the Immigration system is still uncertain, but there have been some signs in recent weeks as to what the future may hold.
The Migrant Advisory Committee has published its long-awaited report into migration from the EU and how it should be managed after Brexit. It was commissioned by the Home Secretary in July 2017 and intended to provide an evidence base for the design of a new immigration system after the end of the implementation period in 2021.
The speeches made by Theresa May and Home Secretary Sajid Javid at the Conservative party conference over the last few days have given strong indications of how closely they intend to follow the MAC report and what the soon to be published immigration White Paper might contain.
MAC regard the existing Tier 2 system as the basis for the future of a work permit scheme, meaning a likely continuation of the policy of employers having to obtain a licence to sponsor migrant workers. It noted that the system was over bureaucratic and complex, and that it would have to become simpler for employers to incorporate the surge of new users of the system post-2020. Whether the Government will heed this message remains unclear.
The most notable recommendation is the proposed abolition of the Tier 2 cap of 20,700 per year. This would prevent a repeat of the Restricted COS shortage that occurred between December 2017 and July 2018. Before December 2017 the monthly quota was only exceeded once, in June 2015. It was heavily oversubscribed from December 2017 to July 2018. The decision to remove NHS staff from the quota was intended to ease the pressures and demands on the system, and whilst the effects are still really yet to be fully understood, the total points score required dropped from 41 to 21 in August 2018 and September 2018 providing cause for optimism.
Another welcome recommendation is the widening of Tier 2 to include medium skilled jobs. Currently only highly skilled migrants can be sponsored, but MAC recognises that this will have to be widened in scope. The report however maintains that the salary threshold of £30,000 should be retained, which may mean some industries will still struggle to recruit overseas workers.
Businesses looking to recruit low skilled workers may struggle, as no specific visa category is being created for this purpose. It is possible that seasonal agricultural workers may be eligible for visas, but details have not been provided. MAC consider that if a seasonable agriculture scheme were introduced, employers would have to pay higher than minimum wage for the privileged access.