Employers to face pressure over points-based immigration system

The UK’s new work visas, under the points-based immigration system, will put pressure on employers to respond quickly and make long-term decisions about their workforce sooner rather than later.

Applications for the new skilled worker visa opened yesterday (1 December). Applicants will be awarded points for a job offer at the appropriate skill level, knowledge of English and being paid a minimum salary.

Skilled worker visas will be awarded to those who gain enough points.

Immigration lawyers have warned that UK businesses will be faced with heavy administration and cost burdens due to the new work visas.

Those seeking a skilled worker visa will also need to earn at least £25,600.

Although there may be an added administrative burden on people professionals navigating the new system Gillian McKearney, head of UK immigration at law firm Fieldfisher, said: “The reality is that the business leaders most impacted by the end of free movement for EU workers into the UK, will have to act quickly and make long-term strategic decisions about their workforce in a matter of weeks.”

McKearney added: “Businesses sponsoring non-EU nationals will find some relief in the UK's new points-based system, as the system does bring some flexibility.

“For example, the Resident Labour Market Test has been scrapped, the minimum salary level lowered and the cap on applications scrapped – all things that should provide some relief to those filling jobs at all levels.”

In order to hire eligible employees from outside the UK, businesses will need to be registered as a licensed sponsor. Alex Wright, specialist immigration lawyer at Broudie Jackson Canter, said that this can be a complicated process.

Speaking to HR magazine, Wright said: “It can be a complex process and one that can often fall to HR teams that are already swamped with dealing with COVID-related issues, so it’s vital to get advice and guidance from experts to ensure everything is being adhered to correctly and in good time.”

To apply for a licence, Wright advised that businesses would need to provide evidence of their HR regulations to demonstrate they are a responsible employer.

He added: “Once a licence is in place, employers need to remember to notify the Home Office of any changes to salary, type of role or location of work for their international workers, otherwise they could have their licence revoked and lose the ability to sponsor international workers.”

Further reading

New immigration system could exclude two thirds of EU workers

Hot topic: How HR can prepare for a Brexit job shock, part one

Second wave of coronavirus and no-deal Brexit threaten UK employment prospects

Wright also warned employers not to forget about the looming impact Brexit may have on their workforce.

He added: “Many businesses are understandably caught up in dealing with the challenges around the COVID-19 pandemic and, while that’s of course important, it’s essential they take a step back and think about what’s required of them post-Brexit.

“Businesses should be taking action now and considering their staffing needs, taking into account when they are likely to need EU workers and what the process for recruiting those people will now be.”

The Skilled Worker visa lasts for up to five years before it needs to be extended.

Alongside the work visa, a number of other routes are also now open for applications, including Global Talent Visa, for people who can show they have exceptional talent or exceptional promise in the fields of science, engineering, humanities, medicine, digital technology or arts and culture.