The economy is coming out of lockdown. International travel is slowly resuming. Only now are we beginning to see the full impact of the immigration rule changes which came into effect at the start of this year.
Just as the economy is picking up and businesses are getting busy again, employees are keen to use their holiday entitlement which has built up over the last 12 months, and escape to the beach. Quarantine requirements on return to the UK often prolong their absence from the office further. In addition to this, it has been difficult for businesses who rely on summer labour from the EU to recruit the necessary staff. Some businesses which are trying to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic are feeling frustrated.
30 June 2021 was the deadline for EU nationals to make an application to remain in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). From 1 July 2021, employers must check (and keep records) that all employees, including EU nationals, have the right to work in the UK. Now is perhaps a good time for employers to consider carrying out retrospective checks to satisfy themselves that their entire workforce is immigration compliant.
Going forward, any business which may wish to employ overseas nationals, including those from the EU who have not applied under the EUSS, should register with the Home Office for a sponsor licence. It is a good idea to start this process early, to avoid delays in applications and the knock-on effect on staffing requirements.
Employers should also consider whether they might be able to take advantage of two new immigration routes for lower skilled workers and for those at the start of their careers. Details are set out below.
In order to sponsor overseas nationals to work for your business in the UK under the points based immigration system, it is necessary to satisfy strict criteria. One of these requirements relates to salary levels. Many businesses which rely on lower skilled workers, particularly during the summer months, are struggling to meet these requirements and to find suitable candidates. This has been a problem for certain industries in particular, for example the building, food and catering sectors.
One possible alternative in the case of EU nationals who have worked in the UK in previous years, is the new Frontier Worker Permit. These permits allow overseas nationals from the EU to work in the UK whilst being primarily resident overseas. The rights of frontier workers are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU.
The new Graduate route is open for applications from 1 July 2021. This immigration category is a new post-study work visa which will allow international students, who have successfully completed their higher education at UK bachelor’s degree level or above, to apply for a 2 or 3 year visa to work in the UK. Students will be able to stay in the UK to work, or look for work, for a period of 2 years (or 3 years for those who have been awarded a doctorate).
The Government’s aim is to enable the UK to retain the brightest and best international students to continue to contribute to the economy. The new route is unsponsored, which means that applicants will not need a job offer to apply.
Coronavirus concessions for students unable to travel to the UK due to the pandemic have also been extended, in view of the continuing disruption faced by many due to travel restrictions.
As with every immigration application, each case should be considered on its own merits and we should be pleased to provide individual advice in relation to specific circumstances. We can also assist with training sessions to businesses and HR staff, providing an update on the every-changing immigration rules.