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Global HR Lawyers

The year ahead for immigration

07 January 2020

With the new Conservative Government now bedding in and the Withdrawal Agreement Bill proceeding through Parliament, Brexit is all but certain to be going ahead at end of this month.

The post-exit implementation period during 2020 provides an opportunity for you as an employer to take stock of your workforce planning and immigration compliance ahead of the major legal and process changes expected to be in place in the near future, and in particular from 2021. We have outlined some of the key changes to watch out for below, as well as the ways we can help.

New immigration categories

We expect to have a much clearer insight into what the post-Brexit ‘Australian-style points-based’ immigration system might look like, and how to prepare for it, once the Migration Advisory Committee has published its report to Government at the end of January and the Government has responded to it.

We now also know that the transformation of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, as well as the implementation of the post-study work visa for students and the ‘NHS visa’ trailed last year will be going ahead, all of which will provide additional options for UK employers to recruit and retain international talent. 

Further details of these plans are outlined in our article here.

Sponsor licences

During 2020, it will be important to be on top of issues like sponsor licence eligibility and compliance because once free movement ends, you may become more reliant on your existing sponsor licence to fill skills gaps, or might need to consider applying for one for the first time.

EU Settlement Scheme and Right to Work

The most recent statistics from the Home Office indicate that many eligible people have not yet applied under the scheme. There are proactive steps you can take to ensure that your EEA/Swiss employees and their family members continue to have the right to work for you after the implementation period. This includes establishing or reviewing communications and other policies aimed at assisting existing and new eligible employees to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme in good time before the deadline on 30 June 2021.

You will also need to be ready to update your right to work practices in line with anticipated further guidance from the Home Office on checking the right to work of EEA/Swiss nationals and their family members, and to deal with a greater number of people whose right to work can be checked online.

Administrative changes 

Immigration processing and control functions may be separated out from the Home Office and incorporated into a new Borders and Immigration Department. This could have significant implications for how the immigration system works in practice, depending on the emphasis and culture of the new organisation.

A wholescale re-draft of the Immigration Rules and guidance is likely to be undertaken following recommendations from the Law Commission on simplifying these areas, although it is not known yet whether the recommendations will be adopted or the timing for implementation. It would seem timely for these changes to be brought in at the same time as the new immigration system is launched.

There are also a range of recent and forthcoming changes to the Home Office’s technology and relationships with commercial partners and the services they offer, including ongoing updates to the administration of entry clearance and further leave application submission and case working processes, streamlining entry processes at the border and new commercial contracts being awarded for administering English-language testing and the Life in the UK test.

We will be covering all of these developments more in our Immigration Law Academy session on 24 March, which you can find further information on here.

If you need even more in-depth support, we are able to put together a tailored set of training, toolkits and onsite support for your business through our Immigration Solutions for HR.

 

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BREXIT

The UK left the EU at 11pm (UK time) on 31 January 2020, and the transition period came to an end on 31 December 2020. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement reached on Christmas Eve 2020 sets out the shape of the ongoing future relationship between the UK and the EU and provides some degree of certainty for UK businesses.

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