Ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement and the UK's exit on 31 January 2020 brings much needed certainty to EU Citizens' Rights. Irrespective of any future trade deal with the EU, EU Citizens' Rights, enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement will apply. For these purposes, the UK has exited with a Deal.
So, all EU Nationals and eligible non-EU National family members arriving in the UK pre-31 December 2020 will be able to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. The deadline for doing so is 30 June 2021, albeit we recommend that applications are made at the earliest opportunity. Uncertainty remains as to the consequences of missing the 30 June 2021 deadline, to be resolved by agreement between the UK and the EU 27 bloc.
Those entering the UK from 1 January 2021 will be subject to the new post Brexit UK Immigration framework. We expect a Government White Paper in March 2020 to provide more definitive detail, however, a combination of the Government's declared intentions together with the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recent recommendations suggest:
- The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category will close to new applicants from 20 February 2020. This will be replaced by the Global Talent category which is for talented and promising individuals in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, humanities, digital technology and arts and culture wishing to work in the UK. Unlike its predecessor, there will not be a cap on the number of visas issued and applicants in the fields of science, engineering, humanities and medicine will be able to apply for settlement after three years
- A Tier 2 / equivalent framework which
- Reduce the general minimum salary threshold from £30,000 to £26,500 for Experienced Hires and from £20,800 to £17,900 for New Entrants (additional concessions will be provided for NHS / Social Care roles)
- Reduce the skill threshold from RQF6 to RQF3
- Remove the requirement of a Resident Labour Market Test presently required for most Tier 2 General applications
- Abolish the Tier 2 General Restricted COS annual Quota of 20,700.
The MAC was not tasked with reporting on unskilled roles. Realistically, we expect the Government to limit visas for unskilled roles to specific sectors and for fixed non extendable periods.
Reducing Net Migration?
If implemented, the MAC's recommendations will simplify the process for non EU nationals for many semi-skilled roles, removing several protectionist features of the current Tier 2 General framework. For EU Nationals, whilst UK employers will need to engage in a bureaucratic, administrative and potentially costly process, they should continue to have ready access to the UK Labour Market for many semi-skilled roles.
We wait to see whether the Government's new framework once unveiled will deliver its promise to reduce net migration. Theoretically, this could be achieved by a complete clampdown on unskilled roles as well as a possible narrowing of categories eligible for indefinite leave to remain. As always, time will tell.
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