In December 2018, the UK Government published its white paper on the skills-based immigration system which it plans to introduce post-Brexit. There will be a 12 month consultation period before proposals are finalised, but, as things currently stand, how might the proposed changes to the UK's system affect Guernsey employers and the Island's estimated 4,200 EU workers.
- Following the UK's agreement with the EU in June 2018 on citizens' rights, the UK announced its settlement scheme. This scheme secures the residency rights of EU citizens who are lawfully resident in the UK as at 31 December 2020. Guernsey has committed to a similar scheme (subject to ratification by the States) under which EU citizens resident in Guernsey as at 31 December 2020 will be entitled to apply for leave to remain in the Bailiwick (this assumes that date won't change in the event of a no deal Brexit). Any EU citizen with more than 5 years' residence will be entitled to apply for indefinite leave to remain. Those with under 5 years' residence will be able to apply for limited leave to remain and then to apply for indefinite leave on reaching 5 years' residence.
- Guernsey's immigration officials expect to work more closely in future with their counterparts in the Population Management Office to ensure that any EU citizen coming to live and work in Guernsey has not only the required employment permit under the Population Management regime, but also the necessary work permit under the amended immigration system. We understand that there is an ongoing dialogue between Immigration and Population Management to try to streamline the application process for employers.
- Guernsey will to continue to apply its own immigration policies so that we will remain outside the "Tier" system operated by the UK. Whereas the UK government's white paper currently envisages restricting the number of low skilled immigrants in favour of high skilled workers, it is expected that Guernsey's policy will remain unchanged as we will still require a mix of higher and lower skilled workers. Last year, Guernsey Immigration issued 180 work permits to non-EU/non-EEA nationals, approximately one third of which were issued for lower skilled positions.
- The UK Government is considering introducing a regime for nationals of low-risk countries which would allow certain nationals to switch into an employment route from within the UK, without having to leave and apply from overseas. This would be subject to meeting the relevant criteria. Guernsey would consider adopting a similar approach. Low risk countries are likely to include those that already come within the UK's Youth Mobility arrangement, EU and EEA countries.
- Any British citizen or Irish citizen in the Common Travel Area (i.e. the UK, Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man and Ireland) will be able to continue to travel freely within the Common Travel Area without seeking any immigration permissions. UK legislation and agreements will be updated to ensure that Common Travel Area rights continue to have a clear legal basis.
It is too early to say whether the changes might have an impact on fees, charges, and timescales for processing applications or the numbers of EU workers applying to work in Guernsey. We can, though, safely say that additional restrictions will only increase the administrative burden. At least Guernsey Immigration is alive to this and working towards a solution.
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