The impact of the political parties manifestos on the immigration system

With a general election coming up on the 12th of December 2019, voters must decide which political party’s manifesto serves their country’s best interest.

As reiterated for months by Boris Johnson and the Tories, the key policy aim of a future Conservative government is to introduce a ‘firmer and fairer’ Australian-style points-based immigration system, which will prioritise people who:

  • have a good command of English
  • have no criminal convictions
  • are highly qualified
written by Judit Adorjan

The manifesto also confirms that, under this system, most people will still need a job offer to come to the UK. This indicates that the new points-based system will not replace the existing Tier 2 employer sponsorship system, but it will be an additional system to this.

The proposals feature new immigration routes to fill skills shortages, such as the post study work visa for graduates, the NHS visa, the science and technology visa and the Start-up visa.

Despite wanting to move away from specific net migration targets, the manifesto states that overall ‘numbers will come down’ and promises fewer low-skilled workers in the UK. Hence, there is unlikely to be much improvement on the visa options provided in the immigration white paper.

The new immigration system is meant to be ‘fairer and more compassionate’, although the manifesto states that the immigration health surcharge will increase to as high as £800 per person per year, implying further increases from the £625 announced previously.

EU nationals’ access to benefits and housing will also be limited in line with non-EU migrants.

The manifesto ignores criticism of the EU Settlement Scheme and states that the scheme fulfils its promise to European residents of “guaranteeing their existing rights”.

What does this mean for the UK’s immigration system?

The EU Settlement Scheme has been created by secondary legislation, which unlike an Act of Parliament, can be easily changed over time. The application system will turn legally residing EU citizens into “illegal immigrants” if they do not apply successfully by the deadline, leading to scenarios similar to those seen with the Windrush scandal.  EU Citizens would have no right to reside, to work, to rent, to get benefits or access free healthcare.

The solution is to introduce a declaratory registration system through an Act of Parliament which would confer automatic rights to EU citizens currently residing in the UK to continue to live and work in the UK after Brexit.

The Conservative immigration policy seems to be a promise to bring back a number of old visa routes, some of which were closed by the party as they were considered flawed and did not fulfil the aim of ‘attracting the brightest and the best’ to the UK. The fact that these have been presented as new ideas makes one hope that the criteria are different to avoid past mistakes.

Once free movement ends immigration from non-EU countries will have to significantly increase to ensure public services and industries can still be adequately staffed.

The Labour Party launched its election manifesto with a promise to maintain freedom of movement, whether the UK leaves the EU or not.

The leader of the party, Jeremy Corbyn says they will seek to securea sensible deal’ to leave the EU within three months of coming to power and then put that deal to a public vote with the option of a legally binding referendum on remaining in the EU.

EU nationals in the UK would be granted an automatic right to continue living and working in the country without having to apply under the government’s EU Settlement Scheme.

The promise for non-EU migration is to introduce a ‘human’ migration system that meets the skills and labour needs of the UK economy. It would extend family reunion rights to non-EU citizens and close two major immigration removal centres.

What does this mean for the UK’s immigration system?

Labour’s promise to maintain and extend free movement rights has been diluted and the end result is no clear vision of what a future immigration system under a Labour government will look like.

The manifesto criticises the Conservative net migration target and suggests a regulated labour market where “all workers have full and equal rights from day one”. But there is a lack of concrete proposals for what a future immigration system post-Brexit would look like and how industries in particular can continue to source the work they need.

The statement “our work visa system must fill any skills or labour shortages that arise” is not particularly illuminating. It seems to suggest that Labour have adopted the Conservative’s idea of an Australian points-based system and have potentially missed an opportunity to seize and reframe the immigration debate at a critical time.

The Liberal Democrats want to stop Brexit and save EU freedom of movement.

They are pledging to scrap right to rent checks, banking checks and upfront charging in the NHS.

It has also been said that they will get rid of “immigration checks” in the NHS, although it’s unclear if that means there will be no charging at all. Under a Liberal Democrat government illegal working will no longer be a criminal offence. But the party is silent on the employer right to work checks that came in under Labour.

Their plan is to invest in officers, training and technology to prevent illegal entry at Britain’s borders, assist seekers of sanctuary, combat human trafficking and the smuggling of people, weapons, drugs and wildlife.

The party wants to create a “firewall” to prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement and repeal the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act 2018. They also plan to introduce a 28-day time limit for detention and close all but two detention centres. The fee for registering a child as a British Citizen is to be reduced from £1,012 to the cost of administration and there is to be a new route to regularisation for people who came to the UK as children.

Asylum seekers will have the right to work after three months and receive free English lessons. There will be no 16-hour rule around financial support for those with poor English and the party will provide more money for integration work in the community. The move on period for newly recognised refugees having to leave asylum accommodation is to be increased from 28 to 60 days.

The Liberal Democrats will fund community sponsorship schemes for refugees and aim to resettle 10,000 vulnerable adults and 10,000 child refugees from elsewhere in Europe over ten years.

They propose moving policymaking on work permits and student visas out of the Home Office and into the Departments for Business and Education. Their promise is to create a “flexible merit-based system” instead of Tier 2 and have committed to a 2-year post study visa.

The minimum income requirement for spouse and partner visas is to be scrapped.

What is missing from the Liberal Democrat manifesto?

You can’t prevent public agencies from sharing personal data with the Home Office, stop exploitation and hostility without decriminalising migration. In order to address racism and exclusion built into the system all fees for child applicants should be removed.

The resettlement commitment of refugees does not engage with the reality of the UK’s obligations.

Overall, while all parties are lacking vision for the future, there is a clear commitment from the Liberal Democrats to substantially reform the immigration system we have now.

Conservative Party plan US-style visas to enter the UK after Brexit

On the 1st of December 2019 Home Secretary Priti Patel announced her plan to introduce a new Electronic Travel Authorisation system (ETA). EU and Commonwealth visitors will need to apply for new US-style visas to enter the UK after Brexit.

The aim is to make it easier for border officials to screen arrivals based on pre-arrival data provided; count visitors into and out of the UK and to block potential threats from entering the UK. The Home Office will know how many people are in the country and who is overstaying their visa.

Reported by Judit Adorjan

EU citizens will no longer be permitted to use ID cards to enter the UK after a no deal Brexit, preventing criminals and illegal immigrants using fake documents. The EU ID cards, as travel documents, will be phased out by the end of 2020, requiring passports to be presented at UK borders. According to the EU border agency, Frontex, more than 7,000 people were detected trying to enter the bloc using fraudulent documents in 2016 – with most found trying to get into the UK.

After 31 December 2020 EU citizens will be able to evidence their right to work (or rent) in the UK using their passport or their digital status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme or under the European Temporary Leave to Remain Scheme.

In the light of the new proposals, EU citizens planning to travel to the UK who do not currently hold a passport are advised to apply for one as soon as possible.

Conservative Party plans include bringing in new powers to stop EU criminals at the border once the UK is no longer subject to freedom of movement rules. At present, under EU law, previous criminal convictions do not in themselves count as a reason to deny entry to or deport someone.

In regard to customs and border controls, future plans include risk-based, largely automated analysis of consignments entering the UK. There will be a mandatory collection of information on goods before they cross the border.

People Management asks Jonathan Beech ‘ should businesses be worried by drop in EU migration?’

The Office for National Statistics data found the number of EU citizens coming to the UK for work had fallen to 90,000: the lowest level since 2012 and down from 190,000 in 2016.

Jessica Brown, journalist for People Management, asked Jonathan Beech what he thought:

While the uncertainty continues, Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK, said there was little surprise employers were having difficulties attracting and retaining staff. “It’s looking quite worrisome for employers – they will have to be drumming up pretty good incentives to get EU migrants on board, as well as trying to plan for new immigration rules,” he said.’

Jessica Brown contacted a number of experts after official data suggested that net migration from Europe is at its lowest level since 2013. Read what they had to say:

Charted Business Institute has queried how a post-Brexit immigration system will function

The CBI query came after the latest immigration figures were released by the Office for National Statistics revealing a decrease in immigration.

Personnel Today spoke to a number of business leaders for their opinions. Migrate UK’s managing director Jonathan Beech provided this advice:

Any EU citizens or workers wanting to remain in the UK after Brexit must apply for pre-settled and settled status or, should they qualify, British Nationality, and by 31 December 2020 latest in the case of a no-deal. Until we’re clearer on whether we’re leaving on 31 January 2020 and under what conditions, applying now means you’re prepared for a worse case scenario.

Statisticians have stated the decrease is mainly because of decrease in EU citizens coming to the UK looking for work.

The ONS did find that immigration from people from outside the EU has continued to grow.

Read the full article here:

Jonathan Beech writes for Oxford Times

EU citizens safeguarding your future in Oxfordshire and the UK – published 21 November 2019

On 12th December the UK will have elected a prime minister. But deal, no deal or referendum, until we’re clearer that we’re leaving on 31st January 2020 and under what conditions, if you have not already done so, EU citizens should prepare for a worst case ‘no deal’ scenario by applying for pre-settled and settled status or, should they qualify, British Nationality, and by 31st December 2020 latest. After December next year and should we leave with no deal, those yet to apply will need to go through the ‘Euro Leave to Remain’ process which is capped at three years maximum. Any further application will need to be satisfied under the UK immigration rules at the time. Employers should direct workers to the EU Settlement Scheme process early to allow for delays in approvals as the Home Office will be flooded with applications ahead of the deadline.

It will also give the workforce a sense of security, but the process does come with a number of obstacles. Firstly, each applicant must hold a valid passport, national ID card or for non-EEA dependants, a valid Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). Secondly, to start the application process the migrant must download the Home Office app (newer Apple devices from iPhone 7 onwards can now be used) or find a location where their identity document can be scanned. Thirdly, those holding EEA Permanent Residence (blue card) will still need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme unless they have obtained British Nationality prior to 31st December 2020 (in a no deal scenario).

Under a no deal, applicants will have to be living in the UK before the country exits on 31 January 2020 to qualify under the EU settlement scheme.

And finally, National ID cards will also be phased out in the UK as a method of travel to the UK. So, EU citizens, ensure to check that your passports are valid.

EU Settlement Scheme – Apple now onboard

EU citizens living in the UK, who have the correct biometric document, can use the EU Exit: ID Document Check app to complete the identity stage of their application under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The app was initially launched on Android phones earlier this year and runs on Dutch firm InnoValor ReadID app.

Apple users, with a compatible device and the correct biometric documents, no longer need to gain access to an Android device in order to submit their application to the EU Settlement Scheme.

On the 18th of October the Home Office released a beta version of the app for iPhone models 8 and above. Due to the software update to IOS 13.2 the app is now available for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus users.

Up to this point Apple devices have been unable to scan passports as Apple would not permit third-party developers to access the near-field communication (NFC) features needed to scan biometric passport chips. As this is a beta test by the United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the app may become available on other iPhone models in due course, although there is no immediate visibility on the timeline from the UKVI.

In order to use the ID Document Check beta app you will need IOS 13.02 or newer, at least 120MB of storage space to install the app and to be connected to 3G, 4G or WIFI.

Applicants without a biometric passport and non-EEA family members of EEA nationals without a biometric document issued under the European regulations, will not be able to use this app. They will need to submit a postal application or attend an in-person appointment at one of the 80 locations across the UK, where they can have their passport scanned and verified.

Concerns some EU citizens could be incorrectly denied settled status

With a backlog of 150,000 outstanding cases, there are concerns that some EU citizens could be being incorrectly denied settled status, receiving instead the less secure pre-settled status.

People Management spoke to Migrate UK’s MD. Jonathan Beech believes such incidents were becoming an increasing concern. The backlog could be pushing authorities into rushing decisions over EU citizens’ rights to stay.

Read the whole article here:

Shortage of occupation list expanded to include more jobs

With effect from 6th October 2019, the Home Office will include more jobs in the UK that qualify as a shortage occupation. The full list of eligible occupations will be published in Appendix K of the Immigration Rules.

The changes will be very welcome by employers who need to sponsor overseas workers under Tier 2 General of the Points Based System. Those vacancies that meet the shortage of occupation criteria will not need to undergo a Resident Labour Market test. Furthermore, qualifying jobs are awarded a high number of points under the monthly quota system which means that applicants have a very good chance of being awarded a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Jobs to be published on the forthcoming list include:

  • Engineering roles (SOC codes 2121, 2122, 2123, 2124, 2126, 2127, 2129, 2461)
  • IT business analysts and designers (2135)
  • Programmers and software development professionals (2136)
  • Web designers (2137)
  • Cyber security specialists (2139)
  • Medical practitioners (2211)
  • Veterinarians (2216)
  • Architects (2431)
  • Quantity Surveyors (2433)
  • Occupational Therapists (2222)
  • Graphic Designers (3421)

Revised minimum skills levels for overseas workers: RFQ levels 3 and 4 with salary between £20k and £30k?

HR Magazine invited Migrate UK’s MD Jonathan Beech to consider whether lowering salary thresholds for foreign workers from £30,000 to £20,00 would solve the skills crisis.

Published on 24th July 2019, read Jonathan’s article here:

HR magazine speaks to University of London, Unison, Migrate UK

The Tory leadership race: What will a new prime minister mean for HR?

Column written by Alex Roberts, published July 04, 2019

As employers consider the two final candidates, HR magazine sought to find out what UK employers want from a new prime minister.

Five different perspectives were considered: academia (professor of transformational leadership), low skilled sector (farming), trade union, career management and immigration.

HR magazine approached Migrate’s MD Jonathan Beech for his perspective.

‘It is unlikely that 31 October will end up being the date EU citizens will have to enter the UK, to enjoy all the benefits currently available, but the rhetoric being used about exiting sooner rather than later, indicates that employers have look at their recruitment plans and current EU workforce now’

Read the full article here: