Jonathan Beech featured in Personnel Today, The Business Magazine, HR Magazine and Advogroup
After 31 December 2020, both EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally under the UK’s new immigration rules and organisations will require a sponsor licence, issued by the Home Office, to access talent from abroad.
As it stands, just 2% of UK organisations will be able to employ overseas workers from January 2021, when the points-based immigration system is set to be introduced.
Applications for a sponsor licence take around three months to process, but are taking much longer due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Companies that employ overseas citizens with soon-to-expire visas may be feeling anxious about how they will be affected by the travel bans and other restrictions brought by the coronavirus. New government allowances and guidance could provide some relief but, as Jonathan Beech asks, do these go far enough?
As most European borders remain under lockdown to non-essential travel and the UK continues lockdown measures for Covid-19, many workers from overseas with expired or soon-to-expire visas are finding themselves stuck in the UK.
Meanwhile, HR teams are under pressure as they undergo redundancies, furloughing or short-time working – or conversely are undertaking recruitment sprees in sectors such as healthcare, food supply or home delivery and logistics where demand is booming under the pandemic. Until recently, both scenarios were unaided by right to work checks where existing law requires employers to see each employee’s original documents in person.
Now an interim reprieve by the government has resulted in new guidance and rules for overseas employees in the UK with expired or nearly expired visas along with right to work checks. But a number of unanswered questions remain.
For overseas workers where the clock is ticking, some crucial details need reporting using the latest guidelines to ensure they are not considered an “overstayer”. The Home Office has advised that visas can be extended to 31 May 2020 if people with visas that have just expired or are about to expire cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation. Any affected individuals must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) via their dedicated email, CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk, to update their records with their full name, date of birth, nationality, previous reference number and a note to explain why they cannot return to their home country for example, if the country border has closed.
After the Home Office receives the request it will respond once the individual’s visa has been extended. It has also advised that these people will not be “regarded as an overstayer or be subject to enforcement action…or if there are delays in processing your application”.
While this is good news for overseas workers anxious about their stay and what might happen if they cannot comply, it is a reactive response to the current situation and not yet written into law. In effect, if there was a legal challenge by the Home Office to any individual when they did not believe their submitted reason was sufficient enough for an extension, there would not be a basis for a defence through the Immigration Rules.
The latest guidance also does not confirm who will cover the NHS Surcharge for the extra period – or whether they would be covered if any health problems occur during this time. As it is currently not written into law that no Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) will be issued, employers and employees should keep full records of when an email was sent to the Home Office to help protect against any illegal working penalty, or potentially any alleged over-stay. But anyone notifying the Home Office of their need to extend their visa should retain the same immigration conditions and restrictions as with their last or current visa.
Those wishing to remain in the UK for a longer period must submit a formal application in the normal way; thus on or before their current expiry date. This will be considered a pending application under section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971 – so they can remain legally in the UK under the same status. They should not use the email method above as a means of extending their stay.
Any worker should also check their current immigration category as these often require someone to leave the UK and then apply for a fresh visa before returning. While other measures include allowing some switching of immigration status within the UK, but these workers will still need to meet the immigration rules for any visa category being applied for.
Temporary amendments to right to work checks mean employers no longer need to see original documents in person but should use digital checks such as video calls. Workers can submit a scanned document to demonstrate their right to work (which, it should be noted is because of the Covid-19 measures in place), but these are still required, along with usual record-keeping. It is still an offence if any employer retains a worker who does not have legal UK immigration status that could result in penalties and fines.
Employers are advised that as long as adjusted checks are used according to the guidance and followed up by a full retrospective check within eight weeks of the measures ending, no enforcement action will be taken by the Home Office.
The government has also just issued new advice for tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors that states that employers can temporarily reduce the pay of sponsored employees to 80% of salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower, if part of a company-wide scheme to avoid redundancies and if all workers are treated the same.
While no one knows the end date to this extraordinary period, employees and employers should continue to check the gov.uk website for any further guidance as these exceptional circumstances are frequently resulting in instant and far-reaching changes that have yet to be legally tested – whether now or in the future.
Read the article here:
If you need advice or have any questions please contact Migrate UK 01235 841 568
You still need to get ready for Brexit (remember Brexit?)
Written by Jo Faragher. Published 26 March 2020
Details of the UK’s proposed post-Brexit immigration regime were announced in February. This means businesses across the nation need to be preparing, not just for the impact in January 2021, but for several years down the line when the workforce planning implications will really start to bite for some sectors.
When asked what were the key factors in this preparation, Migrate UK’s MD Jonathan Beech replied, ‘Even if an employer only has plans to hire one worker from the EU (or outside) after January 2021, the employer will need to work on post Brexit skills: the new points-based system and how it works; who will qualify; forecasting what it will mean for their business; understand job codes and think about salaries.
Whan asked what should a business do now, to be ready for the next few years Jonathan had this to say:
‘The new rules only apply to new entrants. EU nationals who arrive in the UK before January 2021 will have until 30 June 2021 to cement their status in the UK, and will still be able to bring family members over the transition period, who will have eligibility to work.’
‘An employer should monitor any revisions to the new points-based system; continue to forecast what the business needs but consider what might change in the immigration rules; be prepared for more routes for individual visas and be aware that roles listed on the shortage occupation lists will evolve, so keep these under review.’
Yesterday, the government revealed that under temporary changes in light of the Covid-19, effective immediately, it will not require employers to see original documents and will allow checks to be undertaken over video calls.
This comes after the Recruitment & Employment Confederation called on government to introduce a more pragmatic approach to Right to Work checks.
The changes mean that during the Covid 19 outbreak prospective workers are now able to submit scanned documents, rather than originals, to show they have a right to work. However, the government added that checks continue to be necessary and it is an offence to knowingly employ or let property to anyone who does not have legal immigration status in the UK.
Recruiter Magazine spoke to Migrate UK’s MD Jonathan Beech, who noted that the Home Office has provided short-term respite to those in the UK with imminent visa expiries and to employers checking the legality of an overseas worker’s right to work.
“The solutions are sticking plasters but can be seen to be effective in the circumstances. Those with UK visa expiries up to 31 May 2020 and who have no means of leaving the UK can contact the Home Office to make their presence in the UK known to avoid the significant repercussions of being an overstayer. No new official status will be provided eg. a new Biometric Residence Permit as this is a concession and not an application procedure written into law.
“For recruiters and employers, they are bound by specific Right to Work checks, which normally involves meeting the prospective employee in person and seeing the original document allowing work. This clearly cannot happen at present, so digital checks have been given the green light for the short term. With any digital check, the employers or recruiters must make it clear on the document that the original has not been seen due to Covid-19 measures being in place. In addition, employers and recruiters must retrospectively carry out proper checks within eight weeks of the Covid-19 measures ending.
“This will mean having individuals, employers and recruiters checking Home Office guidance regularly, but pragmatism is clearly evident, if not fully comprehensive in its approach.”
Investigating the number of UK businesses registered as sponsors for Tier 2 work visas on the Home Office register, People Management have noted at 28,734, this is the highest number of sponsors ever registered, indicating that UK employers are beginning to understand what is required to avoid future skills shortages.
Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK, was asked for his opinion and he agreed Brexit was undoubtedly the cause of an increase in sponsorship registrations. “The increase in the number of UK businesses applying for a sponsor licence in the UK started before the [new points-based system] policy announcement, as it became clearer that Brexit was finally going to happen,” he said.
Employers intending to hire EEA citizens into medium and high skilled jobs should consider applying for a sponsor licence, Beech advised, noting “employers need to make themselves attractive to new EEA employees by having a licence in place”.
The Federation of Small Business (FSB) have undertaken a survey to assess the impact of immigration fees that would be levied on employers sponsoring workers. Of the 1083 firms surveyed, 48 per cent have said they would be unable to meet the fees.
Under the current system, the cost of a Tier 2 visa sponsorship to a small employer exceeds £3,000.
The Home Office said last week it planned to move the UK economy away from a reliance on the immigration system. Outlining details of its points-based immigration system, which will apply to both EU and non-EU citizens. The government has told employers they needed to adjust to tighter immigration controls by focusing on improving retention and boosting productivity through technology investment.
People Management spoke to Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK. He said the number of UK organisations holding a Tier 2 sponsor licence had already increased to 31,000 and he expected this to continue to rise considerably. He also predicted the cost of employing foreign workers would continue to increase as the government attempted to keep migration in check.
“With the new policy pointing towards a lowering of the required skill level, no need for a Resident Labour Market Test and the scrapping of the quota, we expect there to be measures to dissuade employers from relying on sponsorship,” he said. “We expect to see many updates to the points-based system in the coming years.”
He added that this could lead to employers experiencing “difficulty in forecasting and planning – especially when it comes to finances for small businesses”.
Employers have been advised not to panic in reaction to the newly published details on the proposed points-based immigration system that will take effect from 1 January 2021.
The policy is still to be approved by parliament but it is expected to be incorporated into immigration legislation for January 2021.
Personnel Today spoke to immigration law specialists Migrate UK who described the announcement as the first stage of an evolving system, but warned that preparations for the new regime would mean rising costs and increased bureaucracy for employers hoping to recruit overseas staff.
“What employers must note is that the Home Office plans to open key routes from Autumn 2020 so that migrants can start to apply ahead of the system taking effect,” explains Jonathan Beech, Migrate UK’s managing director.
In preparation, Personnel Today suggests:
1. Check sponsor status and settled status
Employers without a Home Office-approved sponsor licence need to first consider whether they will want to sponsor skilled migrants in the future, and begin the process to secure a licence. Employers will need a Tier 2 sponsor licence if they wish to hire both EU and non-EU nationals from 1 January 2021.
2. Understand how the points system works
The Home Office already operates a points-based visa system for workers coming from outside the EU – like the new regime, points are awarded based on factors such as English language skills, sponsorship and meeting a certain salary threshold.
Under the new system, anyone from outside the UK will have to gain at least 70 points to qualify for a visa and the right to work in the UK. So an offer of a job by an approved sponsor would be worth 20 points, for example, and a job at an appropriate level also 20.
3. Start planning access to low-skilled workers
A scheme for seasonal agricultural workers will be extended, however this is unlikely to help care homes and hotel chains, who have noticed a drop in EU migrant workers.
4. Consider self-employed workers
Another source of labour that may possibly be curtailed by the points-based system is the freelance workforce, which received no mention at all in the government policy document, other than to confirm there will be no dedicated route for self-employed people.
5. Plan the budget
Employers will need to significantly increase their use of Tier 2 sponsorship or apply for a Tier 2 sponsor licence if they do not already have one. This will require more HR reporting and record keeping duties as more employees come within the sponsorship system.
Recruiter magazine 19 February 2020 – Graham Simons
The Home Office announced that the points based scheme, effective from 1 January 2021, will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions, and visas will only be awarded to those who gain enough points.
Migrate UK was asked for their advice for recruiters.
Karendeep Kaur, senior immigration consultant at Migrate UK, told Recruiter the proposals present recruiters and employers with two options:
To continue recruiting from overseas into the UK before 31 December 2020. This includes the lower skilled workforce however this approach is not so easy for seasonal workers;
Plan ahead and obtain a sponsor licence before the year ends.
“From 1 January 2021, employing an EU national to the UK will require sponsorship, and this is only possible with a sponsor licence in place. Alternatively, employers can invest in their current staff members and move towards automated technology. There is an issue as to whether the wages offered to the lower-skilled workforce will be attractive to the resident labour market. The government hopes to steer employers towards utilising the available workforce in the UK; this is not only British workers, but those dependants of skilled migrants in the UK who could be available to fill lower-skilled jobs.”
In response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendations at the end of January, Global Payroll Association spoke to their members for their reactions.
Global Payroll Association found that the report and it’s recommendations were broadly welcomed by employer groups.
Jonathan Beech – managing director of Migrate UK – said some sectors would definitely fare better under the recommendations than others. He said the construction sector would benefit from including a number of job roles in a proposal to lower the skill level necessary to apply for vacancies: including carpenters, joiners and window fitters. Hospitality would reportedly be unlikely to benefit, the salary threshold of £25,600 is still high for the sector.
People Management asks Jonathan Beech for his comments
Published 29 January 2020 reported by Francis Churchill
Seeking employers reactions to the report published yesterday (28 January), by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) after their recommendation that the salary threshold be reduced from the current level of £30,000 (to £25,600), experts warned the changes will only provide ‘mild, temporary relief’ and some sectors will fare better than others.
Migrate’s MD Jonathan Beech provided these comments:
“Some sectors would definitely fare better under the recommendations than others. The construction sector, he said, would benefit from a number of job roles being included in a proposal to lower the skill level necessary to apply for vacancies. Hospitality, on the other hand, would be unlikely to benefit, with the salary threshold of £25,600 still high for the sector.”
“It’s important to note that migrants still need to be offered at least the ‘going rate’ for the vacancy they’re taking and the figure should be the higher of these two parameters – either £25,600 or the going rate.”