People Management – Number of firms registered as visa sponsors peak as EU immigration hits 15-year low

Published 28 February 2020 by Siobhan Palmer

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”.

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People Management report visa sponsorship costs unrealistic for small firms

Published 24 February 2020 by Elizabeth Howlett

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”.

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Points-based immigration: five things employers can do now

Personnel Today – published 19 February 2020

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.

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Recruiters urged to familiarise themselves with new immigration points-based system to navigate the talent sourcing challenges that lie ahead.

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.”

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Global Payroll Association – Call for lower visa salary threshold after Brexit welcomed by employers

Published 6 February 2020

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.

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Employers welcome call to lower post-Brexit visa salary threshold.

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.”

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Mixed reaction to UK migration proposals – Relocate Global

Published 28 January 2020, reported by David Sapsted

Relocate Global spoke to business leaders seeking their reactions to the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendations published on the 28th of January, for a post-Brexit immigration system.

Migrate UK’s MD Jonathan Beech was asked for his evaluation of the MAC report, alongside directors from the Confederation of British Industry, British Chambers of Commerce, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Institute of Directors

Jonathan said, “The report overall suggests that the MAC has been frustrated with the lack of data provided by the Government in order to recommend a new Points-Based system.”

“There are certainly particular sectors with more winners and more losers. The construction industry has been given a major boost after the MAC suggested adding a list of construction jobs including carpenters and joiners, glaziers, window fabricators and fitters to the proposed plan to lower the skill level for vacancies from RFQ Level 3+ and above from the current minimum RQF Level 6. This could be a major advantage to the construction sector, worried that their vacancies were being phased out as ‘low skilled’. On the other side, the hospitality sector will be hit hardest due to the proposed qualifying salary threshold still remaining high at £25,600 (down from £30,000) and there being no regional variation.”

“Recommendations made have included, to maintain the work sponsorship based system; amend an existing category to meet the government’s requirement for a ‘Points Based System’; and look into changing the rules for settlement in the UK.”

“The report calls for a review on whether the Shortage Occupation list jobs are still needed for medium and high skill levels under the new system, as there will be no cap on numbers and no Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) – advertising the vacancy.“MAC has proposed the actual Points Based System as a variation of the current Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route, but with major changes including an overall annual cap on those admitted, a monthly draw from this pool with those selected invited to submit a full application and those invited to apply should be those who have the highest number of points in the pool using a points-based system. Points will be awarded on characteristics such as qualifications and age with extra points for having studied in the UK and priority areas such as STEM and creative skills. Overall the report has brought much needed clarity to how the UK immigration system could look like post-Brexit but of course it’s still pending publication of the Government’s white paper in March.”

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Thousands of Eu citizens still yet to apply for settled status. People Management speaks to Jonathan Beech

Published 17 January 2020. Francis Churchill reported.

Migrate UK was asked for their comments after Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament, spoke on Radio 4’s Today programme 17 January.

Verhofstadt said it had been agreed that, even after the transition period, there would be no automatic deportation of EU citizens who had not applied for settled status. “There will always be people who don’t fulfill the procedures because they don’t even know they exist,” he said. “There will be a grace period… Even after the grace period there will be no automatic deportation.” 

He added there would be the possibility after that period for EU citizens to apply for settled status if they submitted reasons why they missed the initial deadline.

Jonathan Beech, managing director at Migrate UK, said there was still uncertainty over the future of the UK’s immigration system, and urged businesses to start advising their European employees to register for settled status if they had not done so already. He said this would be particularly important in the case of a no-deal situation at the end of the month. 

“There may only be a short window for EEA citizens to enter the UK to be able to reside and work without being subject to future UK immigration rules [in a no-deal scenario],” he said.

Looking beyond the end of the month, Beech said regardless of what is in the next immigration whitepaper, businesses should have until the end of next year to prepare. “But businesses will face an increase in costs associated with sponsoring EEA citizens entering the UK for work and long-term stay from next January,” he added.

“Should the current points-based system work, sponsorship and licensing process still be in place; existing sponsors must be compliant with the rules to avoid having licenses removed for non-compliance,” Beech said, adding that suspension or revocation of a licence could mean losing out on both EU and non-EU employees.

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Brexit: What will happen on 1 February 2020. Personnel Today speaks to Jonathan Beech

Published 17 January 2020

After much delay, the UK will leave the European Union at 11:00pm on 31 January. But with the arrangements for Brexit still unclear, how should employers be preparing for life outside the EU and will they see any immediate changes from February? Ashleigh Webber reports.

Migrate UK along with the AIRE centre, Faegre Baker Daniels and BDB Pitmans were all asked for their views.

Jonathan Beech, managing director at immigration law specialists Migrate UK told Personnel Today: “[the transition period] will be similar to the last couple of rounds of negotiating Brexit and the deal itself: should the UK leave the EU from 1 February 2020, then the immigration regime will only really change should there be a no-deal with any of the member states.”

“In this situation, those EU citizens entering the UK from a date (to be determined – but it could be 1 February 2020) will need to apply for Euro Temporary Leave to Remain which will provide three years of stay and allow work,” he says.

“Although there will be immigration rules changes expected through the year, as per normal, the new immigration system is expected to go live from January 2021. This coincides with a deal situation”.

Despite this, Beech warns it is still unclear whether all European citizens currently living in the UK are able to remain. “Employers need to encourage staff who haven’t yet done so to register under the EU Settlement Scheme by 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. This may be extended to 30 June 2021 if a deal is agreed.”

Jonathan Beech also warns employers to expect the cost of sponsoring overseas citizens to increase, both in the short term and for long-term stay beyond 31 December.

“Employers will need to think carefully about their annual Certificate of Sponsorship allocations from 6 April 2020 as this could overlap with EEA citizens requiring sponsorship from January 2021,” he explains.

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