Earlier this year, Home Secretary Priti Patel sparked a heated debate with her announcement that the UK would close its borders to “low-skilled workers” as part of a new immigration system set to come into force when our Brexit transition period ends.

Then, right in the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and with lockdown in full swing, the government released its promotional material, entitled: ‘The UK’s points-based Immigration system: an introduction for employers. ‘

Cue a flurry of anxious phone-calls from employers to their lawyers – and understandably so. Following years of political and economic uncertainty and a cherry-on-top global pandemic, employers haven’t had it easy when it comes to forward planning.

In this blog, we’ve provided the key points to bear in mind for a post-Brexit points-based immigration system and what your business can do to prepare.

What does a points-based immigration system look like in practice?

From 1 January 2021, free movement will end, and the UK will introduce an Australian style points-based immigration system.

In short, the new system is designed to ensure EU migrants are treated the same as those from the rest of the world, with a points system upon which they will be scored against.

This will judge applicants based on their salary, qualifications, grasp of the English language and the skills needed for the type of work they intend to do. It will also take into account current shortage occupations, ensuring priority is given to migrants offering a particular skillset that the UK is in need of.

In effect, migrants seeking to move to the UK will not be able to do so without a firm job offer, unless they are deemed exceptional candidates such as those who are recognised or have potential to be recognized as exceptionally talented leaders in the fields of science, the humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology or the arts.

How can I prepare my business for the new immigration system?

With the end of free movement from January 2021, business owners and HR teams will need to get accustomed with the key changes coming into effect to ensure processes have been adjusted accordingly.

As an employer, retention of existing EU citizens in your workforce will be a top priority. Equally, you will need to ensure you have the systems in place to manage your existence sponsorship licence and enforce compliance with the strict rules around holding a Home Office Sponsor Licence.

With just under 6 months to go before the new system comes into force, businesses must use this time to assess their personnel needs and prepare for the future. Depending on your current and future requirements, this may include:

  • Applying for a Home Office Sponsorship licence
  • Implementing a framework to ensure compliance with new rules as well as illegal working regulations
  • Start recruiting talent you need in advance
  • Helping existing EU staff to secure settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Identifying skills gaps in your business according to your existing and future plans
  • Training your team or new recruits to ensure the new rules don’t leave your business burdened from an inability to recruit workers from the EU

As you can imagine, this isn’t one of those tasks you can cram in at the last-minute. Fail to prepare and – you know what comes next. In this case, it could mean a block in the road of your ability to recruit talent from the EU and a difficulty to fill key roles to reach your business goals.

Already, the Home Office has seen a gargantuan wave of sponsor licence applications since December 2020. With a backlog to review, time is truly of the essence in ensuring your business’ recruitment drive isn’t stalled in waiting for approval.

The official government guidance states that businesses can apply for a Sponsor Licence now even if they don’t plan to use it yet or only plan to recruit secondary level educated workers once the new work visa rules come into force on the 1 January 2021.

Looking for tailored advice on your business’ immigration policies and processes? We’re all too happy to help. Get in touch with our team and we’ll talk you through it and help you prepare for the future.

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