These 7 Changes Will Modernise UK Immigration System Within a Year
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, delivered the 2021 UK Budget yesterday. It outlines plans for the country’s post-pandemic recovery.
In his announcements, Mr Sunak confirmed that the government’s total coronavirus spending was £407bn. He also suggested that ‘huge challenges’ lied ahead to address record levels of borrowing.
According to the report, the UK Government intends to modernise the immigration system. The main aim is to help the UK attract and retain the highly-skilled workers, mostly in academia, science, research and technology areas. It is to drive innovation and support UK jobs and growth.
Among the key points highlighted by the Treasury, the following 7 reforms and changes in the world of UK immigration law will take place within approximately one year.
An Elite Points-Based visa
Before March 2022, the UK Government intends to introduce an elite points-based visa. The intention is for this visa to have a ’ scale-up’ stream. It will enable those with a job offer from a recognised UK scale-up to qualify for a fast-track visa. So, potentially this will be an unsponsored work route.
Currently, for UK employers to invite a foreign worker, they’ll need to be fully registered with the UK and have a ‘Sponsor’ status. The registration process is long, complicated and laborious. The Sponsors have a long list of duties, which they can access via 3 appendices:
Appendix A clarifies which documents you need to submit to support your sponsor licence application.
You’ll find a list of immigration offences the UKVI will take into account when considering your suitability to hold a sponsor licence at Appendix B (28 pages).
And finally, Appendix D (13 pages) explains your record-keeping duties as a licensed sponsor.
Additionally, the UKVI published over 12 different employer guides to clarify various work-related UK Visa routes.
As a result, the highly skilled migrant route is mainly attractive to big employers, who can afford to either have their own legal team or outsource such legal representation, which is very expensive.
The new Elite Points-Based visa can potentially solve the current dilemma. According to announcements, they intend to achieve this by relieving the UK employers of an obligation to go through the Home Office registration process. Potentially, the UK employers will be able to hire Elite Points-Based visa holders in the same conventional way as all other potential employees.
There will be further practical enhancements to the existing Skilled Worker visa holders. In particular, the ability to start employment with a new employer on the issue of Certificate of Sponsorship, rather than the later grant of an application for in-country applicants. The necessity to make a new visa application when changing employers will probably remain. The intention is to allow workers to not interrupt their employment while waiting for their visa application outcome.
The UK Government also intends to take a flexible and more creative approach for paying visa fees and the Immigration Skills Charge (where needed) and reducing visa processing time to 72 hours in most cases.
Global Talent Visa Reform
The Global Talent route is for people aged 18 or over in the field of science, engineering, humanities, medicine, digital technology or arts and culture who can show they have exceptional talent or exceptional promise.
Currently, the application process consists of two parts. The first part is an application for endorsement. The second part is an application for entry clearance or permission to stay.
The UK Government intends to reform the Global Talent visa. The intention is to make two major changes:
- To change the route to allow holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for the early promise qualify automatically.
- To create a new visa stream to increase access to Global Talent for fintech scale-ups. The intention is to create another unsponsored /endorsement-free UK visa route supporting scale-up growth and allowing globally mobile talent with highly sought-after skills to join high potential firms without unnecessary burdens on UK employers.
Fintech, or financial technology, is the UK’s strongest startup sector. This sector improves and automates the delivery and use of financial services. This sector attracted more investment than any other UK industry. A total of 1,373 fintech companies collectively raised £14.9b in equity funding. These ambitious and innovative companies are bringing real change for consumers and businesses.
The ‘Prestigious Prizes’ List
Today, in the new Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules: HC 1248 the Secretary of State confirmed that from 5 May 2021, there would be the ‘Prestigious Prizes’ list. The winning of one of the prizes on this list will automatically qualify the applicant for a Global Talent visa without the need for an endorsement. The full list is not in a new Appendix Global Talent yet. I, therefore, extracted it for you directly from the Statement of Changes. You can get access instant access to it HERE.
The Innovator Visa Review
The Innovator route is for a person wishing to establish a business in the UK based on an innovative, viable and scalable business idea they have generated or to which they have significantly contributed. Importantly, the endorsing body will need to support their application.
Also, those who apply will typically need to have at least £50,000 to invest in their business. Additionally, they need to have a key role in the day to day management and development of the business. The Innovator route is a route to settlement.
The route does not seem to be working the way it was initially intended to. First of all, although the route is not officially capped, there is a limit on the number of endorsements. The endorsing bodies have a limited number of endorsements (usually 25), which can be allocated, and any increase would have to be justified. For this reason, it is challenging to succeed at the endorsement stage. This stage attracts a high number of refusals.
Secondly, the Immigration rules surrounding these types of applications are complex and bulky, driving many potential applicants away. It is because most applicants, innovative business people, mainly prefer a more predictable and sustainable foundation. A foundation where they, rather than endorsements bodies, have control.
The New Global Business Mobility Visa
A launch of the new Global Business Mobility visa is intended to take place by spring 2022. This new route allows overseas businesses to establish a presence or transfer staff to the UK.
Therefore, the new route sounds like a combination of two existing UK visa routes: Representative of an Overseas Business and the Intra-Company Transfer routes.
The Representative of an Overseas Business Route is for an overseas business employee that does not have a presence in the UK. A person applying as a Representative of an Overseas Business will need to be a Sole Representative or a Media Representative. A Sole Representative is a senior employee of an overseas business assigned to the UK to establish a branch or subsidiary. A Media Representative is an employee of an overseas media organisation who intends to work in the UK on a long-term assignment. Importantly, a Representative of an Overseas Business is a route to settlement.
There are two Intra-Company routes: the Intra-Company Transfer route and the Intra- Company Graduate Trainee route. The Intra-Company Transfer route is for established workers who are being transferred by the business they work for to do a skilled role in the UK. The IC Graduate Trainee route is for workers who are being transferred by the business they work for to undertake a role in the UK as part of a structured graduate training programme. However, these routes do not lead to settlement.
Practical Support to Small Firms
Given the complexity and volume of work-related UK Immigration Rules, small companies are dissuaded from inviting overseas workers to join their team. This has far-reaching negative consequences on the UK economy. In many cases, the lack of a competent key person limits small companies’ growth. This limits the cash flow, which could otherwise benefit consumers, positively enriching the UK economy. In addition, to ease the path, the UKVI intends to provide hand-on practical support to small firms. These firms usually struggle to understand the intricacies of the work-related visa application process.
The Immigration Sponsorship System Modernisation
Also, the UK government confirmed its intention to modernise the immigration sponsorship system. As with all system modernisation proposals, this one is to make it easier to use by the Sponsors. The government promised to publish a delivery roadmap by this summer.
The Global Entrepreneur Programme Expansion
Finally, the UK government confirmed the intention to establish a global outreach strategy. It intends to achieve this by expanding the Global Entrepreneur Programme, marketing the UK’s visa offering, with the goal of building an overseas talent network.
The UK government’s Global Entrepreneur Programme is a programme, which helps high-growth overseas companies relocate to the UK. This support is free and includes:
- mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs
- help to develop business plans
- assistance with relocating to the UK
- providing introductions to key networks, including investors
- guidance on how to grow internationally
- continued help from DIT once located in the UK, especially around exporting.