The changing landscape of UK immigration laws – where do businesses start?
Constant evolution of UK immigration
The landscape of UK immigration has changed significantly over recent years. This was initially triggered by Brexit, where a new points-based immigration system was introduced, along with new and re-labelled visa routes.
They key change brought about by Brexit was that free movement of persons ceased on 31 December 2020, meaning that EU citizens now need to apply for entry clearance to arrive in the UK.
The EU Settlement Scheme was introduced to give those EU citizens already in the UK a chance to secure their UK immigration status, in anticipation of the end of free movement. This however was transitional in nature and the Scheme has now closed.
A further suite of visa routes came into effect in April 2022; being the new Global Business Mobility routes. A High Potential Individual visa route was also introduced, as recently as May 2022.
The constant changes in visa routes and the various requirements make it notoriously difficult for business to track.
Whilst the last few years have been particularly challenging from this perspective, our view is that it is ultimately beneficial. Both UK and international businesses have access to a wide range of workers from the international talent pool, with a suite of business visas to choose from, depending on their specific requirements.
Technical nature of immigration work
Legal immigration work can be highly technical, intensified by the fact that various guidance and rules are fragmented across many different sources.
Given the personal importance of a worker’s immigration permission, along with the corporate importance of adhering to the immigration requirements, a mishap could lead to unforgiving consequences and situations which can be complex to rectify.
Our advice to businesses would be to seek advice early. UK businesses which hold sponsor licences should also ensure that they adhere to their compliance obligations, such as right to work checks and reporting on migrant activity.
When a business is considering making international recruits, we suggest that it carefully identifies what its requirements are, as a preliminary exercise.
Having answers to the following questions will help the business/its advisers to map out the suitable visa route(s) and sequence of events.
International businesses looking to expand into the UK should also be clear about its planned expansion and who they have in mind to go to the UK.
Time in the UK
How long will the worker be required to work in the UK?
Some visas cannot be extended indefinitely and do not lead to settlement.
Is it important that any permission to work in the UK should count towards the worker’s potential to settle in the UK?
If settlement is a dealbreaker for the worker, then consider an immigration route which does lead to settlement.
What role is the worker carrying out, or will be carrying out, in the UK? How skilled is it and what salary does/will the role attract?
Sponsored immigration categories have minimum skill and salary requirements.
Does the individual have any qualifications which can be used towards proving their competency in English, or have they passed an approved English language test?
Some immigration routes have a minimum English language requirement. UK Visas and Immigration are prescriptive about what documents will suffice to meet this requirement.
Switching immigration categories
Will the worker need to make a visa application for entry clearance, or are they already in the UK and seeking to switch immigration categories?
If they are in the UK, ask whether an “in-country” switch is permitted under the relevant rules. There are some visa categories from which you cannot switch, meaning that the worker may have to leave the UK before applying.
Employed or just visiting?
Will the migrant worker be employed to work in the UK, or will they simply be in the UK for a short-term business trip?
If the latter, consider simply using a visitor visa.
IBB Law acts for many global heavyweights on their complex business immigration requirements (including sponsor management, compliance, entry clearance and leave to remain applications for key executives).