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With the new year upon us and the UK's post-Brexit immigration system in full swing, the Government's attention has turned to ways in which the system can be improved, expanded and more user friendly. In light of this, we thought it would be a good opportunity to explore the upcoming developments for 2022 and beyond, based on details that have been released so far, as announced in the Home Office's recent policy paper and Rishi Sunak's Autumn 2021 Budget.
Skilled Worker Eligibility Checking Tool
Although the intention of this article is to focus on upcoming changes in 2022, we felt as though the recent release of the Skilled Worker Eligibility Checking Tool has gone somewhat unnoticed. This online tool is available for potential applicants or employers to assess eligibility under the Skilled Worker route, as part of the Governments’ plans to simplify the points-based system. There is a caveat that this tool provides an indication only and should not be wholly relied upon without addressing the other criteria an applicant would need to meet. Frustratingly, the Government have not yet linked this tool to their Skilled Worker websites, but it is expected that this will happen in due course. The eligibility tool can be accessed here: https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/skilled-worker-points-calculator
Temporary Concession for right to work checks end
The temporary concession implemented for Right to Work checks during the pandemic, which allowed scanned documentation and video call checks, will come to an end on 5 April 2022. Although this is the third delay, the government have stated that from 6 April 2022, employers must revert to checking an individual’s original documents in person (as opposed to scans or photographs of the originals) or use the Home Office’s online right to work check tool. Helpfully, employers will not be required to carry out full right to work checks retrospectively, where the adjusted check was carried out.
This will mean that for most categories of individuals, online Right to Work checks will be available and become the ‘norm’. However, for UK and Irish nationals, online checks to evidence right of work will not be possible. In practice this will likely cause difficulties, as it means those individuals will need to take documents into the office or arrange for their documents to be posted and then participate in checks via video calls. We understand that the Home Office are intending to partner with the passport agencies to create an online Right to Work check, but it is highly doubtful this will be ready for April 2022.
Launch of the Global Business Mobility Visa
The new Global Business Mobility visa is intended to change the way that overseas businesses transfer existing staff to the UK. It is expected that this new route will consolidate the current Intra-Company Transfers, the Intra-Company Graduate, the Sole Representative and the Temporary Work – International Agreement visas. The Global Business Mobility visa is aimed at supporting overseas businesses who wish to establish a presence in the UK or transfer existing staff for specific corporate purposes, which could not be done by a resident worker.
The exact rules, requirements and process for this new route are yet to be formally confirmed by the Home Office, however, we understand that this route will be split into five categories, namely:
On the face of it, this new route is an amalgamation of existing related visa schemes, however, we understand that there will be some notable differences. One example is that, previously only one person could be the “representative” from overseas coming to the UK to expand its UK presence. However, under this new route, the Home Office intends to trial a ‘team subsidiary pathway ‘ to allow one senior executive and, potentially, up to 4 team members to set up a new business entity in the UK. The final details of this new route are expected to be published early in 2022. It will be interesting to find out what the Home Office requirements are in each category, especially relating to salary levels, length of entry clearance and if sponsorship will feature.
Launch of the Scale up Visa
The Scale-Up visa will introduce a fast, new, unsponsored points-based route to attract the brightest and most talented to the UK. However, this new route won’t be open to all individuals, it will only support those with a ‘high skilled’ job offer from a UK qualifying scale up business. To be an eligible scale up business, you must be able to demonstrate an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than 20% and a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period. Or in other words, a company experiencing rapid growth in the UK.
With the hopes of modernising UK immigration, the policy aims to attract talent in academia, science, research and technology from around the world. Similar to the skilled worker requirements, it is expected that individuals will need to pass English language proficiency, but the minimum salary will be higher, likely at least £33,000. This is expected to provide vast opportunities for individuals to enter the UK in a fast-track way without the time, expense, resources and responsibilities associated with formal sponsorship.
Launch of the High Potential Individual (“HPI”) Visa
The HPI visa route will be open to high potential graduates from top global universities allowing them to enter the UK without a job offer.
Eligible applicants will be those who have graduated from top global universities and we anticipate that a closed list of government-approved institutions and characteristics such as age, salary and postgraduate qualifications will apply. Applicants who do qualify will be provided with the flexibility to work and switch jobs while in the UK with limited restrictions. We understand that the HPI visa will qualify for settlement in the UK, although the rules are yet to be released.
IT improvements for Sponsorship visas
It is expected that the Government will launch IT systems which connects the sponsor and the visa applicant’s information. For instance, once the role details have been approved (i.e. CoS assigned) the system will be prompted to invite the applicant to make their visa application and it will pre-populate some of their visa application based on the information provided by the sponsor. This will remove duplication and help streamline the process which will be a welcome addition for sponsors to the current process.
Launch of the Global Talent Network
This network is intended to launch in 2022 to help identify talented people to bring to the UK who work in key science and technology sectors. We understand that this network will initially launch in the US (Bay Area and Boston) and India (Bangalore); however, it is likely that the Government will expand more countries into the network overtime. The aim of the network is to work with UK businesses to identify skill needs and then source talent from overseas universities, innovation hubs and research institutions to fill those needs.
Immigration Skills Charge – exempt for EU ICT workers
The Migration Advisory Committee’s report on the Intra-company Transfer route noted that as part of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the UK has committed to exempt EU ICT workers from the Immigration Skills Charge (“ISC”) from no later than 1 January 2023. The current ISC is either £364 or £1,000 per year (depending on the size of the sponsor) therefore this will be a huge saving for sponsors. It would make sense for this to be introduced at the time the Global Business Mobility visa is launched but the Government are likely to want to recoup those charges for as long as they can!
Launch of the Universal Permission to Travel System
The UK plans to introduce a universal travel system, like the “ESTA” currently adopted by the USA. This system will require those travelling to the UK without a visa or a confirmed immigration status to obtain electronic travel authorisation ahead of travelling.
Digitalisation of the UK border
As you may be aware, the UK is working towards Electronic Travel Authorisations for non-UK visitors by 2025. The Government intend to have a fully digitalised immigration system by this time, so that biometric residence permits, and passport vignettes are no longer in circulation. The intention is to also expand the ID Check app to those applying to extend their leave from within the UK on either the Skilled Worker or Student route.
The constantly changing and evolving world of business immigration has no signs of taking a break in 2022. The proposed plans and implementations noted in this article are all positive steps in the right direction to deliver an improved and streamlined immigration system in the UK. This should reduce the burden and administration for UK sponsors in a market where attracting talent from overseas is going to be vital to our economy. However, as always, the devil will be in the detail. If you have any questions on any of the above developments or business immigration queries more generally, please do get in contact with Gemma Robinson.