We are a broad coalition of trade, business and education bodies campaigning for a fair and managed immigration system to keep us open to the workers the UK economy needs.
The UK is preparing to leave the EU, when we will no longer benefit from freedom of movement for EU citizens. The Home Office is looking at new rules for immigration into the UK, as set out in the White Paper.
Employers get this and understand that there is a balance to be struck between rebuilding trust in the immigration system and keeping the economic wheels turning to make post-Brexit Britain a success.
In response to the White Paper, we are calling for the Home Office to keep the UK open to talent at all levels. We need:
A lowered salary threshold
The £30,000 salary threshold must be lowered to around £20,000 to bring it in line with the proposed skills threshold and the labour market;
A two-year temporary work route
The temporary work route should be extended to up to two years, with workers able to switch onto other routes such as a skilled visa while in the UK;
A reformed sponsorship model
Costs associated with sponsorship should be reduced and the system made less bureaucratic, making it easier for SMEs to use. Endorsing bodies able to sponsor freelancers and self-employed workers;
Mobility of talent
Recognise the importance of mobility of talent and reinstate the two-year post-study visa for international students, extend the current youth mobility scheme to include EU citizens and create an improved 90-day business visitor visa.
Eight tests for a fair and managed approach to immigration
The latest immigration figures show that net long-term migration from the EU has continued to fall since 2016, and multiple surveys have shown that skills and labour shortages are making it harder than ever for employers in all corners of the country to fill vacancies. Industries like construction, hospitality, digital and healthcare have large skills and labour gaps that aren’t being filled, even though we are training more people.
We need a new approach to immigration which recognises the benefits — as well as filling vacancies across the economy, migrants pay more in tax than they take out and generate new jobs — but also reflects the need to rebuild the public’s trust.
We believe that a fair and managed immigration system must meet eight tests
A lowered salary threshold: The skilled visa (current Tier 2) salary threshold should be lowered in line with the change in the skills threshold (now RQF3) and fall to around £20,000. This would also more closely resemble labour market realities in many sectors;
An extended temporary work route: The temporary work route should be extended to up to two years with reciprocal cooling-off periods that match the length of time a foreign worker spends in the UK. To aid progression and integration workers should be able to switch from this route into other routes, such as the skilled visa while they’re in the UK;
A reinstated two-year post-study work visa: A two-year post-study work visa should be reinstated for all international students, undergraduate level and above;
A recognition of the benefit of Youth Mobility: Maintain the current youth mobility visa and extend it so that citizens from both the EU and beyond can use it;
A reformed sponsorship model: Costs associated with sponsorship should be reduced, the payments made more flexible and the system less bureaucratic. It needs to be easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to use and endorsing bodies must be able to sponsor freelancers and self-employed workers;
Freelance visa route: Allow access for low volume but high impact talent including freelancers, self-contracted workers, scientists and tech experts, sponsored by endorsing bodies;
Business visitors: Enable business visitors access to undertake paid engagements for up to 90 days. Create a streamlined application process for all business visitors allowing for multiple contract engagements and repeat visits during their stay;
A dynamic shortage occupation list: The shortage occupation list should be a strategic and fast-track system to meet labour needs in all skills categories where there are critical shortages in fast growing and long-term growth areas. The SOL should not be used as the main mechanism in the immigration system for meeting employer demand for labour.
This must go hand-in-hand with investment in skills and training, from schools and FE colleges to higher education. Businesses have an important role to play here and will do more but we must avoid a cliff edge in recruitment. The prize is high: by resetting our immigration system we can get ready for Brexit and our economy firing on all cylinders.