The arts industry will face a talent crisis if it does not prepare for new immigration rules which will kick in within weeks.
There is already a skills shortage in the UK across several sectors, including ballet and contemporary dancers, choreographers, musicians, arts officers, producers and directors.
These key roles are on the government’s list of ‘shortage occupations’ – meaning that a green light has been given to recruit from abroad.
But a leading immigration expert has sounded the alarm as only three per cent of British companies have registered to employ overseas workers when the new changes come in on January 1st – which means they will be restricted from access to the best international talent after that date.
Mr Yash Dubal, director of London-based A Y & J Solicitors and an expert on Immigration and Visa law, suggests there is no time to lose to prepare for the new regulations.
Mr Dubal said, “The UK is rightly proud of its incredible arts industry. But if it wants to continue as one of the best in the world, then the industry must be able to recruit from the rich pool of international talent to help ensure our theatres and orchestras continue to thrive. Revised immigration and visa regulations will mean reduced access to the cream of the crop for those who are not prepared and a possible talent crisis.”
Some industry professionals have blamed the government’s lack of investment in the sector as a reason for there being a shortage of individuals who possess the very highest skills required by the likes of orchestras and dance companies – which had often meant recruiting from EU nations, until the spectre of Brexit created upheaval.
Now, UK employers wishing to hire skilled migrants must be registered on the government visa sponsor scheme when new immigration rules come into effect. Currently the scheme only applies to workers from outside Europe but after January 1, 2021, all overseas workers will require a visa under the new Points-Based Immigration System.
Worryingly, Mr Dubal, believes that not enough is being done by the government to raise awareness and he says that many employers are unaware of the requirement to register.
He said, “While there has been a campaign about the new points-based system, hardly any of it has been aimed at employers to tell them that they need to register if they plan to hire skilled workers from abroad next year.”
Mr Dubal believes that the current sponsor registration system needs to be overhauled to make it easier and cheaper for British employers to recruit skilled migrants and bridge the skills gap. Currently, businesses must pay Immigration Skill Charge (ISC) between £364 to £1000 per year for each skilled overseas worker they employ.
“The Home Office does not make it easy and there seems to be a policy of discouragement. British companies are facing personnel shortages. The problem can be addressed by hiring from abroad, where there is a huge and highly skilled pool to pick from. It makes good sense to make this hiring process easy.”