Last week the Migration Advisory Authority (MAC) published its recommendations on the Points Based System (PBS) and salary thresholds for immigration.
“The report we publish today covers two commissions, one on the possible role of a points-based system and one on the appropriate level and design of salary thresholds. Both commissions are about the UK’s future skills-based work migration system to be introduced after the end of the Brexit transition period, 2021 at the earliest. There is not much time for decision because any new system needs time to be introduced and employers given adequate notice of what are likely to be substantial changes.”
The recommendations have been met with cautious optimism by the business community. However, the government seems set to ignore the MAC’s views and plough ahead with its own plans for a revised post-Brexit immigration system. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, dismissed the MAC as “advisory” and commenting on the report, a Home Office spokesperson said:
“We will deliver on the people’s priorities by introducing a points-based immigration system from 2021 to attract the brightest and best talent from around the world, while reducing low-skilled migration and bringing overall numbers down.”
The recommended changes to UK immigration are expected to “result in a lower level of immigration, a lower rate of growth in population, employment and GDP.” However, MAC chief Professor Alan Manning qualified this by saying “almost all of these estimated impacts at the macro level are small”.
The report’s main recommendations include:
Leaving the Tier 2 Visa route intact
The MAC recommends keeping the Tier 2 (General) skilled worker route, because “the combination of skill eligibility and a salary threshold works well for an employer-driven system”. However, it believes lowering the minimum salary threshold to £25,600 would provide more flexibility to employers wanting to recruit medium-skill workers such as teachers, nurses, and recently graduated STEM talent.
The report goes on to say the Tier 2 (General) Visa should apply to both EEA and non-EEA citizens and should be expanded to medium-skill jobs. Furthermore, the Resident Labour Market Test ought to be abolished, and a simplified process introduced.
Although this provides employers with a simplified system, it fails to address the concerns of organisations in fields such as hospitality and care, which rely on low-skilled EEA workers to fill constant staff shortages.
Changing the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa route
The report concludes that the numbers applying for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa are too low to meet the objectives of the route.
At present, Tech Nation provides the largest number of endorsements (and is the only body that has ever exceeded its initial quota), followed by the Arts Council UK. Only around six per cent of endorsements are in engineering.
The MAC identified that the bar set for ‘exceptional talent’ was too high. Not only did it put off potential applicants (who fear they could never meet such a high standard) but it is often not a route well-suited for those who satisfy the existing definition. For example, exceptional leaders are hardly likely to leave their home and lifestyle behind and come to the UK without a job offer. And if they do have a job offer, their employer is likely to suggest they apply for a Tier 2 visa, which they are likely to get.
Furthermore, the process for gaining endorsement can be exceedingly slow.
It was recommended in the report that an ‘Expression of Interest’ system should be created. This would provide a low-cost way for applicants to register their interest in moving to Britain, leading to a pool of interested individuals. Monthly invitations to submit a full application could be introduced, with a quota, based on a points system. Only those who satisfy the pre-set criteria and earn the most points would be invited to apply.
The route to Settlement be reviewed
It was concluded by the MAC that the UK Indefinite Leave to Remain route was inflexible, especially given the minimum salary threshold. The Committee recommended proposed increases in the settlement income threshold should be paused for the time being. It also stated that Settlement criteria should be reviewed; however, it was recognised that this could only be done if there is better data available made available. If changes are made, a PBS system similar to Australia is an option.
Although the MAC has made sensible suggestions in its report, the British government does not appear too impressed. It remains to be seen what the new immigration system is devised over the coming months. But one thing is clear – the clock is ticking, and UK employers and potential migrants need certainty regarding what the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system will look like.
A Y & J Solicitors are specialists in immigration law based in central London. If you would like more information on UK Visas, Settlement, or Sponsor Licences, get in touch with us at [email protected] or call +44 20 7404 7933.
Disclaimer: No material/information provided on this website should be construed as legal advice. Readers should seek an appropriate professional advice for their immigration matters.