If you follow international news, it can sometimes seem that Great Britain is withdrawing from the world. The country’s exit from the European Union (dubbed Brexit) followed by a new immigration regime introduced this year gives the impression of a nation turning its back on the global workplace.
Concerns about unchecked immigration from Continental Europe certainly played a part in the 2016 referendum result, when 52 percent of UK citizens voted to leave the European Union. As a result, the new immigration regime which came into effect in the UK on January 1 this year has been designed to restrict immigration.
However, while the political messaging has been about reducing migrant numbers, when you scratch the surface, the UK’s new immigration regime is effectively liberal. Certain measures will encourage more people to come to work in the UK, rather than to deter them. For example, the most common visa route, the Skilled Workers Visa, no longer carries the requirement that qualifying job vacancies must first have been offered to UK resident workers. The skills threshold applied to these visas has also been lowered, as has the salary threshold at which they are granted. These measures create a favourable environment for migration which it is assumed will open opportunities for between 10,000 to 30,000 people per year. This liberalisation of the UK’s immigration regime has been apparent at A Y & J Solicitors, as we have seen a four-fold increase in visa inquiries from non-EU nationals, particularly from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
So, while Europeans, who previously enjoyed free movement across UK borders, are now subject to more stringent rules, the door is open to others from the rest of the world. In effect, while criteria and stipulations still exist, it is now easier for individuals, businesses, and investors from all territories to obtain permission to work, invest and live in the UK, be they workers, students, investors and individuals identified as being exceptionally talented.
The aforementioned Skilled Worker Visa replaced the General Worker visa and was introduced at the start of 2021. It is a points-based system and applies to individuals who have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor in the UK. Only jobs at the required skill level (UK A Level equivalent and above) qualify for these visas. Applicants must also speak English to the required standard and the job must meet the minimum salary threshold of £25,600, or the specific salary requirement for their occupation, known as the ‘going rate’. Visas can be granted to those working at lower salaries if the job is classed as a shortage occupation or if they have a PhD relevant to the job. These visas can last for up to five years before they need to be extended.
For High-Net-Worth individuals wishing to move to the UK who have funds of more than £2m to invest in the country, the Investor Visa (Tier 1) is the best option. Applicants must be 18 or over and meet a range of criteria. For example, they must be able to prove that the money being invested belongs to either them or their spouse or partner. They also need to have an account at a UK regulated bank and must be able to prove where their funds came from if the funds are less than two years old.
For entrepreneurs there are Innovator and Start Up Visas.
The Innovator category allows for experienced businesspeople seeking to establish a new, innovative business in the UK. The business or business idea must be unique, commercially viable and have been assessed by an endorsing body. Applicants must also meet the English language requirement, be at least 18 years old and have £50,000 or more in investment funds and the means to support themselves while living in the UK.
Alternatively, Start-up Visas are for early-stage, high potential entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in UK for the first time. Applicants do not need investment funding but need an endorser to establish the business in UK.
Companies based in the Middle East that plan to extend in the UK can apply for a Representative of an Overseas Business visa. These are issued to eligible sole representatives to allow them to establish a UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary of their parent company. These visas can also be used by employees of overseas newspapers, news agencies or broadcasting organisations posted on a long-term assignment to the UK.
The final UK visa to consider is the Global Talent visa. These are issued to people classed as leaders or potential leaders in academia and research, arts and culture and digital technology. Applicants must also be at least 18 years old and have successfully applied for an endorsement to prove that they are a leader or potential leader.
As readers can see, the UK is certainly open for business and there are a range of options available to anyone within the Middle East, North African and Asian business communities wishing to take advantage of the Britain’s favourable economic and regulatory environment.