In his announcement yesterday to end EU free movement, treat Europeans the same as non-EU citizens and introduce a new immigration system that will focus on skilled workers, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s plans present employers with potentially significant administrative and financial challenges in the next few years.
When the new immigration system is introduced in January 2021, after the UK’s transition out of the European Union is complete, European migrants will need to apply for work visas in the same way as those from the rest of the World.
What are the implications of such a development?
As the law currently stands, European migrants enjoy freedom of movement and have unrestricted access to the UK labour market. After December 2020 (the end of the transition period), Europeans who wish to work in the UK will need to be sponsored by an employer who holds a Home Office-issued Sponsor Licence and be restricted in the employment they can take to skilled jobs that cannot be filled by UK nationals or settled persons.
Longer processing times for a Sponsor Licence
It is suggested the first such implication will be that employers will need to engage with a government department which is highly likely to be required to process a significantly increased number of Sponsor Licence applications from businesses that wish to attract skilled workers from this new, wider talent pool. Without the promise of additional resources (something which is absent from Mr Javid’s announcement) this is likely to result in longer processing times (currently at approximately eight weeks) with clear operational and financial consequences for employers. Increased delays to processing times could also potentially result in the employer losing the opportunity to engage the skilled workers they have identified for their business.
Higher cost for employers?
The second implication will be the financial cost to employers, with more businesses forced to pay application fees of up to £1,500 and additional levies in the form of the Immigration Skills Charge, of up to £1,000 per worker, per year and costs associated with assigning Certificates of Sponsorship and managing the Sponsor Licence generally.
Increased scrutiny of applications?
Moreover, it is suggested as highly likely that an increase in the number of Sponsor Licence applications will also lead to greater, more time-consuming scrutiny of applications, something that may be deemed necessary to preserve the integrity of the system in the face of what could be an exponential growth in Sponsor Licence holders. The number of licence holder currently stands at circa 29,000, but it is suggested this could, at a conservative estimate, quite easily double.
Home Office audits
There will also be an increased administrative and financial burden on employers to prepare for, and participate in, pre- and post-licence Home Office audits (which are designed to test whether the employer’s HR protocols are significantly robust to meet their current or future obligations). Such audits are now routine and becoming increasingly demanding.
Right to Work checks
A further implication is likely to be an increase in the number of Right to Work checks employers will be obliged to carry out and the risk that such checks will not be undertaken correctly. If this is the case, employers could face the prospect of having a Civil Penalty levied against them of £20,000 per worker if it is alleged the individual has been working illegally. This increase in the number of RTW checks will not only impose an administrative burden, but the anxiety of employers getting it wrong cannot be underestimated.
Indeed, following on from this last point, the increased risk of employers failing to meet their obligations as licence holders could result in their licences either being downgraded, suspended or even revoked. In some cases such courses of action could have operational implications or even jeopardise the very existence of the UK business. Again, it is difficult to underestimate the impact of such consequences.
Whilst the above points by no means represent an exhaustive list of the potential implications following on from the Home Secretary’s announcement, it hopefully serves to give an indication of some of the burdens, impositions and financial costs employers could face if forced, as many will be, to recruit from a talent pool that will soon include the territories of our former EU member States.
For advice and assistance on making a visa, immigration or nationality application or for any other immigration enquiry, please contact Charles or another member of our expert Immigration team on 020 7631 4141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.