1st December 2021 marked one year since the promising ‘Points-based immigration system’ replaced the UK’s inward migration system that was in place since 2008. But one year on, how has the points-based system fare in the UK and has it delivered on the promises it made when it was announced? Namely, the promise of introducing a highly skilled migrant workforce into the UK.
It is really important to note why the points-based system came about. According to Home Secretary Priti Patel, “Our departure from the European Union enabled us to end freedom of movement and introduce a new points-based immigration system to control who can come to our country legally. One year on, our system is making it easier for businesses to hire the skills and talent they need, while incentivising investment in our domestic workforce, boosting wages across the country.” The new points-based system regulated not only non-European migrants, but non-settled European migrants as well.
The point-based immigration system within which the skilled worker route and the global talent route were introduced saw phenomenal increases in visa numbers. These increases are greater than pre-pandemic numbers as well, extending a renewed hope that the Home Office is consistent in their approach to introducing an extremely skilled workforce into the country. However, there have been pitfalls. The global talent visas open to Nobel laureates and other prestigious global prize winners and highly skilled individuals in the fields of science, engineering, humanities and medicine accounted for 2,163 visa approvals up to June 2021.
By comparison there were 103,819 Skilled migrant visa approvals for the same period which is a 19% increase. The statistics seems to indicate that the Skilled migrant visa might be the most popular visa pathway for overseas talent in the coming years.
A caveat needs to be added here as many argue that this prioritisation of introducing only highly skilled and skilled workers into the country has left many sectors in the UK vulnerable to labour shortages as we have already seen this year with HGV drivers, poultry workers and more. Another issue with the points-based system is that those applying through the skilled migrant route, the must be sponsored by an entity that has been given the Home Office’s approval to employ migrant workers. In other words, the business must be licenced to employ foreign workers. The current list of companies and entities that hold a sponsor licence are few and far between, however, with the introduction of the points-based system and its extension to non-settled European migrants, the number of companies applying for the sponsor licence is expected to rise rapidly. This is especially true in the lead up to the world economy healing post-pandemic and an expected pickup in employment rates and hiring. We are already seen a significant increase in enquiries from British businesses looking to employ foreign workers.
Overall, the new points-based system seems promising, especially considering that most global economies are eyeing a post-pandemic future down the line. The system might benefit from expanding the list of shortage occupations based on the current market demands. Differentiating between certain UK regions and local skills shortages might also enhance the effectiveness of the new immigration system.
Lastly, facilitating the sponsorship licence process would also encourage more businesses to hire overseas skilled migrants brining new skills and international world’s talent into the UK economy.
Is your business looking to hire an overseas worker? Contact our Immigration Solicitor on 0207 427 5970 or email us: [email protected]