Ministers urged to 'reset' new immigration system

The UK government should amend its new, "fundamentally unfair" immigration system if the nation is to continue to attract the overseas talent the economy needs, according to a new report.

The report, 'Building an Immigration System for the Future of Work', prepared by the City of London Corporation and EY, urges the government to streamline visa costs, remove unnecessary red tape and introduce provisions to enable flexible and part-time working when the points-based system comes into effect after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.Retaining access to international talent is key to the UK’s position as a major financial centre, says the report, and is “critical to socio-economic recovery” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.It points out that international staff comprise 39 per cent of City of London workers, and 19 per cent of financial services employees in the UK.Among the report's recommendations are the scrapping of provisions in the new system that will prevent sponsored migrants working part-time if their salary drops below the £25,600 threshold. Such a policy is described as “fundamentally unfair and constrains employers in supporting flexible working and achieving the diversity that this leads to”.It also wants to see the £5,000 Immigration Skills Charge, which has to be paid before an international worker enters the UK, reduced so that it becomes more affordable for small businesses.
Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said: “It is vital now more than ever that the UK remains an attractive location for international talent.“Introducing a new immigration system at a time of an unprecedented pandemic is a huge challenge, but it also presents a unique opportunity to hit the ‘reset’ button so that the process works better for employers, applicants and the Home Office.“This report sets out how the new points-based system – in parallel with developing domestic talent – could be adapted to support both the immediate recovery from Covid-19 and our long-term competitiveness. Cutting red tape, reducing cost and increasing flexibility will help to drive economic growth.”The report points out that pandemic has led numerous countries, including the UK, to innovate by radically reducing immigration bureaucracy, granting automatic extensions to visas and moving to online processing.It calls on the Home Office to consider making permanent some of the measures that it has taken during the Covid-19 outbreak crisis to speed up the visa process and reduce the administrative burden.Seema Farazi, UK financial services immigration leader at EY, said: “The UK immigration system has been ripe for innovation for some time, and over recent months we have witnessed incredibly fast progress in key areas. Covid-19 has inadvertently provided increased positive scrutiny around how we work, and has accelerated digital progress across business.“To really demonstrate innovation however, the future of work must be intrinsically linked to strong, purpose-driven immigration policy that aligns with business as it looks to nurture and upskill talent in the UK market."The UK financial services sector attracts some of the world’s top talent, and a truly innovative new immigration system will continue to facilitate and improve on this, especially as we enter a post-Brexit world.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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