Dedicated UK visa for independent professionals urged

indian_diaspora_event_14937211034.jpg

Priti Patel at an Indian Diaspora event at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London, 17 October 2014.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Public Domain

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

The Global Talent visa, Innovator visa and Start-Up visa are too difficult to come under.  Not many people qualify for these visa categories. The Tier 2 General visa and Sponsor Licence scheme requires visa applicants to have a job offer and is quite a cumbersome and expensive system. Perhaps now is the time to consider something similar to the previous Tier 1 General skilled migration visa scheme which ended many years ago, especially if free movement for newly arriving EU citizens will no longer exist from next year. 

The Tier 1 General visa allowed skilled workers to gain entry to the UK without a job offer, based on skills, qualifications, age, English ability, etc.   Boris Johnson talks about an “Australian style” points system.   What about something similar to the previous Tier 1 General visa scheme?

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has urged the government to establish a dedicated UK visa for independent professionals, according to a report in The HR Director. APSCo has called for the visa route following the recent second reading of the Home Office’s controversial UK immigration bill.

According to the Home Office, the new bill is designed to facilitate a ‘high skill’ economy. However, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Affairs at APSCo Tania Bowers, argues that the legislation, set to come into effect on 1 January 2021, provides no dedicated route for independent professionals.

Ms Bowers said: “It is no secret that there are skills shortages across many high skilled sectors such as engineering, technology, construction and life sciences.”

“Consequently, we need to have an immigration system that recognises that the UK’s ability to attract world class brands to do business here – and promote its strengths when negotiating trade deals after Brexit - pivots on access to skills and a flexible workforce,” Ms Bowers added.

Freedom of movement

Under current freedom of movement rules, independent professionals from the EU have been allowed to work in industry sectors affected by skills shortages, helping UK businesses to remain operational while remaining completely flexible and not tied to a specific role.

Independent workers tend to work on medium and long-term projects, which have a beginning and an end. According to The HR Director report, projects that an employer does not want or require a full-time worker for - in other words, professional self-employment – is not even recognised by the Office for National Statistics.

Ms Bower said: “This is reflected in the attitudes of policy makers, which is why a dedicated visa route for independent professionals does not exist.”

Access to skilled talent  

According to APSCo, the lack of s dedicated visa route for independent professionals will impact access to skilled talent, while deterring those who want to work in the UK.

To work in Britain, independent professionals would be forced to endure the bureaucratic Tier 2 visa route, needing sponsorship from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 sponsorship licence. APSCo argues that the absence of a dedicated visa route for independent professionals means that the UK is losing access to talent in the international labour market.

Ms Bower said: “The Innovator and Startup visas, although positive steps are not suited for most independent professionals.”

A government white paper outlining the UK’s post-Brexit immigration plans did specify that ministers would consult on a highly skilled visa, which would not require applicants to have a job offer in place – legislation that is similar to the points-based immigration system used in Australia.

APSCo said: “We urge Government to expedite this consultation. Secondly, we ask that they broaden the scope of the Startup Visa and lastly, consider whether umbrella companies and recruiters should be able to register as an employer to secure Tier 2 visas for agency workers.”

APSCo said that they have been in touch with the Home Office so that the organisation can play an active role in consultations over a highly skilled visa, while continuing to lobby through a programme of MP meetings.

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