UK Employers Scramble to Secure Staff Visas Ahead of New Immigration Rules
London, UK - UK companies with a sponsor licence are in a race against time, submitting mainly Skilled Worker visa applications for skilled staff ahead of impending changes to immigration rules that will sharply increase the costs of hiring from overseas.
A Rush to Beat the Clock
Immigration experts have reported a surge in visa applications as companies scramble to secure Skilled Worker visas before the new rules come into effect. Some companies have started withdrawing job offers due to the impending requirement to pay much higher salaries to individuals recruited on skilled worker visas from April. This is in addition to a huge increase in the fees charged for overseas staff to use the NHS.
Early Bird Catches the Worm
In a bid to avoid the impending cost hike, some companies have brought forward their hiring plans and renewed visas for existing employees ahead of time. This proactive approach is aimed at securing their status before the costs rise. However, this rush to secure visas has resulted in a backlog of applications and a daily fight to secure the few slots on offer for fast-track processing.
Increased Scrutiny from the Home Office
As companies rush to secure visas, the Home Office is stepping up its scrutiny of employers in a clampdown on visa fraud and labour abuses. This increased vigilance is part of the government’s broader strategy to control immigration numbers.
Uncertainty Fuels Concern
The uncertainty over the details of the new rules has heightened businesses’ concerns. In December, Home Secretary James Cleverly announced that the main salary floor for skilled worker visas would rise from £26,200 to £38,700 from April. This increase could price out employers in sectors such as hospitality and manufacturing who use the system to fill roles ranging from chefs to welders.
A New Salary Landscape
In many higher-paid professions, the salary threshold specific to a worker’s role will rise even more sharply. The Home Office now plans to bring salaries in line with median full-time earnings for each occupation. This move is intended to deter employers from recruiting migrant workers.
Scrapping the Shortage Occupation List
In a significant move, the UK government plans to scrap the “Shortage Occupation List”. This list, which currently allows employers to pay 20% less than the going rate for certain roles, is set to be replaced by a new “Immigration Salary List”. This change is part of the government’s strategy to reduce skilled worker immigration. The new list aims to ensure that salaries for overseas workers are in line with the UK market rates, thereby addressing concerns about undercutting local wages.
Impact on Specific Sectors
The impact of these changes on specific sectors is likely to be significant. In the hospitality sector, for example, the increased salary threshold could make it more difficult for businesses to hire skilled chefs from overseas. Similarly, in the manufacturing sector, businesses may struggle to fill roles such as welders, which often rely on skilled worker visas. In the healthcare sector, the new regulations on migrant care workers being unable to bring in dependents could lead to a shortage of staff, impacting the quality of care provided to patients.
Data and Statistics
According to the latest statistics from the UK government, there were 1,311,731 visas granted in 2021. This was 59% less than in 2019 due to the global pandemic, but 36% higher than in 2020. The number of work-related visas granted in 2021 was 239,987, a 110% increase on 2020, and 25% higher than in 2019.
The changes in immigration rules are expected to affect a significant number of companies. For instance, the British Poultry Council alone says 60% of its 23,000 workers are EU nationals. The care sector, which heavily relies on migrant workers, could also be significantly impacted.
The economic impact of these changes is substantial. The UK’s 2024 immigration policy revisions aim to reduce immigration, raising critical concerns about accessibility, fairness, and the potential socio-economic impacts on sectors reliant on international talent.
Quotes from Experts and Stakeholders
Experts have voiced concerns about the new immigration rules. For instance, a critical analysis of the 2024 UK Immigration Changes by Sanwar Ali at Workpermit.com highlights that the policy revisions represent a significant shift in the country’s approach to managing migration. The changes aim to reduce immigration but also raise critical concerns about accessibility, fairness, and the broader socio-economic implications.
As the clock ticks down to the implementation of the new rules, UK employers are left navigating a complex and rapidly changing landscape. The impact of these changes on the UK’s labour market is likely to be significant.
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