Plans for a new post-Brexit, skills-based immigration system were outlined on Monday by the UK’s Home Office in a white paper report.
For skilled workers, the plans call for removing an annual cap on the number of work visas issued and ending requirements for labour market tests by employers wanting to sponsor a worker. However, they recommend a minimum salary of £30,000 for skilled workers.
For unskilled workers, the plans call for a transitional program that would provide a 12-month visa for workers followed by a 12-month “cooling-off period” once the visa expires. “This will allow all businesses have the staff they need as we move to the new immigration system but ensure they have the incentive to train young people in the future,” according to the Home Office’s announcement.
It would also call for EU citizens to obtain specific, individual permission to stay in the UK.
“There are a few pieces of good news today — like a short-term visa for lower-paid roles that can be applied for from the UK, and the acknowledgement that the system needs to be simpler, especially for smaller firms,” said Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said in response to the plans. “It was also good to hear the Home Secretary emphasise the importance of the new system working for the flexible labour market. And it was good to see less emphasis on the unworkable net migration target.”
However, Carberry cautioned against proposals the require job roles to be on a government-approved list before they can get a visa. “Because of this, the way the Resident Labour Market Test is replaced is vital — no list will be able to keep pace with changing demand from employers,” he said.
Separately, Yahoo News reported that critics believe the £30,000 salary cap will be difficult to meet.
The Confederation of British Industry lashed out against the plans.
“A new immigration system must command public confidence and support the economy. These proposals would achieve neither,” CBI Deputy Director-General Josh Hardie said in a commentary.
The CBI pointed to portion of the proposals covering low-skill workers as a problem.
“All skill levels matter to the UK economy,” Hardie said. “A temporary 12-month route for overseas workers earning under £30,000 would encourage firms to hire a different person each year. That needlessly increases costs and discourages migrants from integrating into local communicates — a key social concern. It’s not good for the public or business.”
Another concern was over the £30,000 recommended minimum salary.
“The facts are clear. Brexit is cutting off the ability to recruit and retain staff for nine out of 10 firms,” he said. “Despite firms spending over £45 billion in training each year, staff shortages are already biting. Hospitals, housebuilders and retailers are all struggling to find the people they need at salaries well below £30,000.”
On Wednesday, voices within cabinet indicated a £21,000 salary cap may be a more realistic option, as reported by the Guardian.