The budget is not normally somewhere that Global Mobility professionals look to for policy reform, however the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced a number of changes to the UK immigration system in Wednesday’s budget.
The key tag line that the government wants to “reform the immigration system [to] help ambitious UK businesses attract the brightest and best international talent” is hardly revolutionary, in fact it could be argued that any government that didn’t buy into this principle would be acting irresponsibly. However, the budget publication does provide some good detail to support this ambition:
Introduce, by March 2022, an elite points-based visa. Within this visa there will be a ’scale up’ stream, enabling those with a job offer from a recognised UK scale-up to qualify for a fast-track visa
Reform the Global Talent visa, including to allow holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for early promise to automatically qualify
Review the Innovator visa to make it easier for those with the skills and experience to found an innovative business to obtain a visa
Launch the new Global Business Mobility visa by spring 2022 for overseas businesses to establish a presence or transfer staff to the UK
Provide practical support to small firms that are using the visa system for the first time
Modernise the immigration sponsorship system to make it easier to use. The government will publish a delivery roadmap in the summer
Establish a global outreach strategy by expanding the Global Entrepreneur Programme, marketing the UK’s visa offering and explore building an overseas talent network
How will this help companies attract global talent?
The recent overhaul of the immigration system as a result of leaving the EU already means that UK businesses can hire in a significantly wider range of skilled roles from around the world, however when it comes to attracting the very brightest there has been little reform. The Global Talent visa (previously known as Tier 1 Global Talent) already allows recognised leaders and potential leaders in academia or research, arts & culture and digital technology to move to the UK, and the reforms announced to this category are unlikely to drastically change who will be eligible. Rather the reforms will simply make the application process easier, which may result in more recognised leaders choosing to move to the UK.
The Global Talent scheme only benefits a small area of the economy, however the announcement to provide practical support to small firms using the immigration system has the potential to really help British businesses attract talent from around the world. Something that puts a lot of small businesses off using t the immigration system is the upfront cost, however with the correct support and guidance these businesses can start to see the cost as a strategic investment rather than an administrative expense.
Where are the shortages in global talent and will the new fast-track immigration proposals help this?
The government maintains a Shortage Occupation List which is published in the Immigration Rules, and this list is dominated by STEM, creative, health and education roles. The announcements in the budget appear to show that the government is concentrating on only a small number of these roles and is paying particular attention to the fintech industry. Special treatment for “scale-up” companies – the evolved form of a “start-up”, appears to be specifically focused at the fintech industry as this was one of the recommendations made in the Kalifa review, published less than a week before the budget.
The government appears to be doubling down on its support of the fintech industry, and is possibly an indicator that they are prepared to take a more sector based approach in helping develop high potential industries or supporting those that need a helping hand to remain competitive. The fintech industry is a good place to start as it is showing significant potential and also scalability, however if this government wants to make serious inroads into addressing the UK’s shortage occupations it needs to continue expanding this approach into other sectors such as life sciences and manufacturing.
How will the new rules work and who will benefit?
The majority of the changes announced in the budget will not go live until Spring 2022, therefore the government will be publishing the detail on these changes over the course of the year.
The Home Office has historically been very slow and at times reluctant to adopt new ways of working, especially when it comes to digitising the immigration system, however the announcements in the budget appear to show that there is a renewed focus on modernising the infrastructure of the immigration system and making it easier to use.
Modernising the Sponsor Management System has been long overdue – the system has not had any major upgrades since it went live in 2008. If this is done correctly it will make it significantly easier for Sponsor Licence holders to ensure they are compliant, and will also reduce the requirement for specialist intervention for administrative tasks such as reporting a change in a worker’s job title.
The announcements in the budget will primarily benefit 4 types of business;
Fintech start-ups and scale-ups
Businesses which rely on being able to attract world leading talent
Smaller firms who have limited experience of using the immigration system
Businesses and individuals who want to set up innovative businesses in the UK
There is certainly a great deal more work required to make the UK the leading destination for global talent, however the announcements in the budget are certainly a step in the right direction and should be welcomed by all areas of the economy.
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