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This week we saw the government present us with a long-awaited white paper, outlining the plans for new laws that will come into effect once the UK leaves the European Union...  
If everything goes according to plan, the new system will begin from the end of the transition period which is the end of 2020. This could be extended if everything does NOT go according to plan! 
 
It is important to mention that all of this depends on the EU. The negotiations are still ongoing and the rules may change depending on the mutual migration rules discussion.The white paper itself covers a lot of rules and changes for EU nationals. Specifically, at RSS we deal with workers coming to the UK and will focus on that in this article. Hopefully, we can make things a little clearer and less daunting! 
 

No Cap on High-Skilled Workers 

The independent Migration Advisory Committee advised that the UK should scrap its current cap on the amount of high-skilled migrant workers. Currently, the UK has a limit of 20,700 Tier 2 Visas that can be allocated to high-skilled workers, which includes doctors, nurses, engineers etc. 
 
Currently, workers from the EU states can work in the UK with very few restrictions (if any). But workers from outside of the EU will need a Tier 2 Visa. After Brexit, EU nationals will have to follow the same process as current non-EU nationals. 
 
It’ll make it more difficult (than it is now) for EU nationals to work in the UK but on the plus side, we may see more opportunities offered to people from outside of Europe, thus no longer restricting the talent pool. 
 
You could argue that the talent pool will be restricted further, but as a former recruiter, I know that employers are more likely to employ an EU national than a non-EU national due to time constraints, costs of visa applications/licences, and fear of cultural shock. It seems like the playing field will be levelled out. 
 
Currently, the UK has a rule where you must earn £30,000+ per year in order to qualify for a Tier 2 Visa - This will change but it has yet to be discussed what the new threshold will be. 
 
Here are some more examples of what professions qualify as a “High-Skilled”: 
- Pilots 
- Musicians 
- Journalists 
- Librarians 
- Lawyers 
- Architects 
- Surveyors 

Freedom of Movement 

We will no longer see “freedom of movement” between EU nationals and the UK. This means that, after Brexit, if you want to work in the UK and are not a UK citizen, you’ll have to apply for a work permit of some kind. 
 
So that is for workers... if you are visiting the UK for a short period of time (holiday, business trip, job interview), you will not require a visa, if you are an EU national. 

Lowering the Skills Threshold 

Another way the UK is planning to bring more talent into the country is by lowering the skills threshold to include A level or equivalent. This does not mean you need to have these qualifications but the job you have obtained is at that level. You must also meet the salary threshold. 

No More Resident Labour Market Test 

Currently, if you are an employer with a license to sponsor Tier 2 Visas you will need to complete a Resident Labour Market test. This will be scrapped when the new laws come into effect. This test exists to prove that employers have exhausted their search and are unable to find a “settled worker” who is already in the UK by advertising the job on a government-owned job board. 

Low-Skilled Workers 

Now, low skilled workers, from EU member countries, can come to the UK with no restrictions – that is going to change rather drastically. 
 
After the laws come into effect, low-skilled workers who do not meet the job criteria or the salary threshold will have to apply for a 12-month visa, followed by another 12-month “cooling off period”. This route into the UK will only be available for certain countries, for example, low-risk countries. 

Settlement Scheme 

EU and EFTA citizens who are already in the UK on 29th March 2019 and those that arrive before the end of the Brexit transition period, will be able to formalise their permission to stay in the UK. 
 
This EU Settlement Scheme is already being tested. 

Tourists 

Tourists can still come to the UK with no need for a visa for a period of 6-months. 

Students 

International students will not be limited in numbers. They will still need to get permission to travel to the UK for studies unless you are coming to study for 6-months or less. 
 
International students studying for a Bachelors’ degree will have the opportunity to apply for a skilled worker visa 3-months before the end of their studies, and up to two years after leaving the UK. 
Students who finish their studies and want to stay in the UK can do so for six months, PhD students have 12-months. 

When Will This Happen? 

If everything goes according to plan, the new system will begin from the end of the transition period which is the end of 2020. The transition period will begin on 29th March 2019. This could be extended if everything does NOT go according to plan! 
 
It is important to mention that all of this depends on the EU. The negotiations are still ongoing and the rules may change depending on the mutual migration rules discussion. 

Summary 

The publication has had mixed reviews from the “Remainers” and the “Brexiteers” but taking bias out of the argument, it seems like the changes may be positive. Or at least not as bad as everyone originally feared. 
 
The UK will be more open to people from outside of the EU which will put an end to any preferential treatment when it comes to employing someone from overseas. For example, the STEM fields in the likes of Brazil, China, India, Israel, Singapore etc. are all producing excellent talent that often gets overlooked and are a second choice compared to someone who is an EU national. 
 
As well as that, we can encourage UK nationals to excel in fields that were previously dominated by overseas talent. 
A conversation I have had with many EU nationals, over the last two years, that are living and working in the UK is one of reassurance from my part, but ultimately an uneducated reassurance as nobody knew how Brexit would turn out and what it would mean. It always seemed unrealistic that the UK would simply “kick out” anyone who is earning an honest living and contributing to the economy either by paying tax or working in fields where we are short-staffed. The publication has proved that the EU nationals that are already here are appreciated, welcome, and needed. It also proves that the UK will not be a country that is “closed for business” and of course it will never turn away talented workers that can contribute. The difference will be tighter regulations and more paperwork, which, in the modern time of instant gratification, may sound stressful, but it is important to make sure that people entering the country are doing so for the right reasons. 
 
Much is spoken in the news of the crumbling relationship between the UK and the EU, making the UK seem like a hopeless entity that needs the EU to survive, reminiscent of a scene from “Gone with the Wind” with the EU playing the role as Rhett Butler, dismissing Scarlett. 
 
The reality is that negotiations are tough, especially when the stakes are as high as this. When the conversations involve nationality and whether people “deserve” to be allowed in a certain country, that is likely going to muster some ill-feelings and accusations of xenophobia. My opinion and advice is to ignore news outlets and seek out the facts for yourself. All information regarding Brexit and future plans are on the government website and the latest white paper can be downloaded here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-uks-future-skills-based-immigration-system 

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