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MPs propose new immigration system to support UK innovation post-Brexit

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Prime Minister Theresa May made the above statement in May of this year, an acknowledgement that the UK’s innovation and science sectors rely on talent from across our borders.

However, since the result of the EU referendum in June 2016, industry has raised concerns about getting access to skilled workers from the EU and beyond. For example, Tier 2 visas, which allow for hiring skilled workers outside the UK, has an annual cap of 20,700, which is divided into 12 month allocations, and has been reached every month since December 2017.

The government has since removed doctors and nurses from the Tier 2 visa cap limit to alleviate some pressure, but industry is still concerned. It’s becoming apparent that a new immigration system, especially in order to get access to talent to support the technology industry and the government’s Industrial Strategy, is going to be necessary.

However, the government is not accelerating the need for this as part of the Brexit negotiations, as highlighted by MPs on the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee this week, in a new report.

Earlier this year, the Committee made a recommendation for the government to “bring forward its conclusions in relation to the immigration arrangements needed to support science and innovation” in order for the Government to “build these into a science and innovation agreement with the EU by October 2018 or earlier if possible”.

However, this was rejected by the government. The Committee said that it was “disappointed” by this decision, and as such, given the urgency of the situation, has released a report this week detailing its own immigration proposal for the innovation and science community.

The proposal is based on several principles, which include:

a) to support individuals with different types and levels of skill, and who are at different career stages, as well as their dependents;

b) to facilitate both long-term and short-term stays in the UK;

c) to enable further travel, outside the UK, for research purposes, without it harming an individual’s ability to apply for inde nite leave to remain;

d) for an efficient, streamlined and low-cost application process for employees and employers;

e) to readily recruit highly skilled people, wherever they are from, without being subject to an annual limit; and

f) to assess skills in a way that is not wholly reliant on salary as a proxy for skill.

Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said:

Collaboration is crucial to the UK maintaining its position as a science superpower, and it is essential that the UK has an immigration system that facilitates the mobility of the science and innovation community. Delay in confirming how the system will work following Brexit is deeply damaging. Industry and research communities urgently need certainty.

If the UK wishes to remain open and attractive to the brightest and best global talent following Brexit, it requires an immigration system that allows researchers, technicians, students and innovative entrepreneurs to arrive and work in the UK without facing a burdensome and daunting process.

Nobody wants to see damage to our economy as a result of restricting the ability of skilled workers to come to this country. This is essential for our future prosperity.

The proposals

For skilled workers outside the EU, for this coming in on Tier 2 visas, the Committee has said that it questions whether a cap is necessary at all, as removing the cap on the visas would reduce the pressure on the system and decrease the reliance on the shortage occupation list.

However, the Committee also put together a new proposal for an immigration system from countries within the EU to support the UK’s future innovation and science ambitions. That being said, the Committee also states that it “sees no reason why the same systems should not be extended to other countries after we leave the EU”.

The report states:

The proposals have been crafted to tackle the pressing matter of EEA migration to the UK a er we leave the EU. If this system truly supports science and innovation, as we believe it will, then there are clear advantages to applying it for other, non-EEA countries, not least the simplicity of having a single, clear system. The detail of the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU, however, is still to be established.

The Committee recommends that for temporary migration, to support, for example, easy collaboration face-to-face, that the UK introduce visa-free travel and permit-free work in the UK for up to 180 days for skilled workers. Eligibility will be verified at the border with proof of intent to leave within that period, and a letter from the employer describing the nature of the skilled work will be required.

However, for longer-term migration to the UK, the Committee proposes a five year skilled work permits for those with either:

An offer of employment, with minimum salary rates based on the ‘going rate’ for the job, reflecting regional and public/private sector differences in salary. Specificcally, those who are part of the research workforce and have a long-term job offer, placement or training opportunity at a UK university or research institute should automatically be guaranteed entry for themselves and for their families.
Third party sponsorship—grant holders, entrepreneurs, founders, freelancers, with minimum salary requirements as above.

The above system will be supported by a light-touch sponsorship system, “harnessing artificial intelligence and HMRC data to fast-track approval and the online systems being developed for EEA national registration”. The Committee states that any small company should find it cheap, easy and quick to register, with simple systems for confirming offers of employment and salary, and a duty to declare if the individual has left that employment.

Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said:

Our framework details a sustainable and enforceable system of immigration which should form the basis of further detailed work by the Government with the science and innovation community. Ultimately, it sets out the basis for an immigration policy that promotes the UK as the go-to place for science and innovation, and one that facilitates the global movement of talent into the UK.

Source: https://government.diginomica.com/2018/07/19/mps-propose-new-immigration-system-to-support-uk-innovation-post-brexit/

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