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Government Launches UK Immigration System Engagement Programme

The UK Government has announced it is to embark on a UK immigration engagement programme during 2019. The announcement follows proposals published in December 2018 for reform of the UK immigration rules post-Brexit.

What can we expect from the immigration engagement programme? 

In its statement, the Home Office advised the programme would be used to listen to the views of multiple stakeholders, both in the UK and internationally, in shaping the UK’s future immigration system.

Stakeholders are to include private, public and voluntary sector employers and industry representatives, who will be engaged through a series of events, roundtables, forums and advisory groups to look at the technical detail that form the basis of policy development.

‘Advisory groups’ are being formed to bring together stakeholders suited to discussing the main policy areas, including: employers; education; crossing the border; vulnerability; national (representative organisations from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales). The groups will meet on a regular basis and explore in detail the contents of the proposals, policy, system design and implementation.

Employers or industry representatives interested in participating in these forums should contact their government sector lead.

What do we know so far about the immigration system reform? 

We know from the December 2018 White Paper that the government is planning to reform the current UK immigration rules by creating a single-stream system.

This will see the abolition of nationality-based preferences and eligibility criteria, to be replaced by skills-based requirements. It is a fundamental shift designed to align to the end of EU free movement, and would see EEA nationals and their family members become subject to the same visa eligibility assessments as non-EEA citizens when looking to enter and remain in the UK beyond visiting to work, study and live.

The new immigration system is to planned to be implemented via a phased approach from January 2021.

Is the engagement programme good news for UK employers? 

The Home Office refers to the programme as a ‘platform for discussion’ and to ‘gather views’ which could suggest the outcomes may hold less weight than those of an official government consultation.

Already UK employers from across industries have voiced concerns about the White Paper proposals. For example, sectors such as construction and health and social have expressed issues with applying skills-based criteria in industries suffering labour shortages for lower-skilled roles.

It is hoped the programme will be more than lip service to what are valid concerns affecting the future of many UK industries.

Preparing for immigration reform 

Employers should be looking now at how they can prepare their organisations and their workforce for an overhaul of the immigration rules.

As specialist business immigration solicitors, we offer advice and guidance to employers on how to approach changes in UK immigration rules, looking at recruitment and onboarding statues, policies and processes to avoid operational disruption and maintain competitive advantage through this period of unprecedented upheaval.

For help through the Brexit immigration changes affecting your business and workforce, contact us.


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