The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has warned that the Tier 2 Visa system for bringing non-EC migrants to the UK is barely used by small business in the UK. The report concludes that 95% of UK SME’s had never used the system. There is also a very low use of the Tier 2 sponsorship licence.
The figures make for stark reading. After Brexit, the UK’s relationship with the EU is likely to radically change from where we are now. Freedom of movement looks to have all but disappeared from the government's plans going forward and this means that the visa system will need to be drastically improved if the UK is to get the skilled migrants that it needs to remain a healthy economy. The lack of use of the current visa system means that the small business community will be ill prepared for the huge changes ahead.
One of the main challenges highlighted in the report is the fee structure in place. Currently, there is a £1,000 Tier 2 immigration skills charge (though this is lower for SME’s) per worker per year. The charge is an unpopular move, especially in the face of the likely heavily increased need of them going forward. Recent changes to Tier 2 visas on salary thresholds means that from the point of view of the companies applying for visas, they’ve never looked like such a raw deal.
Thus far the government has ignored calls to change the current system. The system is seen as overly burdensome for businesses looking to bring in foreign staff, especially with the Resident Labour Market Test meaning companies need to prove that they couldn’t hire locally and needed to bring in a migrant to do the job. Critics insist that the government has not taken into account the future of the economy in introducing such stiff penalties to the system. Indeed Brexit will be the key difference maker in the visa system, but many insist that changes need to happen now so that the UK can offset future staffing shortages due to a lack of local skills.
These issues only add to those caused by Brexit. The government is currently embroiled in a civil war over immigration. The Prime Minister lost much of her power at the general election and senior ministers are smelling blood. The migration issue was always likely to be the big issue around Brexit and currently, it is being used as a political football in the corridors of power. Whatever happens, it appears that the future of immigration is likely to be a contentious issue right up until 2019. What happens in the interim period is key to the economic prosperity of the UK going forward. It can only be hoped that the infighting is put to a stop shortly so that there can be a clear path going forward. But that may require a significant governmental change to happen.
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