Don't Lose Your Top Talent
Britain used to be known as a nation of shopkeepers. Now it is a nation of startups. In 2015, a record 608,100 new companies were formed according to The Economist. Although Britain excels at starting companies, it seems we are not so skilled at scaling them up. Fewer than 4 per cent of startups have ten or more employees after ten years of trading. This is not too bad compared with much of Europe, but well behind America, where firms are more likely either to soar or crash, rather than plodding along as many British enterprises do. Banks' lack of willingness to lend to SMEs is one reason why so many fail to expand, along with the difficulty of obtaining skilled workers. In his 2016 Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond went some way to addressing the first problem, announcing he would give £400 million to venture capital funds specifically to invest in startups that want to scale up. But when it comes to providing desperately needed access to talent across all sectors, immigration is the only answer and a solution the current government has no interest in hearing. It is therefore up to employers, with the help of good immigration solicitors, to think about not only how to acquire talent from abroad, but how to retain it. According to a report released by Oxford Economics, it costs an employer around £30,000 to replace an employee due to the lack of output whilst a new recruit is getting up to speed, including the overall cost of recruiting, training and absorbing a new team member. The message is clear, once you have a valuable employee, it is often in your best interests to keep them.
Tier 2 visa holders and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
Since April 2016, most Tier 2 visa holders have been required to earn a minimum of £35,000 per year to successfully obtain ILR, after five years of working and residing in the UK. This requirement can take employers by surprise. Those who do not meet the new minimum income threshold will need to find some other way in which to stay in the UK or extend their Tier 2 visa by another year and then leave after a total of six years in the UK. The threshold will increase over time as illustrated below:
- £35,000 if applying for settlement on or after 6th April 2016
- £35,500 on or after 6th April 2018
- £35,800 on or after 6th April 2019
- £36,200 on or after 6th April 2020
Why the threshold was brought in
Former Prime Minister David Cameron, whose government brought in the new threshold, was committed to reducing immigration to the 'tens of thousands', something that is still yet to be achieved. This new requirement was predicted to reduce the number of Tier 2 visa holders and their families settling in the UK from around 60,000 to 20,000 per year. In a written statement to Parliament at the time the rule came into force, then Home Secretary, now Prime Minister, Theresa May stated, "Up to this point, settlement in the UK has been a virtually automatic consequence of five years' residency as a Tier 2 skilled worker. Those settling here are people often on lower wages and are lower-skilled, whereas higher earners and more skilled individuals are not settling."
Exemptions from the £35,000 threshold
The £35,000 earning requirement will not apply to roles on the shortage occupation list and to scientists and researchers in PhD level jobs.
Actions employers need to take when recruiting a non-EEA national
It is advisable that employers who are recruiting talent from outside the EEA take pro-active steps to ensure that when a Tier 2 visa holder's right to apply for ILR transpires, they are earning the required income needed to ensure they can remain in the UK on a permanent basis. Failure to do so may result in the loss of a talented, highly-experienced employee, which could result in loss of productivity and a significant outlay of capital to replace them. By taking a strategic approach to recruiting talent from outside the EEA (and perhaps within the EEA after Article 50 is triggered) businesses can avoid the high financial and social cost of a highly-skilled migrant being forced to leave the country simply because they were not being paid enough.
The team at Reiss Edwards consists of some of London's leading immigration lawyers. If you require expert legal advice on obtaining a UK Sponsor Licence or a Tier 2 (General) Visa, please call us on 020 3744 2797.
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