On Thursday, 17th September 2015 the first reading of the Immigration Bill 2015 was published. It outlined a few changes which we already expected and some that we were not expecting. The box of surprises that is immigration law. Below we bring a summary of the Immigration Bill 2015, which we will discuss in detail at our webinar ‘Autumn Changes to the Immigration Rules‘ this Thursday, 1 October 2015 from 10am – 10:30am.

Summary of the Immigration Bill 2015:

  • To make provision about the law on immigration and asylum;
  • To make provision about access to services, facilities, licences and work by reference to immigration status;
  • To make provision about the Director of Labour Market Enforcement;
  • To make provision about language requirements for public sector workers; and
  • To make provision about fees for passports and civil registration.

In the Queen’s speech on 27 May 2015 the Bill was announced with further proposals in the Prime Minister’s key immigration speech after the election.

As always the key factor is to clamp down on illegal workers and reduce migration in to the UK.

Some of the biggest changes which will affect UK employers are as follows:

Immigration Skills Charge

In an attempt to reduce demand for migrant labour, the Bill will establish a new “immigration skills charge” applicable to employers sponsoring non-EEA nationals under the Tier 2 Points Based System. The amount the government will charge has not yet been published, however this charge will apply to certain employers only. Again, we are yet to find out who those ‘certain employers’ are.

Those employers to whom the charge will apply will have to pay if they want to bring certain workers in to the UK.

The aim of introducing this ‘charge’ is to use the funds which are raised to develop skills in the resident labour market.

The Migration Advisory Committee is reviewing the Tier 2 category and will consider the impact of the skills charge, though after a preliminary consultation, the MAC too has said that the government should think twice before lifting the salary threshold from £20,800 per year for new hires and £41,500 for long term Intra-Company Transfers.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will consult separately on how the proceeds of the immigration skills charge should be spent.

Based on both their feedback the Government will make a decision and apply the amount and sectors which need to pay this immigration skills charge.

Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire stated:

“In the past it has been too easy for some businesses to bring in workers from overseas rather than to take the long-term decision to train our workforce here at home.

It is only right to recover some of the costs running our immigration system by making sure that those who benefit directly from it contribute appropriately – so the expense to the UK tax payer is less.

Our reforms will ensure that businesses are able to attract the skilled migrants they need, but we also want them to get far better at recruiting and training UK workers first.”

What are your thoughts on this? We feel that employers are already paying for a sponsor licence and then have to pay for a certificate of sponsorship and an additional fee is unreasonable as they are already forking out a large amount and surely they are employing non-EEA nationals as they are unable to fill the roles with local recruits.

It will be interesting to see which employers are going to need to pay this new immigration skills charge, which workers it will apply to, and how much it will actually costs employers.

English Speaking for the Public Sector

All public sector employees in client facing roles will be required to speak fluent English.

The plans are to introduce a code of practice for public sector employees which will set out the minimum standard of English the staff are expected to have.

This will mainly apply to the following sectors:

  • National Health Service
  • Police Force
  • State funded schools

Unlike the first change this is reasonable given it is being introduced to ensure that vital information is delivered correctly to the public, and it has been confirmed that it is in-line with the Equality Act.

Not all roles in the public sector will require the job holder to be able to speak fluent English.

The other changes this new Immigration Bill 2015 suggests are as follows:

  • The access of services – this will be implemented to prevent people who are in the UK illegally from accessing housing, driving licences and bank accounts.
  • Illegal working – Prevention of exploiting workers by way of cheap labour, hiring illegal workers; a higher penalty is likely to be charged. The illegal workers will also be committing a new offence resulting in their earnings being seized.
  • Restrict the support given to claims for Asylum which have been found unsubstantiated, and their dependants, to those who are destitute and face a genuine obstacle to leaving the UK.

Immigration officers will also be given search and seizure powers to allow them to be able to better enforce the laws set out in the Immigration Bill 2015 in particular, and immigration laws in general.

Changes to the appeals process

This will apply to anyone whose Human Rights claim has been refused. They will be require to make an appeal from outside the UK – the bill does not specify whether ‘outside the UK’ means country of origin or elsewhere – providing it does not breach their human rights. So, at this point, you are probably thinking what we are thinking; how can you refuse stay on Human Rights ground but ask someone to apply from abroad as long as it does not breach their human rights, which the government doesn’t believe are being breached in the first place given the refused application on human rights grounds … confused much yet?

The way the government plan on approaching the above is by applying the current “deport first, appeal later” powers to apply to all cases, with certain conditions applying in certain cases.

The main conditions which will apply whereby the rule may not be enforced is where there is a child involved and the person in questions has a relationship with the child when it would affect their family life, or, when the person is with someone who is seriously ill and requires full time care, where no one else can care for the partner.

The second reading of this Bill is planned to take place on 13th October 2015.