Reports of shortages of labour in specific sectors and an exodus of EEA workers as a result of Brexit are fuelling speculation about potential changes in the UK immigration rules.
With the General Election now upon us and taking all political focus and energy, we do not expect any clarification on the future immigration status of EEA nationals in the UK, or what any new arrangement or immigration rules would look like following Brexit. We do however expect continued talk and ideas around what post-Brexit immigration policy could look like.
Most recently, the ‘Barista Visa’ was mooted by Amber Rudd as a way for EEA nationals to live and work in the UK within the hospitality sector.
The visa would be intended as a solution to alleviate the pressure of potential labour shortages as a result of tighter immigration controls following Brexit. It would however be expected to be open to only a restricted number of applicants; modelled on the existing Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa.
Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa
The Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa is open to nationals from non-E.U. countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
It allows citizens of these countries who are between the ages of 18 – 30 to live and work in the UK for a maximum period of 2 years.
The Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa is open to applicants that:
- want to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years;
- are aged 18 to 30 (holders are permitted to stay in the UK if they turn 31 during their stay, provided the visa is valid);
- have £1,890 in savings; and
- do not have dependent children.
Tier 5 visa holders are not permitted to study, access public funds or apply to extend their stay while in the UK.
For employers, the Tier 5 Youth Mobility can offer an overseas recruitment option free from the financial, regulatory and administrative requirement of hiring under Tier 2 – particularly following the recent increase in Tier 2 costs and raised minimum Tier 2 salary threshold to £30,000.
UK schools for example are, according to a report by the Migration Advisory Committee, frequently using Tier 5 Youth Mobility as an alternative to Tier 2 where possible in addressing teacher shortages.
A Solution to Post-Brexit Immigration?
As expected, the hospitality sector has welcomed the proactivity of the idea, including positive responses from employers such as Costa Coffee.
Outside of this however, the response generally to the Barista visa has largely been negative, with much criticism of the narrow application to hospitality alone – and the implied importance of coffee to the Brits.
What is perhaps being missed however is that the visa is being suggested to avert a real and present risk within a number of UK sectors. Labour shortages in sectors which currently rely on EEA workers could be hugely detrimental to the economy as a whole. The effects go beyond not having the morning coffee.
In June last year, a Pret A Manger representative told a government committee that only one in 50 of their job applicants are British and around 65% of Pret’s staff come from the EU.
This suggests British workers, particularly the younger cohort, are not willing to take up the roles.
Representatives from other sectors including health and social care and construction are also concerned about the impact of EEA workers leaving the UK. It is not clear however whether the Barista visa would be extended to such sectors, or if alternative solutions would be developed to ease any labour shortages.
Critics have also focused on the short term nature of the Barista visa. As it would not offer a route to settlement, it would not be attractive to EEA citizens.
However, Migration Watch UK, the think tank backing the Barista Visa, has suggested the 2 year limit will not impact net migration which the current government has strict targets of reducing.
If the Tier 5 Youth Mobility, were to be applied, the only recourse for stay, work or study beyond the 2 years would require a return to the home country and a new application to be made under an appropriate visa.
In light of the UK General Election in June, it is highly unlikely that there will be formal change announced or put in place in the interim. However, we should expect a considerable amount of talk.
We also expect the Government’s independent Migration Advisory Committee to propose other alternatives to solve demands from each sector of the economy.