HR & Global Mobility: What’s ahead for Business Immigration in 2018?
UK business immigration is expected to undergo considerable change in the coming 12 months. For HR teams and global mobility professionals, it will be critical to ensure their organisations are sufficiently prepared for future changes in UK immigration rules, to ensure compliance with these new rules while also maximising opportunity to build competitive advantage and efficiencies through mobility programmes.
What should HR and global mobility teams be preparing for in 2018?
Business Immigration 2018: Compliance with Tier 2
There are many ways that the Home Office can become aware of an immigration compliance breach – unannounced and planned Home Office visits, whistleblowing, cross-referencing with HMRC records. The message from UKVI is clear – sponsor licence holders have to keep their licence in order, to avoid any scrutiny or penalty being directed at your business.
UK sponsor licence holders need to be mindful however of more than just the Home Office where compliance with your sponsor licence duties are concerned.
We have been instructed by an employer who is facing an Employment Tribunal claim by a former employee for breach of contract and unfair dismissal. The basis of the claim is that the HR function failed to maintain the company sponsor licence correctly, which led to the Home Office curtailing the visa of the employee, who then brought the claim.
It’s a stressful, time-consuming and costly experience for all parties, and best avoided through careful and proactive management of the sponsor licence.
Going into the new year is a good time to take stock of your company’s compliance position. Do your company processes, policies and personnel meet the requirements? An effective starting point for assessing HR compliance is an immigration audit – understanding where any weak points or areas of potential breach are, and how to rectify them.
Business Immigration 2018: Brexit
Following the Government’s proposals for ‘settled status‘ of qualifying EU citizens, and with the MAC due to publish its immigration report in the Autumn, we eagerly anticipate the detail in 2018 of the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy, and expect the Home Office to continue to release white papers and committee meeting notes.
It makes practical sense for employers to be looking now at what this means for their companies and their HR strategies – cascading relevant information to your employee, supporting your workforce, and ensuring immigration compliance while minimising disruption to your operations. We have been involved for example with hosting surgeries and webinars to assist with applications to register EEA employees.
Business Immigration 2018: Building a Talent Pipeline
With the OECD predicting growth across all member countries, the outlook for global business seems positive. Companies will be looking to their talent pools – existing and new – to realise growth ambitions.
Expect more investment in global mobility programmes, and with it the expectation of greater returns through personnel development, improved knowledge-sharing and enhanced, data-driven efficiencies.
For example, we are seeing a focus on internal training programmes with enhanced mobility elements, designed to strengthen management capability, and retain and develop talent and future leaders. Graduates and younger professionals are seeking opportunities for international experience.
The UK entities of global organisations are looking outward – career development of the overseas graduates – transferring to the UK under the Tier 2 ICT Graduate trainee route and then returning them to home entities. This is particularly prevalent in sectors such as energy, oil and gas.
Business Immigration 2018: Plugging Skills Gaps
The UK economy continues to experience skill shortages in a number of sectors – think care home nurses, tech & digital, academia, engineering.
For smaller companies, there is an opportunity to gain competitive advantage and to get ahead by using UK immigration rules to attract skilled workers and retain them within the business.
Where companies are unable to meet their talent needs in the domestic (and EU) labour market, hiring non-EEA skilled nationals will require an application for a sponsorship licence.
Applying for a UK sponsorship licence can enable companies to meet their people needs, but it’s important for employers to understand the obligations this will bring in terms of ongoing licence management.
Business Immigration: Safety First
With terrorist attacks no longer confined to certain parts of the world, the risk of attack has become pervasive meaning any business must ensure its mobility programme adequately caters for the worst, for the protection of its employees. The global mobility programme should be considered within the organisation’s wider risk management strategy, and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
We have looked previously at how to approach global mobility in a crisis. Advances in technology, such as the use of assignee tracking (and of their dependants), is becoming commonplace, offering benefits in addition to employee safety – wider data use such as tax purposes.
From an employee perspective, heightened levels of ‘monitoring’ and collection of data by employers may be brought into question, as wider concerns about personal privacy are raised. This will be an interesting area for employees to navigate.
Brexit has placed a spotlight on the Home Office and its ability to cope with the expected surges in applications and enquiries under the new UK rules.
In response, as well as recruiting more caseworkers, the Government has pledged that the application process for the new settled status will be less intensive and involved for applicants than other immigration applications. In addition, Home Office caseworkers are said to be afforded more discretion to support applicants with any issues or queries relating to their applications.