After Brexit: Potential for a Low Skilled UK Work Visa

We’re in a post-Brexit world, but what does that mean for the workforce? Be aware of your options for a UK work visa and the development of the Tier 3 option.

Access to labour is a key component for any business that wishes to maintain operations and continue to grow long-term.

This normally isn’t a problem for companies that operate in the European Union, as citizens who belong to member countries are permitted to work freely within the EU. The dawn of Brexit, however, means restrictions may be on the way for foreign-born workers along with the advent of a low-skilled UK work visa.

Presently, a non-EU citizen who wants to work in the United Kingdom would have to either invest in or start a new business, be sponsored by an existing business, have an authorised government exchange, hold a youth mobility visa or marry an EU national.

An “exceptional talent visa” can be awarded to those who show promise in a particular field, but only a maximum of 1,000 are granted per year. These are the hurdles EU citizens who wish to acquire a UK work visa may soon face.

The result could be a devastating loss of labour across the nation. Foreign-born employees account for about 17% of the workforce in the UK. The low-skilled sector has seen the fastest rise in the number of foreign-born workers.

So what can be done to fill the gap? Life after Brexit may present several options for foreign-born workers.

Will there be a new UK work visa?

It seems some politicians may be preparing to tackle the issue.

Multiple news outlets reported prior to the latest general election that the Labour Party was working on a proposal for a new UK work visa policy that would focus on “low-skilled, unskilled and seasonal work.” It would also axe rules that prevent foreign spouses from coming to the UK if their partner earns less than £18,600 per year.

If such a policy focusing on low-skilled workers were proposed it may involve reintroducing the Tier 3 work visa. Tier 3 was one of the original five tiers of work visas drawn up by the government in 2008 and meant to attract non-EU citizens who would perform low-paying jobs. It was never enacted due to an influx of workers from Europe.

Tier 3 was designed to help fill low-skilled positions for which there was a shortage of workers. It was suspended because those jobs were swept up. Now, with Brexit on the horizon, there may be a good reason to bring it back.

How the current UK Tier visa system may help

The UK Tier visa system uses a points-based structure to separate potential immigrants into five tiers. For your visa to be approved, you must meet the minimum points requirement for the tier you apply toward. Points are based on age and ability to work in the UK.

One option for foreign-born workers may be to apply for a Tier 2 visa. To qualify, you must fall into one of four categories.

  • Skilled workers sponsored by an international company
  • Skilled workers in industries experiencing shortages
  • Ministers of religion
  • Elite athletes and coaches

If the company you work for is moving its offices to the UK, and you need to be in the UK to perform your duties, you may qualify as a skilled worker sponsored by an international company. Your employer, however, must prove that you’re an integral part of the business. The company must directly sponsor your visa application.

You may also be allowed to apply for this visa if there’s a shortage of workers for a specific industry. A worker whose skills are in high demand may be allowed to live and work in the UK through this visa.

Ministers of any religion may be permitted into the UK if there’s a position waiting to be filled by them. This includes ministers, priests and missionaries who have religious work within the UK.

Not just any person who is involved in sport can apply for this visa. Only elite athletes and coaches who are registered as professionals in their home country may qualify for a Tier 2 visa in the UK.

Apply for permanent residence

Another option foreign-born workers could utilise is to remain in the UK is acquiring permanent resident status. This only applies to qualified individuals.

Current regulations state all European citizens have the right to apply for permanent residency after living in the UK for 5 years. They must also be either students, workers, self-employed or retired. Those who have been unemployed, incapable of working or claimed public benefits may still qualify.

Applicants must not have been absent from the UK for more than six months during the five-year period. There are, however, exemptions to this rule.

There is a fee to apply, and the deadline for the government to decide on your application is six months. You are not required to take an English language test or the Life in the UK Test.

Becoming a permanent resident has numerous advantages. Your quality of life, as well as that of your family, will certainly improve.

After one year of permanent residency, you can naturalise as a British citizen. The process normally takes six years. If you enclose your permanent residence documentation along with your citizenship application there’s only a need to check for one year.

If your family are third country nationals and wish to join you, they may do so if you have permanent residency. Likewise, if you are engaged and want to bring your partner to the UK the process becomes easier. If you want to register your child as a British citizen, acquiring permanent residence will assist in the application.

In cases of removal and deportation, permanent residence status factors into the decision-making process. You can only be removed from the UK for serious violations of public policy or public security if you have are a permanent resident.

Don’t despair!

There may yet still be hope for foreign-born workers who wish to remain in Britain. Whether it’s the introduction of a new UK work visa or taking advantage of the current system, options are available for you and your family.

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