High earners hit hardest by latest immigration changes

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Those expected to travel abroad regularly for work will be most affected by the 180-day absence rule

Brexit is making its mark on the jobs market and economy. The latest EU net migration figure fell to its lowest since 2015 to 230,000 in the year to June, while according to research by Totaljobs half of employers believe that skills shortages will worsen this year because of Brexit.

In the wake of Theresa May announcing she'll fight a proposal to give residency rights to EU citizens during the transition period after Brexit, further immigration rule changes have been made that will also affect the future of non-EU workers in the UK: in particular high-rate earners with high-end salaries.

On 11 January the Home Office altered the 180-day limit rule for anyone seeking residency in the UK, adding to the challenge that employers already face in trying to retain and attract a highly-skilled workforce in ever-depleting international skills pools.

The change means migrants must not be absent for more than 180 days during any 12-month period, covering the five continuous years prior to the date of their application for settlement. Before 11 January a migrant’s absences were calculated in fixed blocks of 12 months; they are now calculated on a rolling basis and apply retrospectively.

This change to the 180-day rule will be a big concern for high-earning, highly-skilled professionals who are expected to travel overseas regularly for work for long periods. Tier 2 (general) workers can only be sponsored for six years, which leaves them just one year in the UK if they’re not compliant with the new rule.

Future-proofing

Faced with this new 180-day rule change and a possible loss of talent, HR professionals should start reviewing their workers’ absence history so they can forecast any potential future gaps in the workforce as well as calculate deadlines for settlement applications. Keep a log of all absences accumulated by each employee over any 12-month rolling period and especially in the five years prior to a settlement application.

Keep your house in order

As a sponsor it’s vital to always have all your paperwork in order relating to your non-EU workers and your sponsor duties. Our recent research found an alarming 93% of businesses risk sponsor licence revocation for migrant workers with many also at risk of instant Home Office closure, because they’re not holding the right documentation on their overseas staff.

The Home Office is ever-more stringent on sponsors adhering to their sponsor duties, with more vigilant on-the-spot compliance checks and tougher penalties for those that breach rules and regulations, as we’ve recently seen in Sri Prathinik Consulting V SSHD 2017.

Sri Prathinik was handed an instant sponsor licence revocation order for failing to issue its certificate of sponsorship within six months of advertising a vacancy as per the Resident Labour Market Test guidelines. The upshot of a lost licence is loss of talent together with extra time and money spent having to reapply for sponsorship, which can take up to 15 months taking into consideration the 12-month cooling off period from the date your licence was revoked.

UK immigration rules change frequently. Check them regularly for updates – no matter how small – so you know what processes and paperwork you must have in place. Even the slightest of licence breaches will affect the future of your workforce.

Jonathan Beech is managing director of immigration law firm Migrate UK

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