Sep 18

EU workers should be given “no preference” 
for visas, new MAC report suggests

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New Migration Advisory Committee report recommends “no preference” for EU worker visas

EU citizens should not be given preferential access when applying for UK visas, according to the long-awaited Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report on the future of EEA migration.

The EEA migration in the UK: Final report was commissioned by the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd in July 2017. Its remit was to provide evidence to inform the creation of a new migration system for the UK following Brexit, which will be needed once the implementation period ends on 31st December 2020.

The report’s key recommendations for visas were:

– the annual cap on the number of Tier 2 (General) visas available for skilled workers should be abolished
– medium-skilled workers should be eligible for Tier 2 (General) visas
– the minimum salary requirement of £30,000 should be kept for Tier 2 (General) visas
– the immigration skills charge (that employees have to pay when employing some foreign workers on Tier 2 visas) should be retained
– abolition of the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) that employers must use when recruiting from abroad to show no UK citizen or ‘settled’ worker was available to fill the role (or expansion of jobs which are exempt from it)
– making it easier for workers in the UK on a Tier 2 visa to change employers
– there should be no specific migration route for low-skilled workers, except possibly for season agricultural workers

Our view on the MAC report’s recommendations

It is very disappointing that the MAC has not recommended some kind of preferential treatment for EEA nationals and also to note the potential lack of scaffolding for the lower skilled jobs which typically are not filled by resident workers. This means EEA workers will be considered the same as workers from elsewhere in the world and could potentially lead to labour shortages across a range of industries.

There are, however, some encouraging recommendations in relation to making Tier 2 (General) visas more flexible by opening up the skills threshold and removing the cap on Tier 2 (General) migration. This would allow a wider range of workers to be considered “skilled” and mean there was no limit on the number of visas available for skilled workers.

It should also be noted that while the government has said it will “carefully consider” the report’s recommendations, they will not necessarily be reflected in government policy. The issue of EU citizens’ rights to live and work in the UK post-Brexit are still to be decided as part of the ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU and any decision on visas for EEA nationals is likely still some way off.

For advice on UK visa applications or any other UK immigration issues, please get in touch with Vanessa Ganguin.