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What Has The COVID-19 Lockdown Taught Us?

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

We live in extraordinary times where one hour of outdoor exercise is considered a luxury and the quality of our social interactions is determined by our internet speed. Businesses and employers around the world have been forced to change the way they operate, and governments around the world have been required to provide unprecedented levels of support and funding in the hope of shielding economies.

Despite the difficulties and tragedies caused by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, we have attuned ourselves to a ‘new normal’ and it is clear that living in lockdown has raised some important considerations that should be carried into the future. 

  1. The necessity for Low-Skilled Migrants

We have seen a significant amount of debate regarding the UK Government’s post-Brexit immigration policies, which primarily seek to attract highly skilled and talented migrants through a revamped Points Based System. The new immigration system is expected to commence at the beginning of 2021, and will include all EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.

Some consideration has been given to the importance of low-skilled migrants, particularly within the agricultural industry. Last week 150 Romanian field labourers were transported to the UK in order to pick crops on British farms. Each year, up to 80,000 Eastern European workers arrive in the UK for the harvest season. In recognition of this important and significant European workforce on which the UK so heavily relies, the seasonal agricultural visa pilot scheme has been expanded to continue to allow low-skilled workers in the agricultural industry to work in the UK for temporary periods.

However, the same considerations have not been extended to low-skilled workers within other sectors, including those in the healthcare industry. As well as frontline healthcare workers such as nurses, hospital porters, cleaners, and carers, the impact of COVID-19 has taught us the incredible value and essential need for other low-skilled migrants, including supermarket staff, delivery drivers and postal workers. It is therefore somewhat surprising that the Home Office’s most recently updated guidance reiterates:

“There will not be an immigration route specifically for those who do not meet the skills or salary threshold for the skilled worker route”.

Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) indicates that “around 69% of EU migrants currently working in the UK would be ineligible for a skilled work visa if the future immigration rules were to apply to them”. The report further states that two thirds of EU migrants contributing to our healthcare system would be ineligible to work under the new system. Within the transport industry up to 90% of existing EU nationals would not qualify for a work visa under the proposed immigration plans, and the hospitality industry would lose up to 85% of existing EU national workers.

At a time when carers and domestic workers could provide necessary and vital support to critically ill or at-risk people who would otherwise require state-funded care, we note the significant absence of any immigration route which would allow migrants of this nature to live and work in the UK. Prior to 6 April 2012, domestic workers were permitted to reside in the UK and even obtain settlement. Could the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the social implications of lockdown now justify the resurrection of this route and thereby recognize the positive impact of low-skilled domestic workers and carers?

It remains to be seen whether the UK Government will amend the proposed immigration policies in recognition of the importance and value of low-skilled migrants, as demonstrated during the lockdown period.

In the meantime EU, EEA and Swiss nationals (and their family members) are able to enter and reside in the UK until 31 December 2020 in line with the post-Brexit transition period. All EU nationals and their respective family members will thereafter be required to register using the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021 to acquire a legal status in the UK for a period of five years, and which may lead to eventual settlement status.

Gherson has extensive experience in all aspects of EU Settlement Scheme applications, and we would be happy to provide further clarification on the processes and requirements to register on the Scheme.

 

  1. The importance of Technology

Due to social distancing and isolation measures imposed by the government in a bid to curb the reach of COVID-19, technology and IT have a new-found prominence in our everyday lives and business practices. Retail sales are at an all-time low, whilst online sales continue to increase. Businesses in every sector are investing in technology to allow them to continue to provide goods and services remotely, and abandoning traditional face-to-face interactions. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in the Budget 2020 that the UK Government intends to drive technological change and innovation. The Budget highlights an intention to increase public Research and Development investment to £22 billion per year by 2024-25, which will be invested in people, ideas and industries within the Scientific and Technological trades. (In our earlier blog published on 16 April 2020 we have explored these government plans and relevant immigration routes in more detail).

There are further plans to provide the British Business Bank with additional resources in order to establish a £200 million investment programme. This is expected to enable £600 million of investment within life sciences innovation.

At a time when many countries have closed their borders, the UK continues to welcome innovation and entrepreneurship. Technology has never been more relevant or important, and the UK looks to foster talent, innovation and change within this industry. As we continue to develop increasingly distanced interactions in our personal lives as well as our professional lives, it is incontrovertible that innovation in technology, IT and science will boom. As such, investors, entrepreneurs and researchers within the technology sector may look to the UK as a growing market with ample opportunity. 

 

  1. The emergence and importance of SMEs and Start-Up Businesses

It is without doubt that the on-going pandemic has affected businesses across the globe, regardless of their size and stature. In an environment where conglomerates and multinationals dominated, we now see more appreciation for local businesses and start-ups in the UK. In response to COVID-19, the UK Government has implemented a series of business support measures for companies, employees and self-employed individuals.

Employers are able to claim wages for their staff through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, allowing them to retain employees on payroll where they would otherwise face redundancy. The Government has also introduced Business Support Grant Funding, a Self-employment Income Support Scheme, and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Most recently the Government unveiled the Future Fund on 20 April 2020, which will issue convertible loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies in the UK which are facing financial difficulties in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Despite difficult circumstances faced by many businesses in the UK, it seems that there is increasing financial support offered by the UK Government in a bid to keep companies afloat, supporting the assertion that the UK remains a dynamic environment to establish and grow businesses.

 

Gherson has extensive experience in business-related and corporate immigration applications, including Investor visas, Innovator visas, Sponsor Licences and Global Talent visas. We would be happy to provide further clarification on the processes and requirements for each of these routes, or any other immigration category.

Please note that the information in this blog is current at the date and time of posting. Please note that Gherson is not authorised to provide specific investment advice, however we are able to connect you with specialists within this area if required.

Please note that some visa application centres have been temporarily closed around the world due to efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. Gherson are closely monitoring this and are able to advise accordingly. We are happy to assist with the preparation and compilation of your visa application to ensure that there is no undue delay in the submission process once visa application centres re-open.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2020

 

Navka Raja 

  Navka Raja

  Immigration Consultant and Trainee Solicitor in our Private Client department

 

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