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Plans to Curb Immigration leading to Settlement in the UK will damage UK Business – Law Society

05th December 2011
By Gherson in Immigration Law
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The United Kingdom Border Agency's consultation entitled Employment-related settlement, Tier 5 and overseas domestic worker closed last week. Its consultation on "family migration" is due to come to an end on 6 October 2011.

Back in July we summarised the proposals contained in the consultation relating to Employment related settlement. Essentially what is intended is to limit migrants who are admitted to the United Kingdom for employment from applying for settlement in the UK. Home Secretary Theresa May expressed the aim as follows in the foreword to the consultation:

“Progression to settlement has become almost automatic for those who choose to stay. I shall break that link and return to a position where Britain will continue to attract the brightest and best workers, who will make a strong contribution to our economy and society during their stay, then return home.”

These consultations are part of a process which will ultimately lead to Immigration Rules being placed before Parliament in the near future. They are all part of the coalition government's attempt to realise its pledge announced last year, to reduce net annual immigration to the UK to within "the tens of thousands".

On 15 September 2011, the UK's Law Society published its response to the first of these consultations. The Law Society speaks for the nation's legal sector, including large city based law firms which compete in the international marketplace and who employ skilled migrants from outside the UK.

The Law Society is trenchant in its criticisms of the government's proposals. In its view they risk further damaging the legal sector of the UK's economy, as well as other business interests in the UK. The pledge is not looking likely to be fulfilled in any event, and it cannot be right for the competitiveness of the UK economy to be jeopardised by these measures.

The Law Society points out that since the abolition of the Work Permits scheme in 2008 employers have invested heavily in the points based system which replaced it. The myriad changes to the guidance and to the Immigration Rules which have been made since 2008 have caused confusion to both employers and employees. The changes following this consultation will create further confusion.

Again considering the issue from the point of view of the UK's business sector, it is the case that employers recruit from the international labour market because the domestic market is unable to meet their staff requirements. For example hardly any nationals of the countries comprising the European Economic Area (EEA) will be versed in United States law, and so UK Law firms which operate in the US will inevitably recruit their staff from US law schools.

But what is of greater concern is that these affluent City firms frequently find that the qualifications and expertise on offer in the domestic market falls short of what they can obtain by casting their net wider. Since they cannot survive without being competitive – their only option is to recruit staff from outside the European Economic Area.

The Law Society's response also points out that if the skilled staff the UK needs are to be told that they will not become eligible for settlement after five years' continuous residence (as they currently are) – this will inevitably affect the career choices such workers will make. Plainly the desirability of a particular career option will be the greater if it carries with it the option of settling in the country concerned after a long period of living and working there. Removing the entitlement to settlement will result in people simply deciding not to come – and business will suffer as a result.

Taken with the proposed changes to family migration the entire landscape of the Immigration regime is now set to be altered yet again. Anyone considering coming to the UK on a route which currently leads to settlement or who is already here and hoping to be joined by their family members is strongly advised to obtain professional legal advice from our immigration solicitors to ensure the security of their and their family's immigration status in the UK.

For professional legal advice on immigration or work permit in the UK, contact the Gherson team.
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