A Second Review of The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
The Immigration Bill 2020 is the latest primary legislation associated with UK immigration and will be effective at the end of the Brexit transition period, 31st December 2020. Its significance is that it will create a designated route for the implementation of a revitalised immigration system in the UK; a points-based system. This system will not permit unskilled migrant workers to enter the UK and only focus on approving visa applicants who are skilled workers, researchers or students who have backgrounds in STEM subjects.
The New System and COVID-19:
Currently, the UK’s prime focus is on COVID-19 and preventing the spread of the virus nationwide. However, the impact of the new points-based immigration system potentially prohibits the entrance of equally proficient, if not more, social and healthcare workers and workers who work in food production and supermarkets into the UK. This is simply because they may lean towards being an ‘unskilled’ worker versus a skilled one and so, may not be able to meet the eligibility criteria of 70 points. For this purpose, the bill was subject to a second reading on Monday 18th May 2020.
Impact of the Second Reading:
Despite concerns that the bill is too restrictive in the current COVID-19 climate, the Immigration Bill 2020 passed unchanged, by 351 to 252 votes. It is still scheduled to take effect on 1st January 2020. Priti Patel still maintains that the new system is “firmer, fairer and simpler”, despite the impact of COVID-19.
With the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), a surging death rate in the UK with the almost inevitable threat of a second peak and a highly pressurised environment for NHS workers as they tirelessly work to combat the coronavirus, there is much scrutiny and criticism of the new system from MPs.
“The very people that we have relied upon to get is through this, whether its in the social care sector, whether it’s in the wider retail sector, for example refuse collectors, local government workers, all these workers would be deemed as low-skilled and unwelcome under the system the government is proposing and that’s why I’m asking them to think again” – Frontbencher Mr Nick Thomas-Symonds
Ministers have attempted to launch a parliamentary campaign for a ‘shake up’ to the system to remove the threat of key overseas workers, who may not meet the minimum threshold of the new system, not being able to enter the UK. Although the UK government has made provisions for certain overseas NHS workers and their families to benefit from visa extensions and the removal of the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), there are still many other NHS workers who have not benefitted from such provisions.
Equally, employers are perturbed by the bill’s rigidity.
“Many of us will have to adapt our recruitment policies, enhance our HR functions and adjust our budgets to reflect the big costs of visa fees…”- Letter to Priti Patel, signed by several business leaders on 18th May 2020.
“Jobs listed on the government’s list of critical workers such as care staff, delivery drivers and supermarket workers wouldn’t meet the lowered skills threshold. These are essential roles that underpin our society in a time of crisis, yet they won’t be acknowledged in the new immigration system.” -Chetal Patel, Partner at Bates Wells
Predominantly, employers are anxious about the damage this could cause to their businesses, such as high immigration expenses, incomplete or insufficient visa applications for overseas workers being submitted with delay and inability to recruit lower skilled workers which are in the country’s best interests.
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