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UK urged to create dedicated visa for independent professionals

15th July 2020 Print

Under plans announced by the UK government, a brand-new points-based immigration system (PBS) is due to come into effect from 1 January 2021. It’s just one of the ways in which things are changing post-Brexit. It means freedom of movement between the UK and European Union (EU) is going to be a thing of the past – with all nationalities subject to the same rules. 

For the UK, the aim is to create a “high skill” economy. But could the new points-based system actually do the opposite? The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) thinks so. That’s why it’s now calling for a dedicated visa for independent professionals – or risk deterring those people from wanting to live and work in the UK.

How will the UK’s proposed new immigration system work?  

The UK’s new immigration system will essentially mean that overseas residents will be awarded points for specific skills, qualifications and salaries. It’s also meant to target those jobs or roles that desperately need filling. If someone has the necessary amount of points, they’ll be allowed to work in the UK. But they’ll also need to be able to speak English and have a job offer.

It’ll add an whole extra layer to the work that immigration lawyers do for companies who want to hire foreign talent – or for that talent who want to work in the UK. But APSCo is worried that the need to have a job offer means barriers will be put in place for those who’d otherwise meet the government’s criteria to come and work in the UK. And that may seem counter-productive. 

The end of universal freedom of movement to the UK 

The points element of the new system essentially means that free movement for workers from one EU nation to another no longer applies to the UK. But it’ll also extend to workers from the non-EU countries of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland who benefit from freedom of movement under agreements with the EU.

Ireland, however, is different. Under the terms of the Common Travel Area, free movement to and from the UK will continue – even if there’s no deal once Brexit talks are all said and done. From 1 January 2021, however, the government says all EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally by the new system. EU citizens already in the UK can apply for Settled Status, though.

Why should the UK introduce a dedicated visa for professionals? 369

One of the key reasons why APSCo is calling for a dedicated visa for independent professionals is that it offers much greater flexibility. The association says this type of worker will usually be involved with medium- or long-term projects for employers who don’t want or need a full-time employee. The need for a job offer makes it harder, in that respect, to attract freelance talent.

There are also specific sectors in which independent professionals make up a greater share of the workforce. Many of these are creative in nature, where 35% of workers are self-employed.  A dedicated visa for independent professionals can, therefore, remove the risk of creating a system to address skills shortages – only to then create them in other areas and industries.

It is thought that government is planning a consultation on whether to offer a highly-skilled visa for people that won’t need a job offer. But independent professionals are still being left waiting to see if their route to working in the UK is restricted or opened up.