An immigration stamp on a passport

Immigration rule changes to prevent vacancy crisis

The APPG on Migration has called for the Government to urgently reform the points-based immigration system to ensure it can cope with the challenges it is currently facing.

The recommendations include calling on the Government to consider the introduction of additional sector-specific, short-term work permits similar to the seasonal agricultural workers scheme for other sectors with an acute labour shortage. This could apply to HGV drivers and care workers.

Other recommendations call on the Government to reduce the overall cost of a visa application for roles on the shortage occupation list or small businesses with a low turnover and to amend the rules to include other nationalities under Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa, through reciprocal, multilateral arrangements with the relevant countries.

Britain’s employers are struggling with the worst staff shortages since the late 1990s, amid the rush to reopen from lockdown and a sharp drop in overseas workers. The impact of this can already be seen in supermarkets, which are suffering from product shortages. If the labour shortages persist, it will lead to higher prices for consumers and more costly products and services.

Last December the APPG heard from a range of employers about their hopes and fears for the new system. Working with leading immigration firm Fragomen LLP, it then conducted an inquiry to hear, in real-time, the impacts that employers from different sectors and in different parts of the country were starting to experience. This report was published based on the responses to the inquiry.

What was found was arguably the emergence of two immigration systems; the first where the liberalisation of non-EU immigration has brought positive change for those familiar with the sponsorship system who can now draw on a wider pool of talent from across the globe, and the second where the removal of free movement has buffeted already struggling industries which had not previously needed to engage with corporate sponsorship to find the talent that they require.

Tim Farron MP, a Vice-Chair of the APPG on Migration said: 

“We are calling on the Government to urgently implement the recommendations of the report. Of course, the domestic workforce needs to be supported to develop the skills required as the economy adapts, to ensure that unemployment is as low as possible. But this does not happen overnight and gaps in the workforce will still emerge. In the short-term, to prevent shortages and higher prices, the Government needs to make modifications to the immigration rules.

Siobhan Owers, a Partner and Lawyer at Fragomen LLP said:

“While changes to the immigration system introduced earlier this year have been welcomed by business, the perfect storm of Brexit and COVID-19 means that certain sectors are struggling with staffing shortages. A few small changes to the immigration rules could have a big impact in improving immediate access to labour for those industries.”