The UK’s labour shortages could be worsened within two years by a Home Office decision that may lead to more than a million EU nationals being lost to the jobs market.
Under a deal agreed with Brussels, Europeans who could prove they had been here five years or more were eligible for settled status, while those who had not yet lived in the UK for five years were granted “pre-settled status”.
However, those with pre-settled status – some 2.3 million people – are now being asked by the Home Office to reapply for the main scheme once they’ve lived here for the five years for which they were granted the right to remain.
Failure to reapply would mean the loss of rights to work and possible removal from the UK.
The Independent Monitoring Authority, which was set up to oversee implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, believes the move by home secretary Priti Patel is unlawful and in breach of the Citizens’ Rights deal with the EU. It has lodged a submission with the High Court on the issue and is seeking a judicial review of it.
The IMA said the result of Patel’s decision would be that those with pre-settled status will be “exposed to considerable serious consequences” affecting their right to live and work in the UK. The Withdrawal Agreement, it added did not “provide for the loss of status in such circumstances.”
Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, chief executive of the IMA, added: “In taking legal action now we hope to provide clarity for those citizens with pre-settled status, of which there are 2.485 million as of November 30 2021.”
2023 would be the first year that people with pre-settled status – having been granted that in 2018 – would have to apply for settled status.
The Home Office said it couldn’t comment on the legal proceedings but that it had implemented the Withdrawal Agreement in good faith. It added that so far 247,010 people had moved to settled status from presettled and that people could still make a late application to the scheme where there were “reasonable grounds for having missed the deadline”.
Last week, Personnel Today reported that recent Home Office figures showed that since the 30 March 2019 launch of the EU Settlement Scheme, 226,900 EU nationals had had their application for settled status rejected.
Shortage occupation list
Meanwhile, the Migration Advisory Committee’s appeal yesterday for jobs in more sectors to be added to the shortage occupation list was welcomed by a City immigration specialist, but she warned that red tape was still a major issue for companies hoping to bring in talent.
Chetal Patel, partner at law firm Bates Wells, told Personnel Today: “While we’ve seen an upward trajectory of skilled worker visas during the third nationwide lockdown, the MAC report confirms that although stakeholders have found the new UK immigration system more user friendly and efficient, this may be not be reflective of the full experience of SMEs. The Home Office are working closely with SMEs as part of the sponsorship roadmap to address issues that may be affecting them. From my experience, costs, lack of resources and administrative burdens remain the top three issues affecting SMEs.
“The social care sector has found it extremely difficult to attract and retain workers and the impact of Brexit cannot be underestimated here. Care workers can’t be sponsored under our new immigration system, although senior care workers can. The MAC recommendation that care workers and home carers (occupation code 6145) are immediately made eligible for the health and care worker visa and placed on the shortage occupation list could be good news for many, primarily due to the fact that the minimum salary level is reduced to £20,480 per year (equivalent to £10.10 per hour for a full time worker).
“However, this won’t be music to everyone’s ears as organisations will still be required to be registered with the Home Office as sponsor licence holders.”
On the question of pre-settled status, Patel said: “Many people will be keeping a close eye on the legal action taken by the IMA against the Home Office.
“Failing to apply in time could have catastrophic impacts not only on individuals as they fall into the hostile environment but it could also cripple our labour market in certain sectors as individuals may not have the correct immigration status to remain lawfully employed in the UK.”