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World-class UK visa system needed to bring in highly-skilled global talent after Brexit

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The government should act now to deliver a world-class visa system that ensures the UK remains competitive after Brexit, according to a new report published by the City of London Corporation today (20 November).

The report, produced by EY, finds that employers and applicants would like to see improvements to processes involved with sponsoring Tier 2 visa – the main route used by businesses to bring in highly-skilled global talent. This is needed to allow London and the UK to remain competitive with other global centres in attracting the people we need.

The Home Office has made concerted efforts to become more customer focused in the last few years. However, major challenges remain including: a complex process that is particularly challenging for SMEs, a sponsor management system in need of streamlining, and a requirement for ‘original’ and physical documents to support applications that is increasingly outdated.

The Government recently accepted the Migration Advisory Committee’srecommendation that post-Brexit, EEA and Swiss nationals should be subject to the same immigration control as workers from the rest of the world. It is vital that procedural operation of the UK visa system is considered in parallel with any changes to immigration policy, which will place additional demands on it.

The report, Streamlining success: Building a world-class visa process for the UK, makes four key recommendations to make the current system simpler, more transparent and less stressful:

  • Reduce the administrative burden and uncertainty associated with visa applications by eliminating time-consuming or redundant processes such as police registration or English-language testing by allowing employers holding an A-rated sponsor licence to certify the English language ability of candidates.
  • Rely on an entirely digital immigration status so that applicants no longer need to surrender their passport or update physical status documents. This will speed up the process, save costs and ensure we do not fall behind our international competitors.
  • Avoid duplicative processes associated with extending a visa inside the UK by, for example, eliminating physical visas and making use of data already held.
  • Use technology and guidance to provide tailored support to employers / sponsors of different sizes and in different sectors to encourage investment and growth in the UK.

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, said:

“Access and attractiveness to highly-skilled global talent is at the heart of London’s success as a world leading business centre. Firms need to get the right people to the right location at the right time. Those talented people need to perceive the UK as a welcoming place.

“It is critical that the UK has a world-class visa system that works reliably, robustly and rapidly. With its pilot scheme for EU Settlement, the Home Office has shown it can be agile and innovative. This report shows the areas where this kind of approach needs to be deployed. This will ensure that the future process can be more predictable and less bureaucratic for employers and employees.

“Urgent action is needed to deliver a smoother and more efficient UK visa system. Getting this right matters for fast-growing start ups just as much as it does for more established international institutions with a global footprint.”

Margaret Burton, Partner in Global Immigration at EY, said:

“The UK is a highly attractive location to achieve business and person aspirations.

“Taking steps to accomplish ambitious changes to our immigration processes will ensure we remain competitive for many years to come.”

International workers make up 41% of the City of London’s workforce, and 34% of London’s finance and insurance jobs.

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK.

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