We know that eligible EEA nationals in the UK or those coming to the UK before 29 March 2019 or 31 December 2020 will have the opportunity to apply for settled status or pre-settled status by no later than 30 June 2021. This will give them, amongst other things, the right to remain indefinitely in the UK and work here.
But what about those EEA nationals wanting to come and work in the UK after December 2020? The rules of the UK immigration system in place at that time will apply and although we don't know what they will be at this stage, the report published by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on 18 September has given us some hints of what might be coming. You can read the report here.
The MAC was commissioned by the Home Secretary in July 2017 to "provide an evidence base for the design of a new migration system for the UK after the end of the implementation period on the 1st of January 2021". The final MAC report on EEA migration in the UK contains its recommendations on what the UK's future immigration system should look like.
The MAC's recommendations at a glance
1.There will be no preferential treatment for EEA nationals under a future UK immigration system and free movement should end.
2.The system should make it easier for high-skilled workers to enter the UK for work than for low skilled workers.
3.The current tier based system should be adapted: the cap on migrants entering under tier 2 (general) should be abolished. Medium skilled workers will be able to enter under tier 2 (general) as the list of eligible occupations will be expanded but, there will be no change to the salary thresholds or any regional variations to those. In-country change in employment under tier 2 should be made easier.
4.The immigration skills charge would be applied to EEA migrants. The level of the charge should be reviewed.
5.The Resident Market Labour Test should be abolished or it should be reviewed so that the salary threshold which triggers the obligation to conduct is lower.
6.There should be no explicit route for low skilled workers to enter the UK: any requirement for low skilled migrant workers should be fulfilled by extending the youth mobility scheme.
7.There is a possibility of a Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme but employers taking advantage of this scheme would have to pay a higher minimum wage.
8.Changes should be made to the tier visa system to make it easier for employing sponsors and migrants to use.
This report will come as somewhat of a disappointment for those businesses in sectors where low skilled workers from the EEA or even outside the EEA are relied upon. This was clearly anticipated by the MAC when they said in their report "undoubtedly some sectors will complain vociferously about being faced with an alleged cliff-edge in their supply of labour." The MAC's view is that the existing stock of low-skilled migrants will not change immediately and there will continue to be a flow through the family route. It is not clear how this will help in the longer term but if some route is needed for lower skilled workers to enter the UK, the youth mobility scheme is the MAC's answer.
The research, conclusions and recommendations in the MAC report are intended to inform the long awaited Government White Paper. That was originally due to be published in 2017 but is now expected this autumn. We will have to wait to see if the MAC's recommendations are adopted in due course by the UK Government.
**Update** The Cabinet agreed in principle to adopt the MAC's recommendations on 24 September 2018