The City of London Corporation has urged the government to shake up its “fundamentally unfair” immigration system to boost the UK economy’s post-pandemic recovery ahead of the Brexit transition period deadline.
In a report released today in collaboration with EY, the City body called on the Home Office to “rip up the red tape” and make temporary measures rolled out during the pandemic more permanent.
The London authority urged the government to streamline visa costs, remove “unnecessary administrative bureaucracy” and introduce flexible and part-time working.
It called on ministers to scrap policies due to come into effect at the end of the transition period which would prevent sponsored workers to work part-time if their salary dropped below the £25,600 threshold.
The Corporation said the policy was “fundamentally unfair and constrains employers in supporting flexible working and achieving the diversity that this leads to.”
It added that costs such as the UK’s Immigration Skills Charge — a £5,000 fee paid before international workers enter Britain — should be made more affordable for small businesses.
“Introducing a new immigration system at a time of an unprecedented pandemic is a huge challenge, but it also presents a unique opportunity to hit the ‘reset’ button,” said Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation.
“It is vital now more than ever that the UK remains an attractive location for international talent.”
The government is set to implement a new “points-based” immigration system when the UK formally leaves the bloc in January.
Workers from the EU, European Economic Area and Switzerland will no longer have preferential access to the UK labour market, and will need to apply for a visa through Britain’s immigration system.
International workers make up 39 per cent of City workers, and 19 per cent of financial services employees in the UK, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.
The report noted that retaining access to international talent is key to the UK’s position as a major financial centre, adding that it is “critical to socio-economic recovery” in the wake of the pandemic.
It called on the government to jump on the “moment of reckoning” provided by the coronavirus crisis to permit entry to the UK for highly-skilled international workers who do not hold a job offer.
“The coronavirus pandemic [has] challenged the movement of talent across borders in inconceivable ways,” said Seema Farazi, partner at EY.
“The UK immigration system has been ripe for innovation for some time, and over recent months we have witnessed incredibly fast progress in key areas.
“To really demonstrate innovation however, the future of work must be intrinsically linked to strong, purpose-driven immigration policy that aligns with business as it looks to nurture and upskill talent in the UK market… especially as we enter a post-Brexit world.”