Immigration Update | July 2023
Published on 4th Jul 2023
In this issue we have a useful roundup of changes in immigration on the international scene, including the UK, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Australia. We consider changes for both students and workers which we look at in some detail, useful statistics from the recently released transparency data, and a policy dilemma for the Home Office this summer.
Global immigration roundup: international developments worldwide
What developments are on the horizon across jurisdictions or have recently come into force?
- The EU and the UK
From Summer 2024, British visitors to the EU will be required to apply to the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, regardless of whether the visit is for business or a holiday.
British nationals wanting to work in the EU will need to be very careful they are not falling foul of the rules, as in some cases they will need work permissions. Do contact our team if you have British employees who travel frequently to the EU or who need to work while in the EU.
Similarly, all current non-visa nationals (individuals who can visit the UK without applying for a visa before they travel) will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before travelling to the UK. This is set to be phased in for Qatar initially (November 2023) and then extended to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (from February 2024). Other non-visa countries, including the EU, will come on line in phases.
It is important to note that bringing over individuals for business visits, even if they do not need a visa, will mean ensuring the ETA is in place before travelling.
Cross-border telework in the EU: the new EU template framework agreement
A group of European experts, led by the Belgian rapporteur, drafted a template framework agreement, open for signature to EU member states. Once signed, it will allow the signatory member states to make exceptions to the rules designating the competent member state.
The EU draft framework agreement provides that the social security legislation of the EU member state of the registered seat of the employer will continue to apply provided that the cross-border telework in the state of residence is less than 50% of the total working time.
The new cross-border telework framework agreement in the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland will be in force as of 1 July 2023.
Belgium has signed the Framework Agreement on cross-border telework, along with, to date, nine other countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
On 29 March 2023, Germany's federal cabinet decided on a new draft bill to reform the Skilled Immigration Act, which introduces new opportunities for labour and skilled worker immigration.
A major change is that foreign workers will be able to enter Germany in three ways: their professional qualification, relevant experience and through an “opportunity card”.
The EU Blue Card for skilled workers with an academic education will now be granted at a minimum gross salary of 56.6 percent of the annual income threshold. So, the salary threshold is to be lowered from the current €58,400.00 to €49,581.00. For job entrants who have obtained a university degree no more than three years before applying for the EU Blue Card, as well as in understaffed professions, a minimum gross salary of 45.3 percent of this limit is required (€39,681.00 instead of the current €45,552).
In addition, the EU Blue Card is no longer solely granted to foreigners who have an academic education. If the specific requirements of the education level are not met, foreigners who have completed a tertiary education programme are now also covered.
Furthermore, experienced foreign professionals can be employed without a recognition procedure if they have acquired two years of professional experience in the last five years. Also, employment must no longer be sought only in the fields of information and communication technology, and German language skills are no longer required. Alongside the introduction of a recognition partnership, foreigners can enter the country and obtain a residence permit of up to one year before a foreign professional qualification is recognized.
Further reforms include the introduction of an “opportunity card”. This is intended for individuals who do not have a job yet but demonstrate the potential to find work. Under certain conditions and according to a point-based system, people with a foreign vocational qualification of at least two years can also be granted the opportunity card.
Unfortunately, the labour and skilled immigration process has not been comprehensively digitalised and accelerated. Instead, many of the innovations lead to an additional administrative burden and rather prolonged procedure. For instance, it is not clear how the educational level will be assessed. Visa procedures may therefore be difficult to predict, which significantly affects staff planning.
It remains to be seen how the legislative process will proceed. However, it is likely to enter into force in November 2023, as the federal council (the “Bundesrat”) generally welcomed the bill in their statement on 12 May 2023.
Dr Viktoria Winstel
The recently passed Law 28/2022, of December 21, on the promotion of the start-up ecosystem, has brought in a new legal framework applicable for startups at administrative, tax, civil and commercial levels, as well as significant immigration changes that will have a direct impact specifically on international business and non-European citizens willing to work remotely from Spain.
The main immigration change is the brand-new visa for "digital nomads", also known as international teleworking visa. This is intended for non-European citizens and their family members that are planning to reside in Spain and work remotely as a dependent or self-employee for a company located outside Spain. It is aimed at those using exclusively computer, telematics and telecommunication media and systems. The applicants will have to prove that they have an undergraduate or postgraduate degree or have at least three years of work experience in their current field of activity. On top of this, the new law provides for the possibility of requesting the application of a very favourable tax regime for these employees.
In addition to this new visa, the regulation brings benefits to the already existing work permits regulated by the entrepreneurs law, which establishes a flexible and streamlined regime set out for foreign entrepreneurs and international companies willing to hire highly qualified employees or transfer their current employees to Spain. For example, they have benefitted by having their duration extended to three years (renewable) or seeing some of their documentary obligations made more flexible, such as those related to the required professional qualifications or criminal record certificates.
The UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement has been fast-tracked
The fast-tracking of the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement will benefit young workers seeking to enter Australia and will benefit Australian employers seeking to employee UK passport holders.
The major changes to the Working Holiday Maker scheme include:
- The working holiday visa age limit to increase from 30 to 35 years old (inclusive) from 1 July 2023 for UK passport holders.
- From 1 July 2024, UK passport holders can be granted up to three separate Working Holiday visas without having to meet any specified work requirements. This means they will be permitted to work for one employer, in one location, for up to six months on each working holiday visa.
UK citizens and passport holders have been identified as being exempt from the current labour market testing requirements under the subclass 482 scheme. This is welcome news for Australian employers who are seeking to employ UK nationals quickly and effectively without having to advertise for the position.
Seafood sector jobs to be added to the shortage occupations list
Struggling from post-Brexit export regulations, the fishing sector has now been given a boost by adding a range of skilled occupations to the shortage occupations list. As of summer 2023, employers and prospective employees in the seafood sector will be able to benefit from lower salary requirements and lower applications fees when recruiting share fishermen, trawler skippers and experienced deckhands on large fishing vessels from overseas.
UK government updates rules for Student visas
Earlier this year, the UK government announced that it will introduce measures to limit what is allowed on a Student visa.
From January 2024, it is proposed that overseas students, except for those who are in the UK on post-graduate routes, will not be allowed to bring any dependent family members. This means that spouses and children of overseas students will have to look at alternative routes if they want to join family (who are on the student route) residing in the UK. However, it has been said that the government will work with the higher education sector to explore alternative options, ensuring that students studying at the UK's world-leading universities can bring dependents.
UKVI releases statistics for first quarter on migrant and skilled workers
The UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) has released sponsorship transparency data covering the first quarter of 2023. The data, which was released on 25 May 2023, reveals some interesting developments for sponsors of Tier 2 Migrants and Skilled Workers.
What are the recent essential policy guidance updates for workers?
Guidance update from April 2023 has been released for the Skilled Worker category
The Skilled Worker guidance was updated on 12 April 2023, with the minimum salary increased from £25,600 to £26,200. A sponsored migrant applying under the Skilled Worker category must now be paid at least £26,200 per year or £10.75 per hour or the "going rate" for the occupation code. However, there are some exceptions if the sponsored migrant's salary is less than £26,200 per annum. If an exception applies, a sponsored migrant's salary must be at least £20,960 per year and at least the going rate. The exceptions are: that the role is in a shortage occupation; for those under the age of 26, studying or a recent graduate or in professional training; and for migrants with a postdoctoral position in science or higher education.
UK immigration policy faces a summer 2023 dilemma
The UK government is trying to tackle a number of problems that are linked to immigration, but require contradictory solutions – inflation in food prices, increase in net migration and a shortage of skilled workers.
Inflation and immigration are not normally subjects easily joined, but the International Monetary Fund's deputy managing director, Gita Gopinath, commenting recently on the UK economy, said that "with inflation as high as it is... there are benefits to having workers come in".