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Migration Advisory Committee Report - December 2020

The Annual Report of the Migration Advisory Committee was published in December 2020.  The report can be accessed: here.

The report is the first Annual Report produced under the ‘expanded remit’ of the Committee. The report comes at a historic moment; it was published shortly before the transition period came to an end, when the UK finally left the EU on 31 December 2020. 

The introductory section acknowledges this:

“This is a time of great change for the UK immigration system as we complete the transition period having left the European Union (EU). The ending of Free Movement will mean that all non-Irish EU citizens arriving in the UK after the end of 2020 will be subject to the same immigration rules as those from outside the EU. We think this is fundamentally the right approach. The MAC takes no position on the merits of EU membership, but we do believe that in cases where UK immigration policy is being made unilaterally (i.e. where it is not constrained by our economic or trading agreements with other countries), it should be the contribution that the migrant can make to British society that is the focus, not where they happened to be born. Such major changes are never easy and rarely smooth, but they provide a unique opportunity to set a well-considered, evidence-based course for immigration policy for the coming decades”.

It is acknowledged that the new immigration system is launched in the current Covid-19 Pandemic and ‘severe economic disruption’ and the result that ‘foreign workers will want to move countries’ once the situation is ‘under clear control’”.

Work and Study

The committee reports that overall immigration trends reflect the fact that most people enter the UK to work or study. The report acknowledges the many work related routes, including Global Talent, Innovators, Start-Up visas, Investor, Youth mobility and Tier 5 Temporary Work.

Asylum Seekers

The report notes that those who claim asylum are not usually permitted to work, unless their claim remains undetermined after 12 months and they could contribute to an occupation which is in shortage.  The report examines information from the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society which examined the long-term impact of enforced inactivity upon those whose entry was for asylum, rather than being UK-born or other groups of migrants. 

The report concludes: “This analysis suggests that more active efforts to integrate such migrants into work is essential to achieve positive labour market impacts. It may well be worth considering whether the outright ban on asylum claimants being able to work is a sensible policy, particular[ly] given the often long time frame involved in reaching a final decision on an application. We know from other research that significant time out of the labour market can have long-run negative consequences for future employment and earnings”.

Family Migration – Minimum Income Requirement

It was the November 2011 Review of the minimum income requirement for sponsorship under the family migration route MAC that was widely reported to have led to the implementation of the minimum financial requirement of £18,600 for family routes in July 2012.  

Interestingly the report now reflects on the position, and reads:

“We also think now would be an opportune time to reconsider the minimum income requirements associated with this route. The MAC are concerned that previous analysis may have given too much weight to the fiscal contribution of such migrants and insufficient attention to the benefits that accrue, to both the family and society, from the route. In addition, it is a considerable time since the current income requirements were introduced, so more evidence should now be available to review the impact of these requirements”.

For many years now the imposition of a minimum financial requirement has been criticised and the subject of litigation.  The financial requirement has resulted in many families remaining separated for significant periods of time, with no end in sight.  The impact of the requirement has been further highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic impact. 

British National Overseas (BNO)

As we have shared through the Knowledge Centre, the Government has in recent times introduced the possibility for British Nationals from Hong Kong to live and settle here in the UK. Applications open from 31 January 2021, can be made from inside or outside the UK, and there is no quota.  

The report highlights the impact this route might have and states:

“The Home Office’s Impact Assessment estimated that 2.9m Hong Kong residents will be eligible to move to the UK and follow the pathway to UK citizenship. Whilst forecasting the number of applications is challenging, the Home Office considered 2 scenarios based on Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office estimates. In their scenario analysis they estimated between 257,200 – 832,500 migrants (main applicant and dependant) over five years. We would highlight just how uncertain any such analysis is – this is a completely unprecedented offer whose take-up will depend on a large range of unforecastable outcomes. 

Analysis using data from Indeed online job site shows a large increase in the percentage of searches on their UK website from users in Hong Kong peaking in July but subsequently falling back again (Figure 1.29 below). It will be interesting to see whether such searchers remain above the average levels observed prior to the UK offer. It is likely that the pandemic and subsequent economic disruption could mean that fewer BNOs take up the opportunity to move, at least in the short term”.

Looking Forward into 2021

The MAC will report on changes to the intra-company transfers (ICT) route later this year, in October.

It is anticipated that the government should respond to recommendations regarding the Shortage Occupation List: 2020;the MAC review was last published in September 2020.

We wait to see what the changes in trends the new immigration system will bring, particularly in light of the current global pandemic. 

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