Anne Morris, managing director of DavidsonMorris, explains that a day in the life of an immigration solicitor has changed somewhat since the June 2016 referendum result.
First job of the day is to check emails that have come in overnight from clients in different time zones. There's a query from a client in Hong Kong who's in the process of establishing a tech start-up in the UK and we're managing her entrepreneur visa application.
Closed entrepreneur visa scheme
Following an initial proposal in December 2018, the government confirmed on 7 March that the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa route was closing on 29 March 2019, so we were up against the clock to complete the submission before the scheme closed.
From 29 March, international entrepreneurs and business owners will need to look at either the new Innovator route or the Start Up visa.
We're definitely seeing an increase in the number of business visa applications from female entrepreneurs. Given the entrepreneurial gender gap in the UK and recognition of the need for more female business leaders, it's encouraging Britain is being seen internationally as a destination for women to do business on a long term basis. As a female business owner myself, it's something I'm personally passionate about.
UK tech in particular is vastly under-represented by women. Despite 49% of the UK workforce being female, per 100 tech jobs, only 19 are held by women. I'm advocating a 'women in tech visa' – we should be proactively attracting and welcoming global talent and investment specifically from ambitious women to contribute to the success of our tech sector.
Home Office compliance and complexity
I head into the London office for a couple of hours before catching the train to Cambridge. I'm delivering on-site training to the in-house HR team of a multinational company and there's a lot of ground to cover. We're updating on the latest immigration rule changes - according to the Guardian, there have been more than 5,700 changes to the immigration rules since 2010 and the rules have more than doubled in length to almost 375,000 words.
It's challenging for employers to keep pace, and critical that they do or else they risk penalties. So compliance is a huge headache for HR. Immigration enforcement is a lucrative income stream for the Home Office and officials actively target companies of all sizes for breaches of illegal working regulations. They don't however always follow their own rules! We've developed a specialism in taking on the Home Office when they fall short of standards as well as helping employers implement processes to avoid breaches in the first place.
The company also wants us to cover the EU settlement scheme during the presentation, so they can better understand how they should be supporting their UK-based EU employees. EU citizens in the UK have to apply for settled status before December 2020 to remain here lawfully after Brexit. We're helping businesses get to grips with the scheme and also to start looking strategically and operationally at how their recruitment and onboarding are going to be affected by the government's proposed new immigration system for hiring non-UK resident workers, due to take effect by 2021.
However Brexit plays out - the end of EU free movement, a new UK immigration system centred on skills over nationality – employers in Britain will still need to recruit and people will continue to live their lives – finding jobs, getting married, having babies, relocating. It's our job to help make that happen.
Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.
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