“Taking Back Control” – A Guide to the UK’s Post-Brexit Immigration Options

“Taking Back Control”

A Guide to the UK’s immigration options post-Brexit

The decision to leave the EU was one of the biggest political shifts in the UK’s history. Undeniably, a big part of the Leave campaign was the notion of ‘taking back control’. It alludes to Britain making its own laws, forming its own trade deals and, of course, controlling its own borders and immigration.

However, in the weeks and months following the vote, it became clear that ‘taking back control’ wasn’t all that simple. Leandra van Wijk leads Tiger Law’s UK Immigration & Visa Service. Here she looks at what Britain’s options are for immigration after leaving the EU and the potential problems.

Picking up points

Another idea that was mentioned plenty of times in the debate leading up to the EU referendum – particularly by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage – was the idea of a points–based immigration system. This was considered by many as the ideal solution to replace free movement for EU citizens.

It works by awarding potential immigrants points for certain desirable criteria. If candidates obtain enough points from various criteria, they are allowed in. These criteria – set by the Government – are usually things like education, experience, languages, age and occupation.

A similar system is, in fact, already in place in the UK for immigrants outside the European Economic Area (EEA). It was brought in by Gordon Brown’s Labour in 2008 as part of the work permit system. Will it be used more broadly for EEA immigrants? It seems unlikely.

Theresa May has openly ruled it out, saying her time as home secretary exposed her to the system’s intricacies and abuses. One problem, in particular, is that a points–based system doesn’t offer full control. Anyone who meets the criteria is automatically allowed in.

Extending the work permit

Of course, there’s always the option of expanding the current work permit system to EEA applicants. For this, applications are split into four tiers:

  • ‘High value’ entrepreneurs and investors (tier 1)
  • Skilled workers with a job offer (tier 2)
  • Students aged over 16 (tier 4)
  • Temporary workers (tier 5)

Because work permits are allocated on a quota-basis, it would give the government full control over numbers. The problem? Tier 3 of the system, for unskilled workers, was never introduced. This poses a problem for businesses – and industries more broadly – that rely on low skilled workers from the EU. 

So, how about a work permit system that favours EEA migration? That’s another plan being considered by the government, which would include terms for low-skilled EEA workers. This could reduce the impact on those industries that rely on unskilled workers but leave the government in control of numbers.

Tiger Law & Immigration

Led by Leandra van Wijk, an immigration attorney who originally qualified in South Africa but who has herself navigated the process of applying for residence in the United Kingdom, Tiger Law has a specialised Immigration & Visa Service designed to provide easy access to the advice and assistance you need to make a successful application to visit, reside or work in the UK. We have the professional experience and expertise to help you deal with the practical issues of completing forms and providing documents and can advise you on the best route to select for your circumstances.

We help individuals and families from around the world and are also able to provide expert advice to employers seeking to sponsor overseas employees.

The Immigration & Visas team at Tiger Law is, of course, monitoring developments related to our immigration clients very closely. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for news, views and information as the situation unfolds.

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Leandra van Wijk

Leandra van Wijk

Head of Immigration Services at Tiger Law
Leandra van Wijk is Tiger's Head of Immigration Services. Leandra is an SA qualified attorney who emigrated to England and has been living here for 10 years. She is not just an expert on Immigration and Visa issues, she understands the issues that face those applying for entry to the UK through the UK Borders agency. Leandra keeps a close eye on legislative matters related to the field, especially with Brexit looming and blogs regularly with news, views and information.