The driving force behind the Brexit result of the June referendum was the perception that migration was having a negative impact on the UK. Politicians were informing UK citizens that immigration puts pressure on public services as well as increases unemployment and welfare demands. Citizens were thus led to believe that immigration was a bad thing and voted to leave the EU as a means to keep migrants out. In fact, the UK would not have become the powerhouse it is today without immigration.
Immigration should be viewed in a positive light as it enriches communities and strengthens economies rather than drain them. Refugees fleeing war want to make a positive contribution to the country that takes them in just as much as economic immigrants do. Immigrants are generally motivated and hard workers who make the move in order to better their lives and those of their children.
One out of seven businesses (14%) in the UK are run by foreign nationals. These businesses account for over four million jobs. The fact that immigration numbers are high yet the UK still has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world is clear evidence that immigrants are creating jobs and business opportunities.
More than 25% of immigrants in 2015 were students. The UK depends on international students to study in the UK as their tuition rates are often much higher than for UK nationals. Students also contribute to the economy by renting property and shopping locally.
Migrants from the EU can claim tax credits and child benefits only if they are working in the UK. They must also be working for three months before they are eligible to claim any benefits. Contrary to what pro-Brexiters are campaigning, migrants are contributing immensely to the economy and the UK as a whole.
The decision to leave the EU has left everyone in the UK, especially businesses, in a state of uncertainty with many questions left unanswered. It is important to note that the Brexit negotiations will only begin once Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is formally triggered by the UK. Until this occurs, no changes will be implemented and all current immigration terms remain.
When the time comes, the Brexit negotiations can lead to different outcomes which are discussed below.
Brexit scenario 1: UK leaves the EU but remains in the European Economic Area (EEA) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
Remaining a member of the EEA after withdrawal from the EU would be similar to the positions of countries such as Norway and Iceland. The EEA is completely separate from the EU and is not bound by EU law, however, free movement is still a necessity in order to be a member of the EEA. As such, if the UK membership in the EEA remained, EU nationals would continue to have rights to freely live and work in the UK. If this outcome were to occur, UK businesses could continue to hire and employ EU nationals as they are currently.
The UK could also leave the EU and join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which is a separate organization from the EEA but still accepts free movement.
Brexit scenario 2: UK leaves the EU and allows EU nationals already living and working in the UK to stay
If the UK were to fully leave the European single market, EU nationals would no longer be able to freely move to and work in the UK. In this scenario, there would be different options for EU nationals already living and working in the UK.
One option would be to allow EU nationals already in the UK to stay permanently. The government could also potentially apply a length of residence requirement in order to be allowed to remain. The government indicated that EU nationals already working in the UK should be allowed to remain after Brexit. Another recent announcement from the government is that EU nationals with at least five years of residence in the UK will still qualify for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence).
Brexit scenario 3: UK implements a points based system for EU nationals
Currently, foreign nationals from outside the EEA who want to immigrate to the UK must do so through a points based system. Foreign nationals must be sponsored by an employer and meet specific criteria before they are accepted to the UK to work. If the UK were to leave the single market entirely, the current system that only applies to workers outside of the EEA would apply to all workers. In other words, under this scenario, employers would be required to sponsor employees including EU nationals and will need to obtain work visas to allow them to work. Whether or not this will also apply to EU nationals already in the UK is a decision that will have to be made in this scenario. Employers in the UK should keep up to date with Brexit negotiations to find out whether or not visas will have to be obtained for their current employees.
Brexit for Tier 1 investors
Investors and entrepreneurs can continue to apply for immigration to the UK through the Tier 1 program. Changes to the program have not been discussed and will likely remain the same even post-Brexit. Investors and entrepreneurs are welcomed immigrants as they make an obvious investment into the economy.
The UK is one of the world’s greatest empires and must change its mindset on immigrants having a negative impact on the nation to understanding the positive contribution they bring.
For more information on UK’s Tier 1 program, please click here.
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