End of free movement will harm the economy and society.
The SNP has called on the UK government to reduce the ‘sky-high’ cost of visas and stop the roll-out of the Tier 2 immigration system to EEA nationals – or businesses in Scotland and the UK will face a “triple whammy” after Covid-19 and Brexit.
Ahead of the third reading of the Immigration Bill, the SNP’s Shadow Immigration Minister, Stuart McDonald MP, has urged the Tory government to lower the costs of a Tier 2 visa saying the plans will be a disaster for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) – particularly outside of London and the South East – as well as the higher education sector and other public services.
Research by one of the world’s leading immigration law firms, Fragomen, shows that under the Tories’ future immigration system a Tier 2 worker who entered the UK to work for a large company for five years with a partner and three children would pay a total of £21,300 upfront (increasing to £26,924 in October 2020) once costs such as sponsorship license fees and the Immigration Health Surcharge are included.
The UK has the highest costs when compared to Australia, Germany, Canada, France and the United States – over twelve times as much as the equivalent visa for Canada and over seventeen times as much as Germany.
If they were single and entering for three years then the cost is £5,000 (increasing to £5,681 in October 2020) – over eighteen times as much the equivalent visa for Canada and almost thirty-two times as much as Germany.
After five years the family of five would need to find a further one-off lump sum payment of almost £12,000 for the Home Office for settlement or leave the country.
Skilled workers from the EEA are able to work in any EEA country without paying anything – so the same job offer to a French worker would come free of charge in Dublin, but with a huge bill if made from Edinburgh, making it incredibly difficult to attract the workers Scotland needs, and requiring businesses to pay huge costs.
Additionally, in a recent response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by Mr McDonald, the Home Office confirmed that those businesses already registered as Tier 2 sponsors are disproportionately located in London and the South East of England, meaning the rest of the UK will be playing catch up – piling costs and bureaucracy onto small and medium sized businesses just as they are struggling with the economic fall-out of Covid-19 and Brexit.
Commenting, Stuart McDonald MP (pictured) said:
“This research shows that the Tory government is completely out-of-touch with reality and out-of-touch with small and medium sized businesses.
“To bulldoze ahead with a system that would damage businesses in normal times is reckless but to do so amidst a global pandemic and the Brexit transition period is utter madness.
“The SNP will always make the case for free movement, but of all the times to move away from that system, you could hardly pick a worse moment.
“The UK government cannot sit on their hands and allow businesses to suffer a ‘triple whammy’.
“If it does not re-think these sky-high visa costs – and extend the Brexit transition period – then Scotland and the UK’s economy will see long-lasting damage.
“The priority in our economic recovery will be keeping people in work and helping those out of work into jobs – but we will continue to need workers to come from Europe and beyond to fill vital roles.
“These fees will make that impossible.
“It is critical that we get an immigration system that is fit for purpose, but the clock is ticking.
“This issue goes beyond party politics and we call on politicians from all sides to back the SNP’s proposals to reduce visa costs to meet the needs of businesses in Scotland, and indeed the rest of the UK.”