Immigration Updates – 3rd of March

Contributor(s): Daniel King
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    General Updates

    Bulgaria

    The Bulgarian parliament has passed amendments to the Law on Labour Migration and Labour Mobility regarding EU Blue Cards.

    The following changes came into force on 24 January 2023:

    • Blue Cards are now valid for a maximum of five years (previously four years).
    • Applicants may submit proof that they have five years (or three years for certain professions) of relevant professional experience instead of a university degree.
    • Applicants are no longer required to submit proof of private health insurance covering the duration of their intended stay in Bulgaria, but are now only required to have health insurance at the time of submitting their application.
    • Blue Card holders are now eligible to receive health insurance coverage as a benefit from their Bulgarian employer.
    • Identity cards for Blue Card holders no longer include the name of the employer. Those who have held Blue Cards for at least 12 months can now change employer by notifying the Employment Agency in Bulgaria (without renewing their ID card).
    • Blue Card holders are now eligible to work from home within Bulgaria for their Bulgarian employers.
    • Bulgarian employers can now assign Blue Card holders to another EU country for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
    • The authorities are now expected to process Blue Card applications in two and a half months (previously three months).

    An online application process for EU Blue Cards is anticipated in the near future.

    Ireland

    The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) has opened registration for submissions from industry representatives and stakeholders on the nature and extent of skills shortages.

    In order to maintain the relevance of the employment permits occupational lists (Critical Skills Occupation List and Ineligible List of Occupations) and to ensure that the system is aligned with current labour market intelligence, the lists undergo periodic evidence-based review.

    • Occupations included on the Critical Skills Occupations List are highly skilled occupations which are experiencing labour or skill shortages in respect of qualifications, experience or skills and which are required for the proper functioning of the Irish economy.
    • Occupations included on the Ineligible Occupations List are occupations in respect of which there is evidence that there are more than enough Irish/EEA workers available to fill such vacancies, and therefore an employment permit shall not be granted in Ireland.
    • Every other job in the labour market, where an employer cannot find a worker, may be eligible for an employment permit. The employer must do a Labour Market Needs Test to see if there is anyone in the State/EEA who could fill the vacancy. If no-one suitable applies for the job, the employer is free to apply for an employment permit.

    Interested parties should register their email address via email.

    United Kingdom

    The UK Home Office has released the latest version of its employers’ guide to right-to-work checks.

    The most significant updates relate to:

    • clarification for employers on the use of Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) and Identity Service Providers (IDSPs) to support manual document-based and Home Office online checking service right to work checks.
    • the use of “Reusable Identities” for checks involving the use of IDSPs (Annex C, Appendix A).
    • end of the COVID-19 temporary adjusted checks on 30 September 2022.
    • changes to enable some individuals with an outstanding, in-time application for permission to stay in the UK, or an appeal, or administrative review (3C leave) to prove their right to work using the Home Office online checking service.
    • confirmation that Re-Admission to the UK (RUK) endorsements are an acceptable document for the purposes of right to work checks (List A, no. 4).
    • information on sponsored work and student categories (Annex B).
    • information on short-dated Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs).

    Since 1 October 2022, employers must carry out one of the below checks before employment commences:

    • a manual right to work check using original documents;
    • a Home Office online right to work check;
    • a right to work check using IDVT through the services of an identity service provider (IDSP).

    Conducting any of these checks will provide employers with a statutory excuse which is a defence against a civil penalty.

    Employers must check that a job applicant is allowed to work for them in the UK before employing them.

    To fulfil this requirement, employers can:

    When carrying out a manual right to work check, employers must obtain original documents from either List A or B of acceptable documents. The employer must check that the documents are valid with the applicant present (or, until 30 September 2022, on a video call), and must make and keep copies of the documents and record the date they made the check.

    Currently, the Home Office online service supports checks for a range of individuals, depending on the type of immigration documentation they are issued with. This includes holders of status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

    Some individuals have been issued with an eVisa and can only use the online service to prove their right to work.

    Holders of Biometric Residence Cards (BRC), Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) and Frontier Worker Permits (FWP) are also only able to evidence their right to work using the Home Office online service. This means employers cannot accept or check a physical BRC, BRP or FWP as proof of right to work.

    The employer must ask the applicant to obtain and send them a share code and use this to view an applicant’s right to work details.

    Since 6 April 2022, accredited Identity Service Providers (“IDSPs”) are permitted to complete the identity verification elements of right to work checks involving British and Irish citizens. 

    This means that employers can pay a privately operated and Home Office approved provider to conduct such checks remotely using Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT). The Home Office guidance contains detailed information here.  

    In certain circumstances, employers will need to contact the Home Office’s Employer Checking Service (ECS) to establish a statutory excuse.

    United Kingdom

    The Migration Advisory Committee has announced a call for evidence as part of its review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). It will review whether occupations are in shortage, and whether it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers overseas.

    The government periodically commissions the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to recommend which jobs should be placed on the SOL.

    Employers who would like to respond must complete and submit a questionnaire before 26 May 2023.

    What is the SOL?

    The SOL lists occupations where there is a shortage of suitable skilled labour in the UK, and where it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers through a skilled work visa.

    What will the MAC consider?

    The MAC states that it will consider occupations skilled at Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3 (A-levels or equivalent training or qualification) and above that are currently eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, as well as occupations below RQF3 that are currently not eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa.

    The MAC will not consider occupations with an occupation-specific binding salary threshold (the “going rate”), or jobs for which they receive no evidence.

    What are the benefits for jobs on the SOL?

    Having a job on the SOL currently confers the following benefits:

    • The main benefit to being on the SOL is a lower salary threshold (compared to the current Skilled Worker salary threshold, currently £25,600) of either £20,480 or 80% of the going rate for the occupation (whichever is higher). The Government is planning to uprate salary thresholds across the Skilled Worker routes as part of the routine Spring package of immigration rules changes expected to lay on 9 March. Subject to Parliamentary approval, this will see the general threshold of the Skilled Worker route being £26,200 and the lower SOL salary threshold being £20,960.
      • The MAC have already decided that they will recommend that the SOL salary threshold discount for those occupations subject to a binding going rate be abolished, and will conduct this SOL review on that basis. This will mean that occupations on national pay scales and occupations where the going rate is above the Skilled Worker general salary threshold are excluded (as these occupations cannot benefit from a salary discount). In practice, this means that the only occupations that will benefit from being on the SOL, and hence the only occupations that will be considered for inclusion, are those for which the occupation’s going rate falls between £20,480 and £25,600 (or £20,960 and £26,200 subject to Parliamentary approval of the changes).
    • Reduced visa fees: Standard visa fees for a Skilled Worker visa application range from £625 (less than 3 years) to £1,423 (over 3 years). For occupations on the SOL the costs are £479 and £943 respectively, a reduction of just under 25% and just over 35% respectively for visas.
    • The salary discount that applies to applications for SOL occupations also applies at the time of making an application for settlement (or Indefinite Leave to Remain).
    • Although supplementary work is not allowed in most circumstances whilst on a Skilled Worker visa, it is allowed where an occupation is on the SOL.
    • Asylum seekers whose claim has been outstanding for more than 12 months may apply for permission to work if the occupation is on the SOL.

    United Kingdom/India

    Effective 28 February 2023, the United Kingdom and Indi have opened the reciprocal Young Professionals Scheme. Under the scheme, young professionals from India and the UK can apply to live, study, travel and work for up to two years in each other’s country.

    Indian nationals eligible for the scheme can enter a 48-hour ballot free of charge from which 2,400 randomly selected applicants will then be invited to submit their visa applications. A further ballot will be held later in the year.

    Interested eligible British nationals do not need to apply through a ballot process and are welcome to apply to the Young Professionals Scheme at any time.

    Those eligible to apply must be between 18 and 30 and hold a degree.

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