Business immigration knowns and unknowns: the state of play

1 June 2017 | Jonathan Martin

It’s an uncertain world for businesses which rely on non-UK workers.  With the forthcoming general election and, of course, Brexit, it is clear that the UK immigration environment is certain to change over the coming years.

Much remains unclear about the future.  So what should businesses do?  Read on to learn what we know, and what we don’t know, about the business immigration landscape.  For practical steps to take now, read our article on Doing the right thing for your business and your EEA workers: practical steps for workforce planning.

What do we know now?

  • Whoever forms the next government, businesses that operate in the UK must plan on the basis there will be no freedom of movement for EEA nationals after Brexit. Focusing on the manifesto commitments of the two largest Westminster parties, both the Conservative and Labour party manifestos state that freedom of movement will end upon Brexit.
  • Business immigration will face new pressures.  The Conservative party manifesto repeats the aim of reducing net immigration overall to below 100,000 (a figure it has exceeded in every year since 1993).  The Labour manifesto offers “fair rules and management” of immigration.  Full details are not provided; nevertheless these proposals herald change if implemented, as they promise a “new system which is based on economic needs, balancing controls and existing entitlements”.  Under a government of either hue, businesses would need to adapt to new and possibly more restrictive rules.

What don’t we know?

  • Whether, post-Brexit, EEA nationals incoming to the UK will be expected to use the existing Points Based System routes, which until now have been the usual option for non-EEA nationals wishing to live or work in the UK, and whether there will be new procedures for them.
  • What about EEA nationals already here? The Conservative government has stated that they want to clarify the position early in the negotiations in line with agreeing the position for UK nationals living in Europe, but has refused to make unilateral guarantees. The Labour manifesto offers a guarantee of immediate rights for EU nationals in the UK. However, there are no details provided of who this would apply to or any cut off dates.
  • What new restrictions might be placed on non-EEA immigration in order to meet manifesto aims?

Whatever the answers, bringing key individuals from the EEA to work in the UK will get harder overall, and uncertainty will continue for non-EAA and EEA nationals alike for some time.  There is evidence from the office for national statistics that immigration to the UK has already fallen since the Brexit referendum.

How can we help?

Businesses which rely to a significant extent on migrant workers may find themselves struggling with effective workforce planning.

For practical pointers, read our article on Doing the right thing for your business and your EEA workers: practical steps for workforce planning.

For further information, contact Jonathan Martin on +44 (0)20 3051 5711 or at or



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The author

Jonathan Martin
Senior Consultant
Business Immigration
Global Mobility
D: +44 (0) 207 036 8397
T: +44 (0) 203 051 5711
F: +44 (0) 203 051 5712

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