Last week the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) published its report on a potential London-only visa scheme.

The LCCI and many other business organisations, along with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan have been expressing their concern about the effect of the UK’s decision to leave the EU on London’s economy since the referendum result.  This report, which uses economic analysis from the Centre for Economics & Business Research, states the argument for treating London as separate from the rest of the country when it comes to immigration requirements and how having a London Visa could protect not only the capital’s Gross Value Added (GVA) and tax revenue, but the rest of Britain’s economy as well.

Many of London’s best immigration solicitors are welcoming the report, believing that the capital needs a flexible system

The importance of immigration to the London economy

According to the report, London is three times more reliant on foreign workers than the rest of the UK:

Immigration is vital to London; as migrant workers contribute heavily to the city’s economic output. While non-EU nationals contribute over £17 billion to London’s Gross Value Added (GVA), EU nationals contribute more than £26 billion to London’s GVA. Similarly, migrant workers contribute substantially to direct taxes: around £7 billion per annum by EU nationals and £6 billion by non-EU nationals.

Migrants also fill substantial skills gaps in sectors vital to the success of the London economy. For example, 24% of positions in the financial industry, and 36% of construction jobs are currently filled by non-UK nationals. Restricting access to migrant labour will exacerbate already pronounced skill shortages in the capital. London’s businesses are currently more dependent on EU nationals (15% of the workforce), than non-EU nationals (9% of the workforce), which raises particular concerns around the impact of restricting the current freedom of movement of EU citizens post-Brexit.

Given the substantial contribution of existing EU migrants to the London economy, it is clear that the departure of EU nationals in particular from the London workforce would be economically harmful, impacting upon various key industries, and putting pressure on public funds.”

Details of a proposed London Visa

The paper proposes two solutions to ensure London can recruit and retain the talent it needs post-Brexit:

  1. A London skills-shortage list; and
  2. A capital work permit.

London skills-shortage list

The LCCI concluded that, like Scotland, a Shortage Occupation List should be created for London.  The list is published by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which has so far been focused on whether the current minimum salary thresholds should be varied by region.

The paper states that any bespoke immigration solution for London must contain a Shortage Occupation List tailored to the capital’s labour requirements; for example, ensuring senior positions in the finance and tech sector are included.

A capital work permit

Quarterly Economic Surveys undertaken by ComRes, have shown that since spring 2014, around 50% of businesses in London have struggled to find candidates that are sufficiently skilled and 47% of businesses currently believe that looser immigration restrictions are needed in the medium-term to allow London’s businesses to reach their potential.  Many organisations currently invest large sums of money in obtaining the best legal advice from immigration lawyers.

The Centre for Economic and Business Research states that if the existing PBS-system was applied to all EEA nationals today and the Government achieved its immigration targets, the capital would lose access to 160,000 migrant workers, a figure that would exacerbate the skills shortage and have a negative effect on the economy.

The LCCI proposes in its recommendations that London City Hall and London businesses work with the Home Office to create a Work Permit Sponsorship Body for the London Region.  This body would be licensed by UK Visas and Immigration to act as a broker for London employers when they wish to obtain Certificates of Sponsorship and regional Capital Work Permits.

The paper proposes that rather than make a radical departure from the existing PBS system, most of the requirements, such as needing a job-offer from a London employer who holds a Sponsor Licence will apply to the new work permit, making the two systems align with each other.

In summary

The UK already has a special agreement with Ireland, in recognition of the well-established, historical ties between the two nations.  The Common Area Travel Arrangement has provided for freedom of movement since 1923.

It is clear that if provisions can be made for Scotland and Ireland, then a bespoke immigrationmodel for London is entirely achievable.  Not only would allowing the English capital (one of the most important economic centres of the world let’s not forget), the ability to recruit the talent it needs, the rest of the country will retain the tax and infrastructure generated from London’s continued growth.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected immigration law firms in London.  By making an appointment with one of our immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today.  Our business immigrationsolicitors, Teni Shahiean, Oshin Shahiean, Nagesh Jain and Dr Lusine Navasardyan can assist you if you have any questions regarding points made in this article or Brexit.

If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0207 936 9960.

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