Yash Dubal, Director at A Y & J Solicitors explains the new UK immigration system and how it relates to business with China:
Members and affiliates of CBBC will be all too aware of some of the challenges faced by organisations that do business with China arising from decisions made in Westminster. The ramifications of political decisions can sometimes be problematic.
One piece of recent policy that bucks the trend, however, should be welcomed as, in contrast to the perceived zeitgeist, it creates an opportunity to build stronger links with the country.
The new immigration legislation is designed to attract the ‘brightest and best’ workers from around the world and creates a points-based system, similar to that of Australia’s. It has been introduced following Brexit and the end of the free movement of people and workers between the UK and the EU. It is designed to make Britain a more attractive business environment globally. The new regime can be confusing however, and there are several considerations businesses that trade or employ internationally need to be aware of.
The most relevant aspects to consider are the types of visas now available for Chinese migrants and investors, and the statutory requirements that organisations employing overseas workers must fulfil.
In relation to the latter, any business which plans on employing personnel from China, and any other country, must be approved by the Home Office. In government terms, they must be licensed to sponsor visa holders, i.e. foreign workers. To gain Home Office approval, businesses first need to register with the Home Office, which then checks eligibility. To be granted sponsor status, businesses must meet certain criteria. The process can be done online here.
To be eligible, applicants cannot have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering, or have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months. Applicants also need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees. Applications are reviewed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and supporting documents are also required. Many businesses find it easier to use the services of immigration and visa consultants who can help save time and maximise the chances of a successful application.
Having a job offer for a skilled position from an approved employer will earn 40 points. Being able to speak English gets 10 points. The magic number to reach before a visa is issued is 70.
The most recent figures issued by the government show that only a small percentage of UK businesses are on the approved sponsor list. There are just over 32,000.
As an approved sponsor, members can hire employees through the skilled worker visa route. These visas allow qualifying applicants to come to the UK to work. To qualify for a skilled worker visa, applicants must meet certain criteria, each of which is scored. For example, having a job offer for a skilled position from an approved employer will earn 40 points. Being able to speak English gets 10 points. A salary offer of at least £25,600 gets 20 points. The magic number to reach before a visa is issued is 70.
Another popular visa route that those with links to China should be aware of is the Tier 1 Investor Visa. This provides a route into the UK for high-net-worth individuals who wish to invest in Britain. To qualify, applicants must have least £2 million of their own money held in a regulated financial institution and available for immediate dispersal in the UK. They must also have a UK bank account at a regulated bank, be at least 18 years old and able to prove that the investment funds belong to them, their spouse or legal partner.
The other types of visa that CBBC members should be aware of are Global Talent Visas and Sole Representative Visas.
The Global Talent Visa is an immigration route for individuals with a proven track record as ‘recognised leaders’, or show promise as being ‘emerging leaders’, in the fields of science, the humanities, engineering, the arts or technology.
The Sole Representative Visa is available for representatives of overseas businesses if they are either the sole representative planning to set up either a UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary, or an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation posted on a long-term assignment to the UK.
Despite recent headlines about friction between the UK government and Chinese technology firms, the signs are still positive if recent statistics are anything to go by. Indeed, Chinese IT workers and tech investors have been approved for UK visas at a higher percentage than any other nation, according to new data.
Figures released by Tech Nation reveal that last year, while the number of Chinese nationals applying to work or invest in the UK IT and technology sector has dropped, those that did apply enjoyed a higher visa approval rating than nationals from any other country. Of the 77 who applied under the Global Talent Visa route, 86% were approved. The low number of applicants is more likely to be due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, rather than any political concerns.
Chinese IT workers and tech investors have been approved for UK visas at a higher percentage than any other nation, according to new data
The figures show there are favourable conditions no matter what nationality applicants are, and that Britain is still very much open for business and remains a lucrative place for IT and tech firms to expand into. Chinese IT specialists are particularly attractive to UK employers.
The advantage of these immigration changes for those with commercial interests in China is that all firms should theoretically now be operating on a level playing field. Previously, organisations with interests in the EU, and those that employed EU workers, had an advantage. Now everyone is equal, and that should ultimately be good for business for CBBC members.