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New immigration rules ignore the self-employed

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The Home Office unveiled its new points-based immigration system this week, due to take effect next January after the conclusion of the Brexit transition period.

However, the plans have come under fire from a contractor trade body that has highlighted the lack of any explicit provision for self-employed workers, claiming the new rules will make it prohibitively difficult for freelance workers to come to work in Britain.

Under the current system, self-employed workers can come to work in the UK on an “innovator visa”, however these visas cost around £1,000.  This route will remain open under the new arrangements to both EU and non-EU nationals.

Andy Chamberlain, deputy director of policy at IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), said: “If the new immigration rules are meant to ensure the ‘best and brightest’ come to the UK, they have made a fatal error: they have failed to make decent provision for the self-employed.

New immigration rules ignore the self-employed

“In fact, the government has explicitly said it will not create a dedicated route for self-employed people.  Instead, freelancers must filter themselves through other tortuous routes such as the ‘innovation visa’, which requires for a ‘new idea’ and £50,000 in funds.

“So far, there does not seem to be any explicit provision for the skilled contractors that drive innovation in the UK.  This is a fatal flaw: the government must urgently rethink its approach and set up a dedicated self-employed route.  Otherwise, it risks not only hampering the flexible labour market in the UK, but also prompting the EU to take a similarly draconian approach to British contractors.”

The government’s official press release states: “We will not be creating a dedicated route for self-employed people.  We recognise that there are several professions where there is a heavy reliance on freelance workers.  They will continue to be able to enter the UK under the innovator route and will in due course be able to benefit from the proposed unsponsored route.  The UK already attracts world class artists, entertainers and musicians and we will continue to do so in the future.  The UK’s existing rules permit artists, entertainers and musicians to perform at events and take part in competitions and auditions for up to six months.  They can receive payment for appearances at certain festivals or for up to a month for a specific engagement, without the need for formal sponsorship or a work visa.”

The “unsponsored” route is a proposed route that “will allow a smaller number of the most highly-skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer”, recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), but as yet has not been developed and is still at the proposal stage.

20th February 2020.