Spring Statement 2019: visa waiver and e-gate access post Brexit

In a Spring Statement thin on detail and shaped by the lack of progress on Brexit, the Chancellor announced plans to extend e-card immigration rights to citizens from Australia, Singapore and Japan, among others

Amidst repeated warnings about the risks of a no-deal Brexit, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond said: ‘Free movement of people will end, and we will need to focus on attracting those we need in the UK economy.

‘So I am announcing that from June 2019 visitors from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea will be able to use e-gates at UK airports and Eurostar terminals. This means that these visitors will be able to use the same gates as EEA [European Economic Area] and UK citizens. This signals to the world of our commitment to global Britain.’

In addition, Hammond confirmed that from this autumn PhD level roles will be exempted from British high-skilled visa caps, which will benefit research institutes and high tech and innovation-led businesses.

Overseas research activity will also count as residence in the UK for the purpose of applying for settlement, meaning researchers will no longer be unfairly penalised for time spent overseas conducting vital fieldwork.

Also on the immigration front, the government will start to abolish landing cards for non-residents from June 2019.

Meantime, the government pledged more support for driving UK productivity.

Paul Holcroft, associate director of Croner, added: ‘In a Spring Statement marred by a “cloud of Brexit uncertainty”, Chancellor Phillip Hammond revealed that UK employers could stand to benefit from an increase in financial support providing the UK reaches a deal with the EU over Brexit.

‘This includes a £37bn National Productivity Investment fund to help businesses address the UK’s lagging productivity rate, whilst it was also confirmed that the £700m previously suggested to help small firms take on more apprentices will become available from as early as April 2019.’

However, there will also be potential hike in costs for employers with further increases to national minimum wage rates, Holcroft warned: ‘In news which may be less welcome by employers and payroll departments, Hammond also announced a review of low pay in Britain which mirrors the government’s recent efforts to improve protections under the Good Work Plan.

‘This could see minimum wage rates increase in the future which is likely to come at a considerable cost to a large number of employers.’

Report by Sara White

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