The economic route to the UK

Immigration rules are important for both individuals and businesses alike. Their purpose is to strike a balance between population control and free movement of persons. The latter can in turn affect growth by defining who a business can employ, so recent changes matter whichever side of the coin you are on.

The Minister of State for Immigration (Mark Harper) submitted a ministerial statement to Parliament on 6 September 2013 regarding changes to the UK’s immigration rules. These have since come into force on 1 October 2013, with more implemented from 28 October 2013 onwards. Their aim is to allow greater flexibility for businesses, workers and tourists visiting or staying on our shores. By simplifying the framework for those coming to the UK to do business, visit as tourists or study in a UK institution, the hope is these changes will in turn encourage growth.

Perhaps the most notable changes the Minister has made are those to the economic route, those being:

- the English language requirement for intra-company transferees has been removed

- waiving of share ownership restrictions for senior staff earning £152,100 or more

- allowing business visitors to undertake some study where it is incidental to the main purpose of their visit

- expanding the activities a business visitor can do in the UK

Certainly these are welcome changes for business owners and their employees. With the English language requirement removed business owners should find it more flexible to transfer their employees to and from the UK, allowing them to gain experience and greater exposure for their work. In addition to that, the employee would then be permitted to undertake study to improve their English language skills.

With these changes coming into effect, the hope is that the UK will see an increase in workers and that will in turn broaden the UK work pool. By removing these language requirements for intra-company transferees only, and not for those applying for work visas, it also ensures that only those migrants who are already employed will carry out work. This reduces the risk of increasing the UK's unemployment figures, meaning workers can study and expand the activities they do in UK. The plan being, they will be given more flexibility to contribute to the labour force than before.

The UK could potentially see a period of increased labour and wider market flexibility because of these changes. But it remains to be seen whether the UK economy can support an ever-increasing population, regardless of the short-term benefits that may come as a result of greater flexibility. 

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