Freelancers failed by immigration paper, says creative body

A government white paper on a future-skills-based immigration system will give creative freelancers ‘very little confidence’ in the UK’s post-Brexit future, an industry body says.

Published by the Home Office, the policy paper fails to “include any measures to address the challenges faced by freelancers,” says the Creative Industries Federation (CIF).

This is a “disappointing” omission because 35 per cent of workers in the creative industries are self-employed, partly thanks to freedom of movement, said the CIF’s CEO Alan Bishop.

'Brightest freelancers'

“British businesses [have had] access to the best and brightest freelancers from the EU… [affording them] opportunities to grow and contribute to the continuing health of the UK economy.

“For international non-EEA freelancers however, the current immigration system provides no long-term route,” he said. “This is why the federation has called for the introduction of a freelance visa.”

Alongside the white paper proposing to maintain the £30,000 salary threshold, the absence of action to support freelancers suggests officials are ‘in the dark’ about the consequences.

'Blindness'

“It demonstrates government’s blindness to the major strains that Brexit and the current immigration system will have on organisations’ ability to recruit the talent they need,” the federation said.

“There will need to be considerable changes to these proposals if government are to ensure sectors such as the creative industries continue to thrive post-Brexit.”

There will also need to be an acknowledgement from government that, in the creative industries, “high skills do not always command a high salary,” the CIF said.

'Temporary, short-term' visa

However the government is likely to counter that the paper actually proposes to lower the skills threshold (on the skilled-workers-route) to include medium-skilled workers.

And whether highly skilled or just ‘skilled,’ there will be one single way for employers to sponsor the worker under a light-touch, low cost system, and numbers will not be capped.

The federation welcomed some of these moves, but for freelancers more specifically, it highlighted that the paper proposes a new time-limited route for “temporary, short-term workers.”

While this will allow people of all skill levels to come to the UK to work for a maximum of 12 months, with a cooling-off period of a further 12 months, the CIF is concerned that the route looks “highly restrictive.”

'Low risk'

Yet the government says it will “engage extensively” with the business community to hone it, and pointed out that workers will be free to move between employers without sponsorship requirements.

Also under the envisaged system, the 12-month visa will not carry entitlements to access public funds or rights to extend a stay, switch to other routes, bring dependants or lead to permanent settlement.

In addition, it will only be open to nationals of so-called "low risk" countries -- those with which the UK “negotiates migration commitments and mobility proposals.”

“As with other routes, all applicants would pay a fee – which may, in this instance, rise over time, reflecting the transitory nature of this scheme – and be subject to criminal record checks.”

'Fit for purpose'

The government added: “This will be a transitional arrangement. It will be kept under review to ensure that it is meeting the needs of the UK economy and we reserve the right to tighten the criteria or impose numerical caps if necessary.”

Meanwhile, the CIF said in an update: “It is important that the [post-Brexit immigration] system takes into account specific characteristics of UK industries. For this reason, we want to gather information from the creative industries in order to feed back to government what a fit-for-purpose system may look like.”

 

13th January 2019

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