Major changes on the way for South Africans looking to move to the UK

With less than a month to go until Brexit, South Africans could find it easier to obtain British visas come 29 March.

Brexit is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, which is scheduled to take place on 29 March 2019, when the period for negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement will end – unless an extension is agreed to.

According to immigration expert Ryan Rennison, of Move Up UK Visa Solutions, skilled South Africans will find it easier to obtain work permits, and possibly settlement rights, following Brexit.

“In spite of SA’s visa-free status being revoked in 2009, deal or no deal, Brexit preparations have already significantly altered the work permit landscape in the UK, with signs that even more positive changes are on the way,” Rennison said.

Official figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal the number of non-EU nationals working in the UK has already increased by more than 100,000 to a new record high.

Professor of economics at King’s College London, Jonathan Portes, said the statistics confirm there has been a significant ‘Brexit effect’ on migration from the EU.

He said that Brexit-related uncertainty has made the UK a “less attractive place for EU citizens to live and work”.

“At the same time, there is some evidence that this reduction in labour supply from the EU has resulted in higher levels of non-EU migration.”

ONS statistics confirm that South Africans are some of the most sought-after employees in the UK’s foreign workforce.

Figures for specific nationalities show the non-EU workforce included 194,000 Indians, 107,000 Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, 96,000 Americans, 71,000 Australians and New Zealanders, and 64,000 South Africans.

“In the UK, South Africans are known for being hardworking employees who generally get along with their colleagues and fit in well with British culture,” said Rennison.

“With the drop in EU migrants to the UK, I would also expect to see an even greater increase in South Africans on track towards settlement rights over the next year and beyond.”

New system

In December, ministers presented plans for the biggest shake-up of the UK immigration system in the last 40 years.

The proposed “skills-based” system will create a new temporary work route, remove the annual cap on skilled work visas and will no longer require employers wanting to sponsor overseas employees to carry out a “resident labour market test”.

According to Sable International immigration expert, John Dunn, the new immigration system means that entry into the UK with a work visa will be based on skills and qualifications – rather than nationality.

“At present, there is a dual immigration system for EU and non-EU nationals who want to move to the UK to work,” he said.

“A citizen from outside the EU must have a job offer for a skilled position from a UK-based company before they can apply to move to the country.

“EU citizens can apply for any job at any skill level and live and work in the UK unrestricted. This will all change once the UK leaves the EU and the new immigration laws are implemented,” John Dunn said.

Read: A record number of South Africans have applied for a second passport – here’s where they’re going

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Major changes on the way for South Africans looking to move to the UK