It’s a big question at the top of the agenda for Isle of Man businesses that need to recruit employees from EU countries. A few weeks before Brexit became a reality on 1 January 2021 B365 asked Maria Bridson, Immigration Specialist at BridsonHalsall Advocates, to give her expert view on the implications of Brexit and significant changes to Isle of Man immigration rules.
Whilst our attention is necessarily focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that employers don’t forget about Brexit and the major changes to the Isle of Man Immigration Rules that come into force on 1 January 2021.
There is no time to waste and Manx businesses should be putting the final touches to their plans so they really understand how the changes will affect their recruitment process and existing workforce.
The UK’s membership of the EU ended on 31 January 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement came into effect which put in place a period of suspended animation – the Implementation Period – during which nothing changed. The Implementation Period expires at 11pm on 31 December 2020 – that’s when Brexit happens for real. The most significant change for employers is the end of free movement rights for EU and Swiss nationals. This means from the start of 2021 EU and Swiss nationals who wish to live, work or study in the Isle of Man will be subject to the same immigration controls as all other foreign nationals.
For Manx businesses this means instead of applying for a work permit for a potential employee from any EU member country, you will instead need to apply for a Confirmation of Employment. They will then use this document to apply for a Worker Migrant visa from outside the Isle of Man and UK. To qualify for a Worker Migrant visa, the individual will need to prove his or her English language skills and be paid the minimum salary for the specified job. Only full time jobs listed in the Immigration Rules are eligible for these visas and visas can only be granted if there are no suitable settled workers available for the role.
These new rules don’t apply to Irish citizens who can continue to live and work on the Island without restriction. The rules also don’t apply to EU and Swiss citizens already living and working on the Island (or the UK) prior to 31 December 2020. Those individuals and their family members can and should apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for a valid immigration status allowing them to protect their residence and continue to live and work without restriction.
So, what do individuals and businesses need to do? We recommend that all EU nationals and their family members already living and working on the Island should consider applying under the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible and definitely before the deadline expires on 30 June 2021. It’s a free and simple process to apply. There are benefits for EU and Swiss nationals in having an immigration status issued under the EU Settlement Scheme even if they have previously been granted indefinite leave to remain under a different immigration category. For example, an EU national who currently holds indefinite leave to remain will lose this status if they are absent from the Isle of Man and UK for a continuous period of two years. By contrast EU Settled Status will only lapse if the holder has been absent from the Isle of Man and UK for more than five consecutive years (or four consecutive years for Swiss nationals). Anyone in this position should seek advice about possibly switching to the EU Settlement Scheme.
For Manx businesses that are used to dealing only with work permits there will be a steep learning curve to understand the different process and documentation. Employers should review their recruitment practices so they know when and how to apply for a Confirmation of Employment and to assist potential recruits with the visa application process. Employers must keep good records of the checks they have undertaken to avoid committing an offence by employing someone in breach of immigration or work permit legislation. Crucially, employers need to take care to carry out their immigration status checks in a way that does not breach the Equality Act 2017. Finally, employers can help to ensure that renewals are not overlooked as the consequences for migrant employees who overstay a visa can be very serious.
Maria Bridson is an advocate specialising in helping individuals and businesses relocate to the Isle of Man. BridsonHalsall is a firm of Manx Advocates with 11 qualified lawyers available to assist across a diverse range of legal issues.