The Future Of Immigration In The Hospitality Sector Post-Brexit

The British Hospitality Association estimates that one third of all EEA migrants living in the UK work within the hospitality and tourism industry. These industries are, therefore, arguably going to be the worst hit following Brexit, not only from the reduction in EEA citizens applying for open positions within a business, but also the potential for current employees to return to their home countries.

Currently, EEA and Swiss nationals residing in the UK obtain ‘Permanent Residence’ after 5 continuous years of residing in the UK as a worker/student/self-employed person/self-sufficient person. However, these individuals must apply to the Home Office to confirm this right and be given a visa to evidence this. Once having held Permanent Residence for a period of 12 months, individuals may qualify to apply to naturalise as British, a benefit for many EEA nationals residing in the UK.

The government have proposed to amend the legal position of EEA nationals residing in the UK following Brexit. Theresa May suggested that EEA nationals residing in the UK before a ‘specified date’ (not yet specified but expected to be before 30 March 2019) will qualify for to apply for ‘settled status’ after 5 years of living in the UK. It is expected that even those who have already obtained confirmation of Permanent Residence will need to apply again for settled status under the new regime, though their application may be more streamlined. However, those EEA nationals who move to the UK after the specified date may or may not be permitted to reside in the UK after Brexit.

There are very few alternative routes to allow low skilled migrants to move to the UK to work. Therefore, by potentially losing a large proportion of their workforce, the businesses within the hospitality sector are likely to have to rely on employing UK citizens (hospitality recruiter `The Change Group’ estimate that only one third of job applications come from UK citizens for hospitality roles) or the Home Office will have to introduce a new visa scheme to allow low skilled migrants coming to the UK to work.

Currently, some countries, such as Australia, have a mutual agreement with the UK to allow young nationals to move to the UK for a maximum of two years, known as the Youth Mobility working holiday visa. The Home Office have suggested the introduction of a visa which could potentially allow low skilled EEA nationals to temporarily move to the UK for work. This has been dubbed the ‘Barista Visa’.

The Barista Visa is suggested to only be available for those applying for low skilled jobs. This has a negative impact as those who wish to progress in their job to a management level may be restricted due to the potential risk of losing their visa. Although it may benefit the hospitality industry to an extent by allowing a flow of migrants to enter the UK for work, it is likely that the lack of job progression and the limited period allowed on this visa type (likely to be 1-2 years) would put off EEA migrants moving to the UK.

If EEA nationals wish to move to the UK permanently, they are likely to have to satisfy the same requirements for those currently from outside the EEA. A business will have to apply for a Sponsor Licence and satisfy certain requirements to be permitted to hire someone from outside the UK. The individuals hired would only be permitted to fill skilled positions and this is generally an expensive route to hire people. Therefore, although this may be an option for the larger hospitality businesses, the smaller businesses are likely to be most affected.

To ensure that your businesses does not lose out in the wake of Brexit, you should consider supporting you current employees with Permanent Residence applications and/or British nationality, and making sure they are confident that the business will help them where possible. Without this security, businesses may see a wave of EEA nationals already in the UK returning to their home countries or seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Gemma Goodhead, a specialist UK immigration lawyer who recently joined SA Law as Head of Immigration