How the UK is changing its immigration system and how it affects Ireland

So, the British government is working to overhaul the immigration rules in the country and wants to adopt a point-based system. Under this system, migrants will have to work harder to boost their chances of getting a work visa in the UK. What this means is that if this becomes law, from next year, EU migrants seeking a work visa in the UK will receive the same treatment as non-EU residents looking for the same visa. They will be required to provide biometric information. EU citizens will only be required to provide a digital photo of your face through a smartphone app, but for non-EU nationals, they will have to provide their fingerprints details as well.

Also, for the skilled workers, only those whose skills level are RQF3 or above, and be able to speak in English. From 2021, employers are required to sponsor their skilled migrant workers. Low skilled workers will not be allowed into the country. This will also be the case for low salaried workers.

For international students and graduates, the student visa will be extended to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. As long as you can speak in English, have been offered a place in an UK institution, and have enough funds to support yourself while in the country, you can apply for a student visa. And if you graduate with a degree, you are allowed to find work in the country for a period of up to 2 years.     

How will Irish people be affected?

The Irish citizens will not be affected in the manner in which other EU citizens are affected. Irish citizens will be able to work and live in Britain as usual during the transition period, that until 31 December 2020. The decades-old agreement between Britain and Ireland, known as the Common Travel Area, allows Irish citizens in Britain and British citizens in Ireland to work and live in each other countries peacefully. However, non-Irish and non-British citizens living in Ireland will be required to apply for a work visa in the UK.

Politicians as well as representative from the hospitality, retail and business sectors in Ireland fear that the proposals announced may lead to a reduction of staff in the country. Majority of the EU citizens currently working in Northern Ireland, and are neither Irish nor British citizens, are in crucial sectors such as agrifood, hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing.

When it comes to the borders, the point-based system is likely to cause some problems. A majority of the non-Irish EU citizens do work on the south border in regions such as Monaghan and Cavan. Now, officials from the UK immigration department will be required to ensure that no non-Irish EU citizens will be moving across the border. What this means is that they would be some issues when it comes to the free movement of British and Irish people to both countries under the Common Travel Area.

For EU nationals who have lived in Ireland for years will also be needed to apply for a work visa if they are looking to work in Britain or Northern Ireland. This will for sure have an impact on the number of low-skilled workers who, since 2004, have moved freely between the two countries.

For more information regarding immigration to Ireland, please visit:

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