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Stretched resources: immigration and gender pay equity

Two stories in the UK headlines today relate to stretched resources: The Home Office preparing its immigration system for life after Brexit, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) enforcing employers to publish information on their gender pay gap.

Immigration system

According to the British House of Commons, it is unlikely the UK will have an immigration system in place when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. The government has not published its future policy. This is causing distress for EU citizens living in Britain, and for UK businesses that rely on EU citizens.

An estimated three million EU citizens will need to register as having the right to be in the UK. Border force agencies will struggle to carry out checks on EU citizens arriving in the country. Agencies like Visas and Immigration, Immigration Enforcement and other departments of the Home Office will also feel the impact of the extra caseload. These services are already finding it difficult to cope, resulting in occasional poor decision-making. Dentons has worked with clients to help overcome these poor decisions.

The UK government is due to publish a white paper on immigration policy; already postponed from last autumn, it seems unlikely to see release before March 2019. Ministers working on the white paper have said the delay is to consider the Migration Advisory Committee’s report due in September 2018. Dentons contributed to this report, so we hope to see the collated views of our clients reflected in the future shape of UK immigration rules.

Gender pay equity

By April 4, 2018 companies with 250 or more employees are required to report the gender pay gap in their workforces. Questions have already been raised about whether the gender pay gap regulations under the Equality Act have teeth to motivate business to properly comply. On top of this, it seems likely the EHRC will struggle with having sufficient resources to enforce the regulations.

However, EHRC Chief Executive Rebecca Hilsenrath has distanced the commission from the responsibility of ensuring compliance. She has described the EHRC to the Financial Times as a “strategic enforcer” that looks at novel points of law”, and “at cases which will clarify the law”, and “where impact lies.” Therefore, the EHRC does not see itself as taking on all breaches of the Equality Act.

This bears out in the EHRC’s budget information: The government is not allocating additional resources for work on gender pay reporting. The EHRC will seek to increase its budget if many companies fail to comply with gender pay reporting. Having already seen its funding cut by 25 percent in the 2016–2020 spending review, a crystal ball is probably not needed to predict how any request for a budget increase will be answered.

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Stretched resources: immigration and gender pay equity

UK Immigration Update: Monthly quota exhausted?

Monthly allocation of Tier 2 (General) Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoS) could be exhausted for the first time since 2015

When an organization wants to sponsor a new hire or permanent transfer from outside the UK they will more than likely need to be allocated a Tier 2 (General) RCoS via a monthly cycle managed by UK Visas and Immigration. This monthly cycle ranks applications against a points test with higher paid roles, and those where the occupation is recognized as being in shortage, or skilled to PhD level, scoring more points.

In total there are 20,700 RCoS to be allocated each year, divided into monthly allocations. Any RCoS not allocated in a given month are rolled over to the next month. The allocation is front-end loaded, meaning that there are a high number available earlier in the year, to ensure that there are sufficient numbers available for the busy summer months (when we typically see more demand due to recent graduates applying, together with families moving to the UK for the start of the school year).

Below are some statistics from the year so far. We can see from this that front-end loading the allocation ensures that there are sufficient RCoS over the summer; however, as soon as the allocation decreases to 1,500 we see that the balance rolled over immediately drops.

Application period

New RCoS allocation

Balance rolled over from previous month*

Total RCoS available for allocation*

Number allocated

March 6 –  April 5

2,200

0

2,200

1,844

April 6 – May 5

2,000

332

2,240

1,832

May 6 – June 5

2,000

408

2,326

2,005

June 6 – July 5

2,000

321

2,591

2,440

July 6 – August 5

2,000

151

2,385

2,245

August 6 – September 5

2,000

140

2,387

2,008

September 6 – October 5

1,500

379

2,213

2,182

October 6 – November 5

1,500

31

1,759

1,747

November 6 – December 5

1,500

12

TBC

TBC

*when other factors taken into account (for example, RCoS that have been returned unused to be allocated again, certificates allocated to Croatian nationals and exceptional approvals outside the monthly allocation).

Full statistics are available on the UKVI website.

The lower monthly allocation since October, coupled with limited rollover, means that for the December 2017 allocation there may be as few as 1,512 RCoS available for allocation. Official figures from December have yet to be released; however, we should be prepared to see lower-scoring applications rejected. Applications likely to be impacted are those where the salary is at the lower end of the scale and the occupation is not recognized as being in shortage or skilled to PhD level. If the allocation is not exhausted in December, then the risk remains that the allocation will be exhausted in January. The last time we saw the monthly limit exhausted was in summer 2015.

This could continue to be an issue for employers until April 2018, when the year starts again with the higher allocation of 2,200 RCoS. Employers should manage expectations and be prepared for lead times to increase due to the need to resubmit RCoS applications where they are not successful in a given month’s allocation.

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UK Immigration Update: Monthly quota exhausted?

Mind the gap

Employment law issues seem to be rife with gaps at the moment. We have already reported on the gender pay gap, brought to the fore by the UK’s new reporting regulations for gender pay that took effect on April 6, 2017. However, it looks like we are now dealing with another gap: the skills gap that commentators believe will be one of the consequences of the UK exiting the EU. In fact, we are already seeing the effects, as potential migrant workers are reluctant to come to the UK at a time of such uncertainty. As a result, there is a significant shortage of workers to fill such typical blue collar jobs as drivers, electrician assistants and construction workers. Sectors such as healthcare, retail and construction are among those feeling the squeeze, as they are heavily reliant on EU migrant workers. A study by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) points out that EU migrants are over-represented in low-skilled jobs, filling 15 percent of them, compared with 7 percent by non-EU migrants and 78 per cent by Britons.

Furthermore, Brexit has led to curbed planned growth and investments for one in four small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to the latest “UK SME Confidence Index” from Vistage. And the shortage of workers has forced employers to raise starting salaries. According to the REC study, in August salaries increased at the fastest pace in nearly two years. This trend may not be sustainable over the long haul if it impacts too negatively on profitability and business sustainability.

In the meantime, automation and digitalization have been proposed as possible solutions to bridge the gap. However, whether replacement of people with machines is quite what voters intended back in June 2016 when the referendum took place is questionable at best.

 

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Mind the gap

Green card processing times for employment-based immigration expected to increase

 

Delays and increased processing times can be expected for employer-sponsored immigrants seeking green cards, based on a recently announced change by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS).

In a press release dated August 28, 2017, USCIS stated that the agency plans, effective October 1, 2017, to begin interviewing employment-based immigrants. This will impact employer-sponsored professionals, skilled workers, executives, manager, and outstanding professors and researchers, as well as individually sponsored immigrants with extraordinary or exceptional ability.

The press release states: “Previously, applicants in these categories did not require an in-person interview with USCIS officers in order for their application for permanent residency to be adjudicated. Beyond these categories, USCIS is planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.”

This statement is inaccurate. In fact, the agency used to personally interview all immigrants. Decades ago, the policy changed and employment-based immigrants were only interviewed if a review of the application showed a need for an interview or as a random, quality-control measure. The primary reason for the change was to devote agency resources to more important tasks, after the agency determined the incidence of fraud detected by in-person interviews was not significantly greater than for applications processed without interviews. In addition, waiving the interview process allowed the agency to consolidate processing at regional centers where government workers were better trained in the special requirements for such immigration. Finally, remote processing at regional centers without direct public contact minimized the inconsistent processing experienced at local offices, as well as the incidence of fraud and corruption by government workers in direct contact with the public.

As Sir Winston Churchill famously stated: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Local interview processing times vary, but the new policy is likely to increase by more than four months the time it takes USCIS to process applications for adjustment of status and maybe much longer where local offices with significant immigrant populations, such as Silicon Valley, are doing the processing.

By the way, the State Department has always interviewed all immigrants. Although going this route is more costly in terms of travel and lost US work days, more immigrants and their employers may want to consider this option if USCIS processing times spiral out of control.

The full text of the agency’s press release can be found at the USCIS website and the Executive Order can be found at the White House website.

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Green card processing times for employment-based immigration expected to increase

MAC to examine the role EU nationals play in the UK

The UK government has tasked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the government’s independent advisers on migration, to examine the role EU nationals’ play in the UK economy and society.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, engaged the MAC to look into the British labor market, the overall role of migration in the wider economy, and how a modern industrial strategy should align with the UK’s immigration system. The MAC will consult with a wide cross-section of businesses, employer organizations and EU citizens working in the UK.

The importance of this initiative should not be underestimated, as free movement will end when the UK exits the EU. The government is working on plans to develop the flow of migration from Europe. (See: The rights of EU citizens in the UK, The Global Mobility Review, July 13, 2017 blog post). The UK and the European Commission had key discussions at the end of July, and the next round of negotiations is scheduled for late August 2017.

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MAC to examine the role EU nationals play in the UK

UK General Election–immigration manifesto

What’s going to happen to UK immigration in a post-Brexit era? That’s the million-dollar question. While there has been huge speculation as to what our immigration system and net migration figures are likely to look like going forward, little clarity has been provided as yet.

Jeremy Corbyn has sent the message that he intends to toughen up on immigration. The Labour Party has acknowledged that free movement of workers across borders is likely to not be possible once the UK leaves the EU, but has stated that imposing new immigration controls will not be at the top of its list of priorities if it wins the election. It’s not really clear where that message leaves us when trying to predict what the new model is going to look like.

The Conservatives, for their part, have indicated that they will stick by pledges made in David Cameron’s 2010 manifesto to cut migration to “tens of thousands,” despite having missed the target after making the same promise in 2010 and 2015. Again, it’s not clear from their rhetoric how they hope to achieve this, although Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated that when the UK leaves the EU, the nation will have the opportunity to make sure it has control of its borders.

Meanwhile, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has gone one step further, as it is prone to do, pledging to cut net migration levels to zero within five years by asking skilled workers and students to get visas and banning migration into the UK for unskilled and low skilled workers. This time it’s not clear how UKIP intend to do the math to achieve a net migration level of zero.

And then there are the Liberal Democrats who are against stricter migration controls. Tim Farron, their leader, recently tweeted that “immigration is a blessing and not a curse.”

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UK General Election–immigration manifesto

Show Me the Money: What the Trump administration’s budget and spending priorities reveal to employers

May 25, 2017
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
Webinar

Our Employment and Labor team marked the passage of President Trump’s first 100 days with a webinar on May 25, 2017 that looked at whether the president’s budget proposal backed up his prior public statements about wanted changes to employment, benefits and immigration regulations, as well as the impact on employers of the spending bill passed by Congress to prevent a government shutdown. By “following the money,” you can better prepare for future compliance demands and enforcement risks. For your convenience, the program can be viewed in it’s entirety and to register to the webinar by visiting the event page.

We hope you are able to join the program.

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Show Me the Money: What the Trump administration’s budget and spending priorities reveal to employers

Tier 2 immigration skills charge – another fee to pay

As part of the government plans to reduce Britain’s reliance on migrant workers, from  April 6, 2017 employers may have to pay an immigration skills charge of £1,000 per employee.

The skills charge will apply to a sponsor of a Tier 2 worker assigned a certificate of sponsorship in the “General” or “Intra-Company Transfer” route and who applies from:

  • outside the UK for a visa
  • inside the UK to switch to this visa from another
  • inside the UK to extend their existing visa

The skills charge does not apply if you are sponsoring:

  • a non-EEA national who was sponsored in Tier 2 before April 6, 2017 and is applying from inside the UK to extend their Tier 2 stay with either the same sponsor or a different sponsor
  • a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainee
  • a worker to do a specified PhD level occupation
  • a Tier 4 student visa holder in the UK switching to a Tier 2 (General) visa
  • Tier 2 family members (“dependants”)

As the charge applies to the sponsor and not the individual, if a sponsor has paid it in respect of an individual who then seeks to change sponsor, the new sponsor will also be required to pay the levy.

A lower rate of £364 per certificate of sponsorship applies for smaller sponsors and charities. You will usually be considered a small business if:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer

The charge is in addition to all other application fees. Its purpose is to cut down on the number of businesses taking on migrant workers and to incentivize employers to train British staff to fill those jobs.

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Tier 2 immigration skills charge – another fee to pay

The Trump wild card: what employers can expect from the new administration

Thursday, January 26, 2017
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST
Webinar

With Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States, and the Republican Party retaining control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, employers can expect some changes.

Join us for an engaging discussion on the Trump administration’s workplace policy priorities, their likely impacts on employers, and what you can do now to prepare for the changes to come. Among the topics to be covered are: the effect on the labor pool of proposed changes in immigration policy; the impact of Obamacare “repeal and replace” on employer-sponsored health plans; compensation issues; the future of regulations covering whistleblowing and human rights protections; the Trump NLRB; the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule; and workplace discrimination. Dentons partner Cynthia Jackson will lead a panel of Dentons lawyers as they tackle these questions and more.

Meeting agenda

Immigration outlook: labor force issues

Campaign promises to increase worksite visa audits and investigations, build a wall along the Mexico border, establish a deportation force, and place new restrictions on immigration from some majority-Muslim countries may become law. The new Administration is likely to adopt policies even before Congress acts. How will these developments impact employers who rely on business visas to hire the best and brightest from around the world? We will predict the future and provide guidance on how employers can prepare now.

The repeal of the ACA and other developments post-ObamaCare

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency, together with Republicans maintaining control of Congress has, for the first time since the Affordable Care Act’s enactment, put the law’s future in serious question. With the new Administration taking the reins of government on January 20, we will discuss the distinct possibility of the ACA’s repeal and replacement, including options for the White House and the expected congressional timeline for debating and passing legislative changes.

Compensation and other DOL regulations

The Department of Labor raced to the end of the Obama administration with a wave of regulatory activity applying to the public sector and government contractors relating to overtime, blacklists, pay equality and sick leave. Courts stalled implementation of some of the more controversial regulations. How will the new administration act in its initial days regarding the recent flurry of regulations?

Whistleblower and human rights developments

During the campaign, President-elect Trump stated that he would dismantle Dodd-Frank, repeal President Obama’s executive orders and unburden companies of excessive regulation. We will address how that will impact whistleblower and bounty hunter programs at the SEC and elsewhere, as well as laws impacting eradication of human trafficking and slavery.

The DOL’s fiduciary rule and the evolution of the NLRB under Trump

The Trump NLRB is expected to reverse recent Board decisions relating to concerted activity, joint employment, election processes and other issues favoring labor. But when will the reversals begin? This presentation will address both NLRB issues and processes during the first year of a Trump presidency. In addition, we will briefly discuss the status and likely future of the DOL’s fiduciary rule.

Workplace discrimination

The Obama administration broadly interpreted Title VII to include anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We will look at whether that trend will continue under Trump. Other current trends in anti-discrimination enforcement and litigation will also be discussed, with a focus on statements made by the President-elect and his team during the campaign and the transition.

Register Now

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The Trump wild card: what employers can expect from the new administration

New national interest waiver ruling

greencard

 

Increased immigration opportunities for individuals of exceptional ability

There are increased opportunities for individuals of exceptional ability to immigrate to the United States based on new national interest waiver rule after the US Department of Homeland Security issued on December 27, 2016, designated the Matter of Dhanasar decision as precedent.

Summary

The new rule means that USCIS may grant a national interest waiver if the petitioner demonstrates:

(1) that the foreign national’s proposed endeavor has both (a) substantial merit and (b) national importance;

(2) that he or she is well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor; and

(3) that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirement of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.

The employment-based second preference immigrant visa category (EB2) includes individuals of exceptional ability who can self-petition to immigrate.  That means they sign their own immigrant petition and do not need a sponsoring employer. Further, the normal requirement of an employer obtaining an alien employment certification from the US Department of Labor can be waived on a showing that the waiver is in the national interest.

Analysis

The new rule states that “substantial merit” may be in a range of areas, citing business, entrepreneurialism, science, technology, culture, health, or education, research, pure science, and the furtherance of human knowledge as examples.  Showing the potential to create significant economic impact may be favorable, but is not required.

“National importance” focuses on potential prospective impact, rather than geographic terms.  National or global implications are relevant, but even a ventures that focus on one geographic are of the US may qualify.

The requirement that the immigrant be well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor focuses on the immigrant.  Relevant factors include education, skills, knowledge, and record of success in related or similar efforts, plan for future activities, and the interest of others (e.g., potential customers, users, investors).

The benefit to the US is an analysis of both:

  • Impracticality of securing a job offer or alien employment certification; and
  • Benefit of the immigrant’s contributions to the US warrants foregoing the alien employment certification.

Matter of Dhanasar

The immigrant in Matter of Dhanasar held a PhD in Engineering, as well as Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics. His research focused on hypersonic propulsion systems and computational fluid dynamics.  He developed a validated computational model of high-speed air-breathing propulsion engine and a novel numerical method of calculating hypersonic air flow.  He intended to work in air and space propulsion systems R&D at university, as well as supporting teaching activities in STEM disciplines.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services denied the immigrant petition, but that decision was reversed on appeal to the Administrative Appeals Office.  The AAO found there was both substantial merit and national importance to the immigrant’s work due to potential use in military and civilian applications, advances to scientific knowledge, and American national security and competitiveness applications.  The high level of accomplishment to date by the immigrant was found to show benefit to the US even assuming that other qualified US workers are available.

Matter of New York State Department of Transportation

The new ruling vacates the AAO’s decision in Matter of New York State Department of Transportation, which had been in effect since 1998.  That case severely limited self-sponsored EB2 due to a restrictive interpretation of the national interest waiver requirements, which was often misinterpreted by the USCIS to require the very labor market test that was intended to be waived.

Impact

The new ruling makes the self-petition EB2 national interest waiver much more widely available.  As a result, we anticipate a significant increase in filings, including in some cases where the self-petition EB1 extraordinary ability immigrant visa category might be in consideration.  On the other hand, the EB2 category remains oversubscribed with long waiting periods for immigrants born in mainland China and India.  These individuals will continue to shun EB2 in favor of the more stringent requirements of EB1.

The complete text of Matter of Dhanasar can be found here.

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New national interest waiver ruling