Employers in Britain will have to take more responsibility for enforcing immigration rules after Brexit because the Home Office does not have the manpower to monitor EU migrants as well as those from the rest of the world, experts warn.
Although the government has not yet revealed the details of its new immigration system, it has become clear that businesses, universities and landlords will have to shoulder some of the burden for ensuring that migrants comply with visa rules once the UK ends freedom of movement and EU nationals are subject to entry controls. It is expected that immigration officials will categorise some businesses or universities with a good record of compliance — ensuring that workers or students leave the country once their visas have expired — as “highly trusted” visa sponsors so they can focus their attention on riskier organisations. The shift in responsibility is needed because cuts to Home Office budgets mean the UK Border Force, whose enforcement resources are already stretched, will be unable to expand further. Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London, said: “Implementation of the new visa and work permit system will be left to landlords, companies and universities. “Very little in this policy will be about control of our borders because that is not where [oversight of immigration] will happen. Much more will be inside universities, companies and so on.”
The major challenge facing the Home Office will be in extending its oversight from non-EU nationals, who are subject to strict visa rules, to cover EU nationals as well. Continuing the same level of scrutiny would mean a significant increase in workload, since the most recent statistics show that 268,000 EU citizens came to the UK in the past year, compared with 257,000 non-EU citizens. During Theresa May’s time as home secretary, the implementation of visa rules for non-EU migrants was partially “outsourced” to employers, universities and landlords. For example, universities have to monitor student attendance and risk losing the right to admit international students in the case of visa non-compliance. These responsibilities are expected to increase. Explaining the change, Julia Onslow-Cole, head of global immigration at the consultancy PwC, said the Home Office was experiencing “significant budget restraints and resource challenges”.
“Business understands the need for control over immigration and is up for working with government on a phased and realistic approach that meets this need,” she said. “It’s difficult to get away from the fact that stricter controls will need better data about the numbers entering and leaving the UK and more resources to manage the system.