The Government’s Immigration White Paper will cost employers more than £1 billion in red tape, according to a new report.
The study by Global Future said the flagship proposals will also impose an £80 million barrier to EU students, and the proposed “settled status scheme” post-Brexit “exactly mirrors the makings of last year’s Windrush scandal – but on a much larger scale”.
The think tank’s analysis also suggests the proposed £30,000 salary threshold for skilled workers would “leave over 100,000 unfilled jobs in social care and nursing, and cause the total EU workforce to shrink by 2025 – making it very difficult for businesses to survive and expand”.
Fergus Peace, the report’s author, said: “The White Paper includes some sensible measures, but overall it represents an unambiguous shift towards a more complex and burdensome immigration system that will damage our country’s prospects.
“First, the new visa system – with its £30,000 threshold – will put off workers the Government wants to attract and keep out many we desperately need, not least the low-paid workers who keep our social care sector on its feet.
“Requiring the Europeans who are allowed in to secure sponsored visas will create a £1 billion bureaucratic headache for employers, including the NHS – siphoning hundreds of millions of pounds in visa fees out of cash-strapped hospitals and into the Home Office.”
He also said the the settled status scheme would create “a recipe for thousands of EU migrants to fall into the hostile environment”.
Mr Peace added: “The Government presents ending free movement as the great prize at the centre of its Brexit strategy.
“But ultimately this White Paper is a plan to close ourselves off from the world. That’s not something to celebrate – it’s a dreadful mistake.”
Global Future said the new system for European workers will see them have to navigate the “intense bureaucracy of the Home Office’s visa system” for the first time – at a cost to employers they project at £1.14 billion in five years.
Its report claims the system is “already creaking”, and will struggle to manage the applications from the more than three million EU nationals currently living in the UK.
It adds: “Even if it works, the new system will leave EU citizens with one of six different kinds of status, creating serious risks of confusion and error in the Government’s hostile environment.”
Citing “undeniable parallels” with the Windrush fiasco, the think tank suggests migrants arriving under effective free movement and not needing documents, then having their status changed overnight by a law change, coupled with Home Office failures, will lead to people falling through the cracks.