Tuesday 20 September 2022
Businesses will have significant opportunities to recruit much-needed staff from anywhere in the world as part of far-reaching plans announced by the Committee for Home Affairs today following the completion of the Population and Immigration Policy Review.
The review is a top 10 priority for the States Assembly for this term and the Committee's policy letter presents a wide range of actions and proposals designed to set the island's strategic direction on population and immigration for at least the next five years.
Changes to the Employment Permit Policy and the Immigration Work Permit Policy:
Guernsey is committed to the Common Travel Area and while developing its Employment Permit Policy and Immigration Work Permit Policy, which differ from those of the UK and other Crown Dependencies, the Committee has been focused on ensuring there is no compromise of the aims and principles of the CTA.
Arguably the Committee's flagship proposal is its intention to amend population and immigration policy and legislation to open up off-island recruitment worldwide for job types that are currently restricted to British or Irish nationals (or those who possess Leave to Remain in the Common Travel Area), or EU/EEA (European Economic Area) nationals. This is designed to provide businesses in Guernsey with the significant opportunity to expand their recruitment to the global workforce, which has the potential to ease recruitment challenges experienced locally since Brexit and the pandemic.
These benefits are principally achieved through tying the Immigration Work Permit Policy to the Employment Permit Policy for third country nationals, rather than only EU/EEA nationals as is the case currently. In doing so, local businesses employing to over 250 roles listed in the EPP would have access to a global pool of workers from which to recruit, as they will now be able to recruit to these roles from anywhere in the world rather than being restricted to CTA and EU/EEA countries only.
To make this change possible within the parameters of the island's membership of the Common Travel Area - essential for economic and security reasons - the Committee will simplify the employment permit system and remove the five-year Medium Term Employment Permits. The new system will retain Short Term Employment Permits, which are for one year and will be renewable for up to three years consecutive, rather than aggregate, residence before the holder must leave the island for a recognised break in residency, and Long Term Employment Permits, which are for eight years and provide a route to established residency.
Limiting workers arriving on a short term permit to a maximum of three years - unless they progress to a role with a long term permit attached - is essential if the island wishes to open up recruitment opportunities worldwide. The UK's post-Brexit Skilled Worker Visa: Eligible Occupations list does not allow foreign nationals to live and work in the UK on the basis of certain roles that are listed in Guernsey's Employment Permit Policy. Deviating from the list of UK job types was successfully negotiated following Brexit as the island has different economic and recruitment needs to the UK, and represents one of the principal benefits of the Population Management regime. However, renewing Short Term Employment Permits up to a maximum of three years (instead of five) will ensure that workers living in Guernsey in job types that do not feature on the UK list will not qualify for CTA-wide Indefinite Leave to Remain or settlement, as they would not be permitted to do so in the UK, while still enabling the substantial worldwide recruitment opportunities for local businesses.
Proposal for the States to agree the island's strategic population objective:
The Committee is asking the Assembly to agree a new strategic objective for population. The new objective, if agreed, will acknowledge the need for net migration of 300 people each year to sustain the island's workforce at its 2020 level and meet the needs of the economy.
The Committee is recommending that the economic competitiveness of the island is supported through a strategic population objective as follows:
'The States of Guernsey will assume, for the purpose of planning future infrastructure and service provision, that net migration will average up to +300 per year over the next thirty years. This assumption will support the capacity of the Island's workforce so that it remains a desirable and competitive jurisdiction, and will ensure that the Island can meet the needs of the economy with the necessary housing and infrastructure.'
It is recommended that the new strategic objective is reviewed by the Committee forHome Affairs, in consultation with stakeholder committees, no later than 31st December 2027.
It is important to recognise that the 300 net migration is neither a target or a cap, nor is it a mechanism that will automatically increase Guernsey's working population. Instead, it is an assumption based on analysis undertaken to evaluate the size of workforce Guernsey's economy will need to remain competitive. It simply sets out, at a high level, the framework in which government will need to consider its population in the next 10-30 years, not least to ensure appropriate planning can be taken in respect of housing, the provision of public services, investment in infrastructure and maintaining fiscal balance.
Open Market policy areas:
The work of the Population and Immigration Policy Review also focused on a number of Open Market policy areas. The Committee is supportive of the significant contribution that the Open Market and its residents make to the community and the economy. Any examination of matters relating to the Open Market had the dual objective of protecting the Open Market, which has recently gone through a period of increased activity and plays a vital role in the community and economy, while also protecting the Local Market by ensuring that no changes to Population Management policy would place additional strain at a time when it is already undergoing pressure to meet existing demand for houses.
As such, no major changes to the residency rights of Open Market residents have been proposed through the Review. However, the Committee did consider and, in some cases, implement, some more targeted policies for further circumstances in which an Open Market resident may move to the Local Market.
These policies can be summarised as:
- A new 'Discretionary Resident Permit' policy for Open Market residents with additional health needs, who would benefit from moving to the Local Market with an immediate family member who is already a Local Market householder. This policy was implemented at the time it was agreed by the Committee, in late 2021. It has no impact on the Local Market stock but does free up an Open Market property.
- An additional Discretionary Resident Permit policy for Open Market minors, bringing their residency rights in line with Local Market minors by allowing them to become Local Market householders after eight, rather than 14, years' ordinary residence. This policy was also implemented at the time it was agreed by the Committee, in late 2021.
- A final Discretionary Resident Permit policy was approved in principle by the Steering Group. This would reinstate a similar policy to that which was in place under the former Housing Control Law. In essence, it would allow older Open Market residents, who have lived in the island for a significant period of time, to move to the Local Market if they 'de-registered' an Open Market property and passed its inscription to the States of Guernsey. This policy is dependent upon ongoing work by the Committee for theEnvironment & Infrastructure in respect of Open Market property inscriptions and will consequently not be implemented in the near future.
At all times, the Review remained cognisant of the potential impact any policy change would have on the Open Market and Local Market and ensured that neither would be negatively impacted.
Deputy Rob Prow, President of the Committee for Home Affairs, said:
'Population and immigration policy is a complex but crucially important area of work. Our Committee is hugely grateful to other States Committees who have contributed to the Review; both the members who sat on the Steering Group and Committees that provided us with feedback. Likewise, representations of the business community have been active throughout and we really appreciated the value of their input.
'Everything the Committee is actioning - where it is a policy already within our mandate to implement or asking the States to agree - is designed to support the whole community's desire for Guernsey to be a prosperous and safe place to live and work for many years to come. We firmly believe that our flagship proposal to amend population and immigration policy, to open up off-island recruitment worldwide for roles that are currently restricted to a more limited cohort of nationals, will be a game-changer for local businesses competing in a global market for staff to meet our economic needs.'