The Corporate Immigration Review: Editor's Preface
This book is a guide to the systems, processes, policies and constraints that apply to the lawful movement of people for work purposes into key business destinations around the world. Leading practitioners from across the globe kindly donate their time and energy to updating their chapters every year and we are, as ever, very grateful to them for their considerable contributions to this year's edition.
It has, yet again, been a very challenging year for business immigration professionals, whether private practice immigration lawyers or in-house global mobility specialists. The pandemic that started in early 2020 and imposed a seismic shock on the international movement of people throughout 2020 and 2021 continues to reverberate. Governments took exceptional and unprecedented measures to control the spread of the virus and, in so doing, interfered in the freedoms of businesspeople to travel in ways that are unprecedented in peacetime. Much has been written about the appropriateness and legality of such state intervention in long-accepted freedoms. The impact on the global economy has been deleterious.
Fortunately, two years after the start of the first national 'lockdowns', borders have begun to open again, and travel normalcy is starting to return. The United States of America, the world-leading liberal economy, opened its borders to transatlantic travel in November 2021. Various constraints, including mask wearing, testing and endless 'passenger locator' forms continue to burden international travellers around the world, but the trend, thankfully, is towards a return to pre-pandemic activity. Even Singapore, a country guided by caution, rules and acquiescence in state authority, has begun to lift travel restrictions. We all hope that the worst of the coronavirus crisis is behind us and that immigration practitioners will be able to focus on legal mechanisms for attracting international talent and investment rather than the regulations that prevent movement.
Of course, as soon as one crisis subsides, another one develops. The war in Ukraine is an extraordinary shock to world order and the international economy. It has been described by some leading economists as 'the end of globalisation'. This may turn out to be an over-statement, but the fact remains that sanctions imposed on Russia, combined with the withdrawal of some international businesses from the Russian economy, will have impacts far beyond the geographical boundaries of the conflict. In addition to the war, general inflation, the energy crisis and political tensions all contribute towards an unsettled global environment.
More significant, and urgent, is the global community's response to the refugee crisis on Ukraine's border. Many countries have responded with generosity to the extraordinary situation that displaced Ukraine citizens find themselves in. Of note is the EU's adoption of the EU Temporary Protection Directive. This enables Member States to move rapidly to offer shelter and rights to people in need of immediate protection and to avoid overwhelming national asylum systems in cases of mass arrivals of displaced persons. Although invoked in the past, the directive has never been activated before. Russia's military aggression prompted a unanimous decision in the European Council to grant temporary protection (for an initial period of one year) to people fleeing war in Ukraine. This temporary protection may be extended automatically by two six-monthly periods, for a maximum of one further year.
In the UK (no longer a member state of the EU), alternative measures have been put in place including the Homes for Ukraine scheme and the Ukraine Family Scheme. Critics argue, with some justification, that these schemes are less generous than the EU Temporary Protection Directive. At the time of writing, about 4 million people have been displaced by war. Most, inevitably, find themselves seeking humanitarian relief in the countries that border Ukraine. Sadly, it seems that this tragic scenario has a long way to run.
What, you may ask, has all this to do with Corporate Immigration? First, geopolitical events have a major impact on the global economy and, in turn, international investment and the movement of investors, executives and entrepreneurs. Immigration laws adapt accordingly. Second, and more importantly, we have been struck this year by the response of immigration specialists, including many of the contributors to this book, to the humanitarian crisis. Many immigration law firms have been agile in expanding their pro-bono offering in response to these appalling events. We commend them for it.
Despite the many global challenges, immigration reforms continue apace. Of note is the introduction of new routes of entry to the United Kingdom – many of which will have come into force by the time this new edition of The Corporate Immigration Review is published. The Global Mobility Route is described as 'a new route for overseas businesses seeking to establish a presence here or transfer staff to the UK under the existing sponsorship system'. On closer analysis, it appears that much of the scheme is a repackaging of existing routes of entry (such as the Intra-Company Transfer) under new branding. There are some innovations that may be cause for optimism for practitioners seeking solutions for private clients, such as the High Potential Individual scheme and the Scale-Up arrangements. Alterations to the Sole Representative category (renamed the UK Expansion Worker) are welcome and overdue. We can report next year on the success, or otherwise, of the various schemes.
Singapore also has changes afoot. The Ministry of Manpower will use a new points-based evaluation framework called the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) for new Employment Pass (EP) applications starting in September 2023 and EP renewals starting in 2024. Under COMPASS, applicants will need to score at least 40 points under core criteria, such as salary and qualifications. There will be employer-generated points for levels of national diversity and support for local employment. The trend towards points-based methodologies for determining entry to labour markets appears to be growing.
We recommend this 12th edition of The Corporate Immigration Review to our readers, and we thank our contributors for their valuable insights.
Magrath Sheldrick LLP