Immigration during the pandemic

The immigration and relocation processes are challenging for both employers and employees at the best of times, but a global pandemic really adds a lot of extra considerations! The Isle of Man has had somewhat of a skills shortage and low unemployment for a long time and so where roles cannot be filled locally, employers are having to look further afield to meet their business needs and help their businesses grow. This can be an issue across all fields, but particularly in the gaming sector where specialist skills and language skills are essential.

We have written this blog to share our experience of managing a full relocation project from Visa applications to arriving and settling into the Isle of Man and my high level recommendations for anyone undertaking a similar project. We are not immigration experts and our involvement was from a project management, operations and of course, HR point of view. You should always obtain relevant advice from an immigration professional when required.

The project saw non-EU employees relocating during 2020 into 2021 for skilled work as Worker Migrants. The first employee arrived on island in September 2020 after several months of planning, organising and delays brought about by the pandemic.

Key Considerations

  1. Planning

To make any project a success, thorough research and a coordinated approach is always key. For the immigration project, the first task was to prepare a detailed immigration plan and checklist which once tested and finalised, could be used for all new employees going forward (subject to review for the ever-changing immigration rules!).

This involved fully researching the current immigration rules, undertaking due diligence for the new employees to ensure that they met the requirements and preparing a step-by-step plan for all stages in the process. Once the plan was finalised and reviewed by an immigration lawyer, it could then be used as the template for the process, ensuring that no steps were missed.

The plan was comprehensive, starting pre application and ending with the employee completing their probationary period with the business.

  1. Government support and funding available

The Isle of Man Government offers a fantastic array of practical and financial support for companies on the Isle of Man, including those looking to bring additional staff to the island.

Identifying any support available will form a key part of your practical and financial planning for the project. It is highly recommended as part of the planning process to get in touch with the relevant Government authorities who provide useful support and guidance.

Employee Relocation Incentive (iomdfenterprise.im)

Employee Relocation Incentive – Locate Isle of Man

  1. Isle of Man Entry Clearance

When applying for a Visa to work in the Isle of Man, there is an additional first step in that you must first receive approval from the Isle of Man Government by way of a ‘Confirmation of Employment’. This is where you must provide details to the Isle of Man Government about the role, the proposed employee, the nature of the work, all of which must comply with the current immigration rules in force at the time.

Information can be found on the Isle of Man Government website;

Isle of Man Government – Immigration

  1. UK Visa Application

Once the Isle of Man Confirmation of Employment was issued (valid for 3 months), then the next step was to support the employees in completing their appropriate Visa application via the UK Government website.

This is obviously a detailed process which involves the employee providing a lot of personal information and must be completed by the employee themselves. Through the use of our guidance document, we were able to support them in providing this information.

As part of the Visa application process, the employee will need to submit an online form and then attend a biometric appointment. For some countries, they will need to provide different documentation on top of the standard ID documents (ranging from TB tests to English Language tests, proof of funding, travel history etc.). The rules do vary based on the country of origin so any additional considerations / steps will have been identified during the initial planning stages.

Applying for a visa to come to the UK – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

  1. Isle of Man set up

Having had the Visa successfully approved, the plan then moves along to the Isle of Man set up which covers a vast array of areas, all of which need to be carefully planned;

  • UK and Isle of Man Entry Clearance (and other such covid related paperwork)
  • Travel arrangements
  • Work permit registrations as required
  • Accommodation
  • Registration with the Government – e.g. police office (required for certain nationalities), Tax and NI registration, Doctor registration etc.
  • Bank accounts and other personal arrangements such as Doctor and dentist registration
  • Employee onboarding and induction
  • An ongoing support plan for newly relocated employees

Summary

The immigration process can be complex and vary based on the role and the employee you are hoping will fill it. You should seek appropriate professional advice and always ensure that you have a well researched and thought out plan for each stage of the process, with responsibilities and timescales allocated to each actions in the process.

Integration and retention should form part of your project plan as having put a lot of time, effort and resource into getting employees to the Island – you want to ensure that they stay and are able to build a happy rounded life on the Island.