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Economy

UK offers work permit to non-graduate Kenyans

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

Highly skilled Kenyans without degree-level qualifications will from next year be allowed to apply for work permits in Britain under post-Brexit immigration rules, enabling them to compete with job-seekers from the European Union and other regions.

Britain’s new points-based immigration system, set to be implemented from January 2021, has lowered the requirement for job applicants to minimum skill level of A-level or equivalent from degree-level under the 27-member EU bloc system.

Britain’s Home Office says the new system will “provide greater flexibility and ensure UK business has access to a wide pool of skilled workers”.

The relaxed visa rules will enable Kenyan professionals in fields such as IT, accountancy, plumbing and electrical works to compete with other migrants.

Britain projects a huge climb in job vacancies after the new post-Brexit immigration system ended free movement of labour between it and the EU following the departure from the bloc earlier this year.

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“An applicant’s job must be at the minimum skill level of A-level or equivalent, rather than degree level under the current system,” said the British home office.

There is no planned formal route for lower-skilled workers to enter Britain, although seasonal and sector-specific schemes may be created.

Britain has lowered the minimum general salary threshold for skilled migrants by 26.67 percent to £22,000 (Sh2.97 million) per year, or £1,833 (Sh247, 628) a month, from £30,000 per year currently.

This follows a January 2020 proposal by Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent entity that advises the British government, which had recommended £25,600 (Sh3.46 million) minimum annual pay for migrant skilled labourers.

“Under the new system, those wishing to live and work in the UK must gain 70 points – and points are awarded for criteria such as having a job offer, holding a PhD relevant to the job, speaking English and earning more than £22,000 per year,” says an advisory by Britain’s Home Office.

“There are also additional points for those with job offers in ‘shortage occupations’.”

The relaxed visa rules will also benefit Kenyan students who will now be allowed more time after completing studies in the UK universities.

Under what Britain’s Home Office calls “Graduate route”, which opens in the Summer 2021, Kenyan students, just like other international ones, will be allowed more time to stay in the UK to look for jobs than the four months under the EU rules.

International students completing undergraduate or master’s degrees will be able to stay in Britain for two years and those completing a PhD three years.

Britain says the new “Graduate route” system will “make it easier for some of the best, international graduates to secure skilled jobs in the UK and contribute to the UK’s economic growth”.

“Leaving the European Union means the UK will be open to the brightest and best from around the world - and Kenya is very much a part of that,” British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott said in a statement on Monday.

“I’m particularly pleased that the new Graduate Route will be opening in summer 2021, allowing Kenya and the UK’s fantastic and talented minds to work even more closely together.”

After nearly four years of politicking, haggling and delays that cost the political careers of two Prime ministers – Theresa Mary (2019) and David Cameron (2016) – the UK formally left the EU on January 31.

There is, however, a transitional period that ends in December 2020.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said Brexit has allowed “British people take back control of our borders and introduce a new points-based immigration system”.

“Now we have left the EU, we are free to unleash this country’s full potential and implement the changes we need to restore trust in the immigration system and deliver a new fairer, firmer, skills-led system from 1 January 2021,” Ms Patel said in the statement.

“Britain is open for business and ready to welcome the best and brightest global talent.”

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