Creative Industries Federation responds to UK immigration policy

The UK Government has released its statement on immigration.

It states that, “From 1 January 2021, EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally.” From then on immigration eligibility will be determined points-based system.

One of the headline grabbing statistics is that the minimum wage that a prospective immigrant to the UK would need to be offered will be GBP25,600 (€30,600).

Responding to the statement Caroline Norbury, CEO of the Creative Industries Federation (CIF), said:

“The immigration system proposed by the government yesterday, for both long-term and temporary migration, is not the broad outward-facing system that is necessary to attract the international creative talent so vital to our sector. The concerns highlighted by the sector to the Migration Advisory Committee last autumn have not been addressed and it is additionally worrying that we understand the government intends to bring this bill to parliament in the next two-three weeks, without the normal period of consultation.

Although it is theoretically ‘points-based’, the reality is that it will be impossible to accrue enough points with a salary below GBP25,600 (without a PhD) unless the role is on the shortage occupation list; a list which excludes many highly-valued creative professions. In our sector, high skill levels do not always equate to high salaries. There must be recognition of sector-specific means of assessment including auditions, work experience and portfolios.

Determining immigration priorities purely in terms of shortages does not recognise the inherent value of international talent. Many creative professionals who come to the UK have highly specialised skills or bring with them specific knowledge of cultures and languages that are vital to engage with a global audience. They are essential to ensure the international artistic collaborations that enhance our lives at home and grow the UK’s soft power abroad.

The proposed salary threshold is particularly unsuitable for international freelancers working long-term in the UK. One in three workers in the creative industries is a freelancer (compared to the national average of one in seven). These individuals would still have to earn at least GBP25,600 each year despite the natural income fluctuations expected from working across multiple projects.

The government also proposes that the route for temporary workers from the EU will be brought in line with rules that currently apply to non-EEA nationals. Given the project and performance-based nature of our sector, this has the power to be hugely damaging for the creative industries. 95% of creative businesses employ fewer than 10 people, relying on specialist temporary workers including casts for productions, artists at festivals, stylists for fashion campaigns, and more. The cost for each individual temporary worker’s visa would be more than GBP200. For creative organisations, these costs can easily multiply to become completely unmanageable.

The report states that ‘The UK already attracts world class artists, entertainers and musicians and we will continue to do so in the future’. Unless mitigating steps are taken to protect the creative sector, ahead of the transition period ending on 31 December, it is unclear how this will remain the case.

We continue to call on government to implement a flexible points-based system, which supports the growth of our GBP111.7 billion creative industries and maintains the UK’s position on the world stage. Government must engage closely with industry prior to implementing these proposed changes.”

More information on CIF’s position can be found via its website.