Audrey Elliott: The power of immigration for unlocking economic prosperity in Northern Ireland

Audrey Elliott: The power of immigration for unlocking economic prosperity in Northern Ireland

Audrey Elliott

Eversheds Sutherland partner Audrey Elliott writes on the role of immigration in growing Northern Ireland’s economy.

Talented people are central to the economic growth of nations, but with skill shortages biting hard immigration has become an essential part of recruitment for businesses across the UK and Ireland. Northern Ireland is no exception.

In this current climate business owners and employers have seen that accessing talent from overseas has not only filled labour gaps, but enriched businesses. The diversity in skills is only surpassed by diversity of perspectives and ideas, fuelling innovation, and enhancing business development.

Our own analysis has shown that there is more appetite for bringing in overseas talent. Across all districts of Northern Ireland there has been a significant increase in the number of businesses with sponsorship licenses in the past 12 months.

As businesses increasingly look to overseas talent the visit of the chair of the UK Migration Advisory Commission, Professor Brian Bell, to our immigration briefing for businesses on Thursday 21 September could not come at a better time. For while the interest grows, so too, do the hurdles.

Currently, it costs employers around £15,000 for a family of five to relocate to the UK for work on a skilled work visa. But this is set to rise to more than £20,000 in the coming months.

Despite increased costs, the potential returns could outweigh this initial investment for businesses. An influx of fresh talent to fill vacancies in the software, hospitality, and healthcare sectors, might be what is needed to kickstart the economy and match the expectations that business leaders have for Northern Ireland.

Sponsoring overseas talent represents a remarkable opportunity to broaden the skills pool and assist businesses in overcoming the formidable skills challenges currently hampering growth prospects.

While recruiting individuals from across the globe might be the right decision for employers, it is important that businesses are diligent and compliant by carrying out a right to work check on a case-by-case basis.

Illegal working remains a challenge for the government, and the Home Office regularly requests information from employers relating to potential illegal working.

The Recruiting Right UK online platform developed by our global mobility team is a secure and straightforward guide to compelling right to work checks and will reduce the risk of exposure to illegal working civil penalties.

As the largest international law firm on the island of Ireland, we know that immigration can play a pivotal role in Northern Ireland’s economic growth internationally by addressing critical skills shortages and injecting diversity into our business landscape. The associated costs and compliance requirements may seem daunting, but the potential benefits far outweigh the initial investment and can help contribute to a more prosperous Northern Ireland.

  • Audrey Elliott is a partner in the employment and immigration at Eversheds Sutherland.
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