UK government extends immigration concession for offshore workers

Out-Law News | 01 Jun 2020 | 8:52 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government has announced that the concession allowing the employment of non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals on offshore wind projects is to be extended until the end of the year.

The concession was first announced in 2017 and has now been extended until 31 December 2020. It gives non-EEA workers leave to enter the UK for the purpose of joining a vessel engaged in the construction and maintenance of a wind farm within UK territorial waters. European nationals do not need leave to enter the UK.

Announcing the extension (2 page / 75KB PDF), the government warned that leave to enter under the terms of the concession would not be granted beyond 31 December, and firms involved in the construction or maintenance of wind farms within territorial waters should look to regularise the position of their workers before then.

Immigration law expert Joanne Hennessy said the extension would be welcomed by employers.

“However, it is notable that the previous concessions have been for 12 months whereas this latest one only takes us to the end of 2020. The UK’s amended points-based system is expected to be rolled out from 2021 and it’s not clear if the expiry of this extension deliberately coincides with that,” Hennessy said.

“Affected employers will need to watch this space – in the absence of a further extension they may face themselves having to sponsor non-British nationals (subject to the end of the Brexit transition period) for visas to undertake such work. This will require consideration of whether such roles meet the applicable skill and salary thresholds under the new rules. This could increase the cost and complexity of resourcing offshore wind projects in UK waters and impact upon project timescales,” Hennessy said.

The government has set out its intention to introduce a points-based immigration system from 2021 on several occasions, to cover both EEA and non-EEA nationals once the Brexit transition period is over.