Vfx and animation trade body UK Screen Alliance says the government’s proposed visa system for EU workers post Brexit would be "disastrous" for the vfx and animation industries.

The newly published Immigration Bill white paper sets out the Government’s plans for the post-Brexit visa system, following the recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) earlier this year.

UK Screen Alliance says the proposed visa system will “severely limit” the vfx and animation industries’ access to the international talent it needs.

One in three workers in VFX and one in five workers in animation are from the EU. The Government is proposing a single visa scheme for both EU and non-EU immigration based on the Tier 2 visa regime that currently exists for non-EU immigration. MAC had originally proposed no change in the minimum salary threshold for Tier 2, which is £30,000.

UK Screen Alliance’s research shows that 7% of the combined animation and VFX workforce are from the EU and are remunerated below £30,000. The Government has now decided to put the visa threshold issue out to consultation.

Chief Executive of the UK Screen Alliance, Neil Hatton said: “Salaries are a very poor indicator of skill levels.  The remuneration levels in the creative industries in general are lower than say the financial services sector. A blunt instrument like Tier 2 does not account for these sectoral differences and to apply it to all migration will greatly disadvantage VFX and animation in securing the fresh high potential talent from the EU necessary to deliver continued growth. We welcome the Government’s decision to let employers have their say on what would be a disastrous policy”

“The salary inflation necessary to remunerate these roles at the current £30k Tier 2 threshold would add £2.5million to the collective payroll costs of the VFX industry.  Then there would also need to be an adjustment to salaries of UK citizens in these same roles to maintain parity and adjustments to job grades above to maintain differentials. Overall this could add 3% to 5% to overheads and seriously damage competitiveness.”

The Government also proposed levying the Immigration Skill Charge onto EU visas. The charge which is already applied to non-EU Tier 2 visas is £1,000 per year and the Immigration Health Surcharge paid by visa holders and any dependents they bring with them, is set to increase to £400 per year.

Fiona Walkenshaw, Global MD of Film at Framestore said: “The potential cost is horrific. It will have a major impact on competitiveness across our industry, as we collectively hire the best graduates in Europe.  Now other member states will build clusters and dilute the UK’s global centre of excellence. “
UK Screen Alliance estimates that there are around 750 new hires each year in VFX and animation are EU citizens. In a worst-case scenario visa application costs for EU citizens would add a further £2.3 million to workforce overheads.

UK Screen Alliance. Neil Hatton comments: “The Immigration Skills Charge should really be called an Immigration Charge as there is no evidence of it being used by government to fill skills gaps. It’s a tax that syphons money from training budgets of companies working in international markets.. It seems perverse that where skills have been recognised as being in shortage in the UK that companies are penalised for recruiting from abroad”.

Phil Dobree, MD at Jellyfish said: “Jellyfish Pictures’ staff is made up of 40% EU nationals, which is typical for our industry. For the UK to remain globally competitive in an industry such as visual effects and animation, we need quick, easy access to the very best talent internationally without financial penalties.”

There are currently 17 key VFX roles that are recognised by the Shortage Occupation List. UK Screen Alliance’s position is that the Immigration Skills Charge should be scrapped, but at the very least that roles on the Shortage Occupation List should be exempt from the Charge.

Oli Hyatt, MD of Bluezoo comments, “Pro-Brexit politicians continually talk of there being no need for extra cost and extra bureaucracy after we leave the EU, but the change in visa cost and the extra application work is a clear example this is not true, adding unnecessary burden to business in very uncertain times. “

Sean Costelloe, MD at The Mill says, “It is essential for UK based businesses to be able to attract and retain highly skilled talent, including graduates from across Europe, in order to remain competitive in an increasingly globalised industry. Furthermore, we have a skills shortage in the UK and the talent pipeline, particularly at University level, is lagging behind.”

Staff Reporter

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