Will new immigration proposals boost regional businesses?
Earlier today, the Home Office unveiled a new 'NHS Visa' that aims to bring talented medical workers to the UK.
The announcement is the latest in a slew of promising proposals to shake-up UK immigration law as the general election looms closer.
In October, a Home Office source told the Times that "extra points for migrants going up north is something we are thinking about".
This means that migrants looking to live and work outside of London or the South East could be treated favourably by a points-based system - and even more so if they plan to work for the NHS.
If formalised, the changes would be welcomed by Northern communities and business people alike.
According to a House of Commons Briefing, there were 1,563 businesses per 10,000 people living in London during 2018. By comparison, the North East had just 749 businesses per 10,000 residents.
Shara Pledger, an Associate with the immigration law firm Latitude Law, stated that the announcement was a cause for optimism.
“Any move to assist employers outside London in accessing and retaining overseas talent is welcome.
"Our existing sponsorship system has always been skewed in favour of London, rewarding higher salaries paid in the capital which regional employers can struggle to match."
Yet, there has also been some criticism of the proposed changes, particularly by members of the opposition.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott argued that the policy lacks detail and is "full of holes", particularly with regards to the position of low-wage NHS workers like hospital porters, cleaners and cooks.
Specialists also warn that potential problems with the system may need to be ironed out for individuals and businesses to truly benefit.
Gary McIndoe has been an immigration solicitor for over twenty years, operating mainly within the North-West.
He states that "the usual comparator for a regional migration system is Canada – there, different salary levels and investment sums apply depending on where the migrant is prepared to live.
Prince Edward Island and the North West Territory, for example, are way cheaper than Ontario.
"The problem the Canadians face is ensuring someone stays in that region, rather than say flying in there and then moving immediately to Toronto.
That will be a challenge for any UK regional system."
In this case, regional businesses would still need to increase their international visibility in order to attract potential migrant employees.
Dr. Hope Zhao is the CEO of Universal Think Tank, an immigration and business consultancy who assist with both sides of the immigration process.
She argues that the proposed Home Office incentives are a step forward, but there is ultimately still plenty of work to be done.
"The most significant barrier for potential migrants and small UK businesses is communication and visibility.
"We deal with a lot of clients in Mainland China who simply are not aware of the amazing business opportunities outside of the South-East - cities like Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds and Sheffield have so much to offer.
"We've made it our mission to try and champion these areas, as well as Greater London, for those of our clients who want to launch or fund a business in the UK."