July 20, 2020

Update: Further Details on the United Kingdom’s New Points-Based Immigration System

On Monday 13 July, the U.K. government published further details outlining their plan for a new immigration system which will amend the existing points-based immigration system. This system is to take effect from 1 January 2021. The 130-page document doesn’t contain a lot more detail than the proposals released earlier in the year, which we summarized in April. The new system will end free movement with the EU and represents a significant change to immigration in the U.K. The system will apply to both EU/European Economic Area (EEA) and third-country applicants.

Considering the gradual ease of lockdown and with international borders beginning to reopen, the U.K. government appear to be more eager now than ever to attract students and workers from overseas who are crème-de-la-crème in specialist skilled fields. The further details which the U.K. government have recently outlined should provide employers adequate time to prepare for the new immigration system and familiarise themselves with these new immigration routes that will be implemented early next year.

Here is a summarized version:

  • Employers will need a sponsor licence if they want to recruit EU and non-EU citizens under most of the work routes, although some applicants will qualify under the non-sponsored routes in their own right.
  • Checks will be made to ensure that sponsors are genuine and solvent.
  • Sponsors will need to show that roles are credible and meet salary and skills requirements (where applicable). Key personnel responsible for maintaining the sponsor’s status will undergo criminality and “other security checks.”

Skilled Worker Route

  • Existing Tier 2 General migrants who need to make a new application will do so under the Skilled Worker route once the Tier 2 General route closes. The skilled route is pretty much the same as the previous update.
    • No caps.
    • No Resident Labour Market Test.
    • A system of points including “tradeable” points.
    • Lower skill threshold (RQF3 instead of RQF6 at the moment).
    • Minimum salary requirement (“PAYE records for all skilled workers will be regularly checked to confirm they are being paid the correct salary”). The minimum salary will be £25,600 per year for an experienced worker which has been lowered from the current minimum of £30,000 per year, or the going rate according to the particular role — whichever is higher.
    • English language requirement.
    • Ability to bring qualifying dependants.

Intra-Company Transfers (ICT) and ICT Graduates

  • The ICT routes are to remain broadly the same as currently.
  • It looks like the “cooling off” period is going to be removed in relation to ICT sponsored workers.

Skilled Work: Health and Care Visa

  • There will be a “Health and Care Visa” with “fast-track entry, with reduced application fees and dedicated support.” However, this is currently very confusing and does not cover care workers.
  • This will ensure individuals in eligible health occupations with a job offer have a potential route to enter the United Kingdom.

Global Talent, Start-Up and Innovator

  • The Global Talent route will continue to play a role in the U.K.’s immigration system.
  • The Global Talent route will be extended to EU citizens from January 2021.

Students

  • The document makes clear that universities, colleges and independent schools seeking to recruit unlimited numbers of international students, including new EU arrivals, for long-term study will continue to need a sponsor licence.
  • Students will be able to come to the U.K. six months before their course is due to start, instead of three months and there will be more flexibility for in-country switching.
  • Time-limits on study will be removed for those studying at postgraduate level, as long as the student is progressing academically.

Graduate Route

  • The Graduate route will be launched in the third quarter 2021 to provide international students with the opportunity to stay in the United Kingdom to work after they graduate.
  • Undergraduate and master’s degree students can apply for a two-year Graduate Visa. Ph.D. students can apply for three years. Neither of these routes will not need to be sponsored and both will be able to switch into work routes in the U.K.

Short-Term Study

  • There is currently no further detail on short-term study other than to confirm that the current rules will apply.

Youth Mobility Scheme

  • The requirements for this route will remain as currently.
  • The U.K. will continue to operate a reciprocal scheme with the existing eight countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea and Taiwan).

Visitors

  • There is little detail on the section on visitors, other than to confirm that the government “will continue to engage with stakeholders to further understand how the visitor rules can be improved and simplified”.
  • The government will introduce Electronic Travel Authorisations for visitors and passengers transiting through the U.K. who do not currently need a visa for short stays or who do not already have an immigration status prior to travelling.

Criminality and Deportation

  • The document makes it clear that the U.K. will continue to take a tough stance against those breaching criminal and immigration laws.

Unsponsored Route

  • Following recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee, the Government will seek to introduce a new, unsponsored route within the Points Based System for a smaller number of the most highly skilled workers to come to the U.K. without a job offer. There is no date given at present for the launch of this scheme, though it is likely to be 2022.
  • Most migrants who are already in the U.K. with a valid visa will be able to switch to another visa category, without having to leave the country.

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