The UK Government has now unveiled the plans for the future immigration system that will be put in place from January 2021.
The changes are mainly in respect of putting in place a new points-based system which, as announced, will include the EU nationals as well.
It has to be pointed out that the information released by the Government, through the Home Secretary Priti Patel, is a policy statement. Many details in respect of the system will be put in place at a later stage, when the statement of changes for the Immigration Rules is issued.
The policy statement in effect has announced that the Freedom of Movement for the EU nationals will end and that from January 2021, those without pre-existing leave to enter or remain in the UK will need to apply for it under a common system.
Understandably, many businesses, specifically those reliant on lower skill labour, are very concerned with the announcement that the Freedom of Movement will end. Until now, many business sectors, including the care sector, hospitality, manufacturing, agriculture etc have relied heavily on cheap labour from the EU, in particular the Eastern European countries. With these changes, such practices will come to end and these sectors will need to find alternatives for their staffing needs.
What is changing?
Position on EU nationals –
The most significant change is the end of Freedom of Movement. This means that starting from January 2021, the EU nationals who wish to come to the UK for any other reasons that to visit, will need to apply for a visa prior to coming to the UK. There will be no special arrangement for the EU nationals and the type of application they will need to make will be based on what they intend to do in the UK and will fall under the Immigration Rules applicable to all other nations.
Those who wish to come to the UK after January 2021, to work, study, take part in research and do business, will need to apply under the new Points Based system, irrespective whether they are from an EU or non-EU country.
EU nationals travelling to the UK after January 2021, who do not have existing right to enter or remain, will be allowed to enter the country for purposes of visit, tourism and other activities currently covered under visitor route, for a period not exceeding 180 days. EU nationals will continue to be allowed to use e-gates for crossing the border. It needs to be emphasised that this is the UK Government’s initial position on the issue and it might change, based on how the negotiations with the EU will progress.
Those who currently are already in the UK, will continue to be allowed to remain here, live, work, study freely, provided they apply to secure their Settled or pre-settled status within the relevant timeframe.
Position on skilled workers –
The biggest changes in the announced new Points Based System are aimed at the workers. The following changes will come into force from January 2021.
- The skill level for migrants wanting to come to the UK for employment purposes will be lowered from RQF6 (the current standard) to RQF3. This means that where previously on jobs that required at least Bachelor Degree of equivalent level of skills could be covered by overseas workers, now the level will be lowered to include all jobs requiring A Level skills and above.
- The minimum salary requirement will be lowered from £30,000 PA to £25,600 PA. However, most of the positions will still be expected to pay at least the going rate, which is the salary rates paid for the specific job. In the cases where the migrant is not paid the going rate, but is paid the minimum threshold, they might still be able to qualify for a UK visa, if they score higher under certain other categories, for instance qualifications. New entrants will be allowed to be paid 30% less and for certain occupations, special arrangements will be in place.
- There will be no need to carry out Resident Labour Market test before offering the job to an overseas employee. Currently, Resident Labour Market test is a mandatory exercise for almost all instances when an employer wishes to hire an overseas migrant. It comprises of a specific advertisement exercise and can be time consuming. Furthermore, correctly carrying out this exercise and retaining the evidence is essential for the Licence holder, as sponsor Licences can be suspended or revoked if this is not done properly.
- The cap on skilled workers will be suspended, meaning that there will not be a limit to the amount of migrants that can be granted visa under this route.
- All the overseas workers, whether EU or Non-EU will need to prove knowledge of English Language.
- Certain occupations will continue to be recognised as Shortage (with regular reviews of such lists being conducted by MAC) and will have somewhat different rules to the rest.
The points allocation will be based on the following formula. A total of 70 points will be required for a successful visa application. Some of the characteristics are tradeable, meaning that shortfall under one characteristic can be recovered from the other. Those that are marked with No under tradable will need to be met in full.
|Offer of job by approved sponsor||No||20|
|Job at appropriate skill level||No||20|
|Speaks English at required level||No||10|
|Salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039||Yes||0|
|Salary of £23,040 – £25,599||Yes||10|
|Salary of £25,600 or above||Yes||20|
|Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC)||Yes||20|
|Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job||Yes||10|
|Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job||Yes||20|
Position on Highly Skilled –
As of January 2021, the current rules in respect of Global Talent route (previously known as exceptional talent) will be expanded to include the EU nationals as well.
Moreover, Government is considering introducing a new scheme that will allow people with very high skills to come to the UK without the need to hold a job offer from an approved sponsor. This route is under consideration and there are not details on this as of yet. Whether it will happen or not remains to be seen. The only known details of this route are that the criteria are likely to include academic qualifications, age and work experience. There is also likely to be a very tight cap on this, with only a few migrants being allowed to enter the country under this route.
Position on lower skilled workers –
The government has not announced any intentions of opening new routes that will allow lower skilled workers (lower than RQF 3) to be granted visa. The EU nationals that up to now have been largely responsible with plugging the gap in stuffing needs for businesses relying on lower skilled labour, will no longer have the right of Free Movement and with no specific Immigration Rules for this category, it means that businesses will have to look inside the UK for their needs.
The Government is hoping that this will lead to businesses training economically inactive to cover the shortfall, however the business sector has been justifiably sceptical about how workable this will be in reality.
Currently, the only scheme available for lower skilled labour is the Agricultural seasonal workers scheme and the Government has announced that they will increase the cap on it to 10,000 per year.
Quite incomprehensibly, the Government makes a reference to Youth Mobility Scheme under the paragraph of lower skilled migrants, stating that around 20,000 young people coming to the UK under this scheme can also be used to plug the gap of lower skilled labour. This contradicts the reality, as majority of such youth are skilled, if not high skilled and will not take up lower skilled jobs.
Position on students and other PBS –
Apart from expanding the route to include the EU national students, there doesn’t seem to be any other significant changes for students.
There are other points based routes, including innovators, ministers of religion, sportspeople, creative workers etc. These routes all will be expanded to include the EU nationals, but are not expected to suffer any significant changes.
The Government has made it clear that they do not intend to open any routes specifically for self-employed. Therefore, anyone looking to carry out a business in the UK, will have to look at the available business routes.
Other routes –
There seems to be little change apart from expending the rest of the routes to include the EU nationals. Therefore, the family reunion, asylum, visitor visas etc will remain largely the same.