New points-based system – further Home Office guidance released
One of the Conservative party’s manifesto promises during the last election was a new “points-based system” for immigration to the UK post-Brexit (even though a points-based system has, in fact, been around for a number of years). The government has now released further information about how the new post-Brexit points-based system will work.
The new system will come into force on 1 January 2021, once freedom of movement with the EU has ended. The impact will be:
- If you currently employ any EU/EEA nationals, it will be fine to continue to employ them beyond 1 January 2021 but they must be living in the UK by 31 December 2020 and can apply for Pre-Settled or Settled Status to remain in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme. This must be done by 30 June 2021. You will not need any sponsor licence, work visa or other approval to continue employing these people as long as their Pre-Settled or Settled Status is granted
- You will only be able to hire any new EU/EEA nationals from 1 January 2021 if you have a sponsor licence, granted by the government. Any new hires will need to satisfy the strict criteria under the points-based immigration system. This means you will need a sponsor licence in the UK for hiring any non-UK national employees
The government has announced that individuals will be able to apply for a visa to enter the UK under the new immigration system from Autumn 2020 (with visas valid from 1 January 2021).
Visas for employees with a job offer under the new immigration system
The new immigration system will include a route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer and will replace the current Tier 2 (General) route.
To become an “approved employer”, organisations must apply for a sponsor licence and prove to the UK Home Office they have systems in place to monitor sponsored employees.
Currently, sponsor licence applications can take around 8 weeks to be processed, but we expect that there will be a surge in applications as 1 January 2021 approaches and so processing times could increase significantly. We therefore recommend that companies who think that they may need to sponsor EU and non-EU nationals under the new immigration system apply for a sponsor licence now. Doyle Clayton’s Business Immigration team can provide guidance on this process.
As a reminder from previous updates, some key features of the new immigration system are:
- The job offer can now be at a lower skill level - Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3 or above (A level standard). The current Tier 2 route is for roles at RQF Level 6 (roughly degree level) or above
- The new system will continue to use the Standard Occupation Classification (or SOC) codes, but the Immigration Rules will be updated to expand the list of occupations to include those classified at RQF Level 3 and above
- Applicants will need to demonstrate that they can speak English at the required level
- The migrant’s job must meet (1) the minimum salary threshold which will be set at £25,600 per year (compared to the current minimum salary threshold of £30,000 per year) or (2) the minimum salary set out for their job classification, whichever is higher
- If a migrant will earn £20,480 or more per year but not enough to meet the minimum salary requirement (£25,600 per year or the minimum salary for their job classification, whichever is higher), they can score or ‘trade’ for additional points if:
- they hold a PhD in a subject relevant to the job (or, for extra points, a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job) or
- their role appears on the current Shortage Occupation List, which we understand will be reviewed more frequently than is currently the case
- A total of 70 points will be required for a visa to be granted
- The current Resident Labour Market Test process will be abolished
- There is no mention in the guidance that the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) category will be continuing. However, there is no express confirmation either that it will be discontinuing. So, we assume it will remain open and will allow employees of overseas group companies to be transferred to the UK temporarily. We will continue to monitor this and will provide any updates
Other routes under the new immigration system
Other key points include:
- The most highly skilled individuals will be able to apply for a visa without a job offer if they are endorsed by a relevant competent body (such as a regulatory or supervisory authority in the migrant’s field of work)
- There will not be any new route for lower-skilled workers. However, the government has indicated that it will continue the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme), which allows young people from 8 countries (including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan) to come and work in the UK without sponsorship. There is also currently a Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme for fruit and vegetable pickers, which we understand will be reviewed again in December 2020
- New routes for scientists, NHS workers and graduates are planned.
For more information, please contact the Doyle Clayton Business Immigration team.
The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.