The U.K. Government published its 164-page white paper Wednesday on the proposed future immigration system, which would replace the current points-based system with a skills-based system. The provisions below would be effective starting January 2021 with further operational details intended to be announced in early 2020.

The headline principles

  1. The end of free movement for EU nationals to the U.K. “It will be a system where it is workers’ skills that matter,” said Prime Minister Theresa May, “and not which country they come from.”
  2. Movement to a single immigration system, meaning no separate immigration system is being created to accommodate EU nationals.
  3. A goal of attracting quality workers, with skills as the main qualifying criteria.

The details

A skilled-workers route

  • This would replace the current Tier 2 system.
  • Most significantly, the Government has proposed abolishing the immigration cap “ensuring that there are no limits on the volumes of skilled migrants to meet the needs of businesses and the U.K. economy, the brightest and the best can always come to work here and EU migrants are accommodated in the future system.”
  • In response to the Migration Advisory Committee, the Resident Labour Market Test would be removed, i.e., no advertising of roles would be required before hiring a foreign national.
  • The minimum annual salary threshold would be set at £30,000, but consultations with employers may determine whether this is the right level.
  • This route may lead to settlement after five years (but not for intra-company transfers, who would need to follow a different route).
  • The Government would seek to maintain a route for intra-company transfers for skilled workers that would allow companies to transfer their existing employees from outside of the U.K.
  • The shortage occupation list would continue to operate, safeguarding critical workers earning less than £30,000 per year.

The skilled-worker route would be a sponsored route but the intention is to make this route simpler and easier to use. As a result of these changes, processing times are intended to be shorter and the system would aim to reduce the burden on employers. The end-to-end processing time for the skilled-worker route would be two to three weeks compared with current Tier 2 processing times of three to six months.

The skills charge and National Health Service charge would continue to apply.

A temporary short-term workers route

  • Low-skilled EU nationals have been able to enter the U.K. to work and settle using the existing freedom of movement. This would no longer be possible.
  • Starting in January 2021, individuals would be able to enter and work for 12 months but then would be subject to a cooling-off period requiring them to leave the country for 12 months before they could return.
  • The route would be open to individuals from low-risk countries, which would most likely include European countries, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, U.S., Canada and Australia.
  • It would not be a sponsored route, meaning that individuals would need to apply for their own visa allowing them to work in a temporary worker category.
  • This would be a transitional measure and the Government would monitor nationalities, duration and may introduce restrictions on numbers for this category.
  • No workers in this route will be able to bring dependants or access state benefits.
  • The final decision on whether this route would continue is likely to be made in 2025.

Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS)

  • The U.K. currently has a youth mobility arrangement with Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan. These schemes allow people ages 18-30 to come to the U.K. for two years to work or study.
  • The white paper proposes to introduce a U.K.-EU YMS as part of their Mobility Framework “to ensure that young people can continue to enjoy social, cultural and educational benefits of living in the EU and the U.K.” This is intended to apply for 18-30 year olds for up to two years.
  • The scheme would be designed in a fashion that is similar to an existing YMS scheme and would be reciprocal between the U.K. and the EU. “It will provide an additional source of labour for the U.K. labour market,” the white paper said, “and provide continuing opportunities for British people to gain experience of living and working in the EU.”
  • Although the temporary short-term workers route has a 12-month limit, the YMS is an alternative for younger workers for up to two years.


  • The new student system would be similar to the existing Tier 4 (students) system.
  • The most significant change is the reinstatement of the post-study work route allowing undergraduate and master degree students to work for six months after completion of their studies. Ph.D. students would be able to work for 12 months.
  • Notably, a post-study worker category would also permit switching into the skilled-worker category.

Visitors – “a secure and smooth border”

  • The Government will not introduce a visit visa regime for EU and EEA nationals.
  • EU and EEA nationals visiting the U.K. would be allowed to stay for up to six months and be able to undertake a range of activities during their visits, excluding work activities that would require a work permit.
  • Electronic travel authorization, or ETA, would be introduced for all non-visa nationals entering the U.K., but may possibly exclude EU and EEA nationals if reciprocal arrangements are accepted under the existing European Travel Information and Authorisation System.
  • EU and EEA nationals and visitors from low-risk countries would be able to use electronic gates (e-gates) when entering the U.K.
  • Significantly, the Government would allow “low risk” visitors to switch into other immigration routes; i.e., they would be able to apply for their work visa while visiting in the U.K.

Access to the UK benefits system

In line with the suggested changes to the immigration system, the white paper specifies that the Government is proposing that in the future individuals who are subject to immigration control would not routinely be able to access the U.K. benefits system. In practice they are suggesting that individuals moving to the U.K. from the EU would need to make significant contributions to the U.K. economy before they would be able to access certain state benefits. The expectation is that full access to the U.K. benefits system would only be available after settled status is granted, which is usually after five years. This would be a significant change from the current position of rapid access and would look to align the rights of EU migrants to access U.K. state benefits with those of non-EU nationals.

What if there is no deal?

The Government is intending to clarify its position on EU nationals entering the U.K.after March 29, 2019 if there is no Brexit deal, which is expected to be released shortly. Regardless, the Settled Status scheme which is anticipated to go live in early 2019 would apply.

Analysis & Comments: We welcome the proposed pro-business immigration system outlined in the white paper, which has taken into consideration the needs of U.K. and international businesses. The white paper looks to make clear that the U.K. remains open for business, aiming to attract the brightest and the best talent, while allowing for temporary low-skilled workers and youth-mobility workers to contribute to the U.K. economy. In our view, this white paper is a very positive first step toward the U.K.’s new immigration system starting in 2021.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.