The Home Office has released additional information on the points-based immigration system that will replace free movement for EU/ EEA nationals Jan. 1, 2021, and will apply to EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA nationals.

Key Points:

  • The U.K. will introduce a Skilled Worker route to replace the Existing Tier 2 (General) route:
    • Beginning next year, skilled workers must have at least 70 points in order to apply to work in the U.K. All applicants will be required to (1) have a job offer from a Home Office-approved sponsor at (2) the skill level of RQF Level 3 or higher and (3) speak English. Meeting these criteria will give applicants a total of 50 points. To reach 70 points, candidates must earn additional points based on their salary level if the role is recognized as a shortage occupation or by having a Ph.D. in a relevant field.
    • There will be no quota or labor market testing requirement.
    • Existing Tier 2 (General) migrants will be required to apply for Skilled Worker visas if they change employers or jobs or need to extend their stay in the U.K. when the Tier 2 (General) route closes.
    • The standard minimum annual salary will be £25,600; however, the minimum salary threshold can drop below that level for workers in certain health or education jobs, as well as for “new entrants” at the beginning of their career. New entrants will be permitted to earn as little as 70% of what their colleagues in similar positions earn, but must have an annual minimum salary of at least £20,480 per year.
  • The new Skilled Worker Health and Care Visa will allow doctors, nurses and other overseas health professionals to be eligible for fast-track entry, reduced fees and additional support in the application process.
  • There will be changes to the Rules for Intra-Company Transfers (ICT). Under “cooling off” rules for intra-company transfers, foreign nationals will not be eligible to maintain ICT status for more than five years in a six-year period, except where they qualify on the basis of their salary for up to nine years. The ICT route will still require applicants to be in roles skilled to RQF6 and there will be no English requirement. Applicants must have been employed by the sending business for at least 12 months prior to the date of the transfer (or three months in the case of Graduate Trainees). The policy statement also suggests it may be possible to switch from the ICT route (which does not provide a path to settlement) into the Skilled Worker route from within the U.K.
  • The new Graduate Route, which will allow international students to stay and work in the U.K., will be established next summer. This will allow foreign graduates of U.K. universities to remain in the U.K. and work for two years (three for Ph.D. holders). Visa holders in this category will be able to work at any skill level and have the opportunity to switch to other routes once they find a long-term job.
  • There will be no specific route for lower-skilled workers.
  • An Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system for visa-free travelers will be phased in by 2025. This will require all foreign nationals (except Irish nationals) to apply ahead of time to enter the U.K. prior to travel.
  • The new points system will not apply to EU nationals already in the U.K. by Dec. 31, 2020. EU, EEA and Swiss nationals in the U.K. must apply for permission to remain in the U.K. under the EU Settlement Scheme by June 30, 2021. Applicants who have been in the U.K. for less than five years will receive Pre-Settled Status for another five years. Applicants who have been in the U.K. for five years will receive Settled Status, which grants permanent leave to remain in the U.K.
  • The new points system will not apply to Irish nationals, who will be able to continue freely working in and traveling to the U.K. under Ireland and the U.K.’s Common Travel Area arrangements.

Background: The information released this week builds on information the Home Office published in its policy paper earlier this year.

Analysis & Comments: The latest update from the Home Office is welcome news, as it gives a better picture of the new points-based system and how it will operate, providing more details to help U.K. companies plan for recruitment, talent acquisition and staff retention after free movement ends. Employers are reminded that under the transition period, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who are living in the U.K. as of the end of 2020 must apply under the EU Settlement Scheme by June 30, 2021. Any EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who have not been living in the U.K. by Dec. 31, 2020 will fall under the new points-based system. Employers must also consider that there will be new prescribed methods for conducting Right to Work checks for European nationals from Jan. 1, 2021. Deloitte will provide additional updates on the transition to the new immigration system as further information becomes available.

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