What is the change? The Home Office has unveiled its plans for a new points-based immigration system that will take effect Jan. 1, 2021. This will coincide with the end of free movement from the European Union.

What does the change mean? The single system will apply to non-EU and EU nationals (with the exception of Irish passport holders who may continue to live, study and work in the U.K. without the requirement of obtaining a visa) and require that those coming to work in the U.K. have a job offer and meet income thresholds as well as a points threshold under the points system. There will no longer be a route for low-skilled foreign workers.   

Key features:

  • Single system. Non-EU and EU citizens will be treated the same under a single points-based system.
  • Removal of the Resident Labour Market test. Employers will no longer be required to advertise positions to the resident labor market.
  • No quota. There will be no numerical cap on the number of work visas issued per year.
  • Job offer and salary threshold. Applicants must have a job offer with a U.K. employer and earn a minimum salary of £25,600 per year (a decrease from the current £30,000 threshold). The minimum salary requirement is reduced to £20,480 – £23,040, dependent on whether applicants can demonstrate that they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation, as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee, or that they have a Ph.D. relevant to the job.
  • Points system. Candidates will earn points based on their qualification, salary level, English language proficiency, and other factors. The scheme will include positions at RQF Level 3 (skill level requiring A levels), which is an expansion of the current system that is restricted to positions at RQF Level 6 (skill level requiring a degree). A minimum of 70 points is required to be eligible for a work visa. The mandatory requirements of a job offer from an approved sponsor, a job at an appropriate skill level and English proficiency will earn 50 points. To reach 70 points, candidates will earn points for their salary level, having a Ph.D. in a relevant field or working in a shortage occupation.
  • Lower skilled workers. In addition to free movement ending, the government has confirmed that it will not be implementing any new immigration routes for lower-skilled workers.
  • Regional salary thresholds. The policy paper confirms that the government will not introduce regional salary thresholds or different arrangements for different parts of the U.K.
  • Students. Non-EU and EU students will be subject to a points system and must have an offer to attend an approved educational institution, be able to speak English, and be able to support themselves financially.
  • Global Talent Scheme. This route, which allows select professionals with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to apply for fast-track visas even if they do not have a job offer, will extend to European citizens beginning January 2021.

Analysis & Comments: The plan adopts many of the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations and provides a blueprint for U.K. companies to begin planning for recruitment and talent acquisition and retention when free movement ends on Dec. 31. Employers are reminded that under the transition period, EU citizens who are living in the U.K. as of the end of 2020 may apply under the EU Settlement Scheme until June 30, 2021.

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