The U.K. government has updated their guidance to help employers prepare for the U.K.’s new points-based immigration system, which is scheduled to be introduced on Jan. 1, 2021.

Skilled Workers

From Jan. 1, 2021, free movement for EU citizens will end and the U.K. will introduce a new points-based immigration system. Under the new system, EU citizens and non-EU citizens will be treated equally from an immigration perspective and will need to apply for permission to work in the U.K. before travelling to work. EU citizens living in the U.K. by Dec. 31 are not affected by the new system and they and their family members should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in advance of June 30, 2021.

Irish citizens are exempt from these new rules and may travel to live and work in the U.K. without any restrictions from Jan. 1, 2021.

Under the new system, any EU and non-EU citizens coming to the U.K. to work will need to demonstrate that:

  • They have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor.
  • The job offer is at the required skill level – RQF 3 or above (A Level and equivalent).
  • They speak English to the required standard.

In addition to the above, the job offer must satisfy the government’s minimum salary threshold. This is the higher of either:

  • The general salary threshold set by the Government on advice of the independent Migration Advisory Committee at £25,600, or
  • The specific salary requirement for their occupation, known as the “going rate.”

Sponsorship License

Employers wishing to recruit EU and non-EU citizens will need to have an existing Sponsorship license or apply for one in advance of recruiting EU and non-EU citizens. This will enable the employer to sponsor the migrant to work at their organization.

Intra-company Transfer

The Intra-company Transfer (ICT) route allows multinational organizations to move key business personnel employed overseas into the U.K. on a temporary basis, on the condition that ICT sponsorship requirements are met. The route will require applicants to be in roles skilled to RQF 6 (graduate level equivalent), and subject to a different minimum salary threshold from the main skilled-worker route.

Immigration Skills Charge

From Jan. 1, 2021, any employer sponsoring an EU and/or non-EU citizen will be required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC). Employers must pay £1,000 per skilled worker for the first 12 months, with an additional £500 charge for each subsequent six-month period. Discounted rates will apply to charities and small business.

Global Talent route

Under the new system, the existing Global Talent route will open to EU citizens as it currently applies to non-EU citizens. The purpose of the Global Talent route is to enable the most highly skilled applicants, to achieve the required level of points, to enter the U.K. without a job offer, on the condition that they are endorsed by a recognized U.K. body, who are approved by the Home Office.

An employer will not need to be a Home Office licensed visa sponsor to employ a migrant under the Global Talent route.

Graduate route

Under the new system a Graduate Visa will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the U.K. from summer 2021. The Graduate route will allow international students to remain in the U.K. and work at any skill level for two years after the completion of their course.

An employer will not need to be a Home Office licensed visa sponsor to employ a migrant under the Graduate route.

International students completing a PhD from the summer of 2021 will be permitted to stay in the U.K. for three years after the completion of their studies to live and work.

Analysis & Comments: The new system represents a significant change for employers recruiting from outside the U.K. labor market. Employers should be aware of the new points-based immigration system in advance of its launch and ensure that they put in place sufficient processes and controls so that they are prepared for the new system. The government’s new guidance in full may be found here.

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