The UK’s New Points Based System
Following the United Kingdom’s (‘UK’) exit (‘Brexit’) from the European Union (‘EU’) on 31 January 2020, the UK Government have published a new policy statement in relation to the new Points Based System for both EU nationals and non-EU nationals who wish to enter the UK for work and business purposes.
UK’s new points-based immigration system (‘PBS’)
The UK government has confirmed that from 1 January 2021, EU nationals and non-EU nationals will be treated equally and therefore, free movement for EU nationals will come to an end.
The UK government will replace free movement with the UK’s PBS to cater for highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students, and a range of other specialist work routes including routes for global leaders and innovators.
What will the key changes be to the current skilled worker category?
- In accordance with the recent report published by the Migration Advisory Committee (‘MAC’), the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600. However, although the minimum salary threshold will be lowered, migrants will still need to be paid the specific salary threshold for their occupation, also known as the ‘going rate’ or the minimum salary threshold, whichever is higher.
- As a result of the MAC’s recommendations, the relevant skilled worker threshold will be lowered from RQF Level 6 to RQF Level 3.
- Skilled worker applicants will be able to ‘trade’ characteristics such as their specific job offer and qualifications against a lower salary (explained further below).
- The annual cap for skilled workers will be suspended.
- The Resident Labour Market Test (‘RMLT’) will be removed and therefore, there will not be a requirement for businesses to advertise a vacant job to the settled work force prior to offering the role to a migrant.
Skilled worker requirements and the ability to ‘trade’ points
All skilled worker applicants will be required to demonstrate the following:
- A job has been offered by an ‘approved sponsor’;
- The job offer is at the required skill level; and
- The applicant must be able to satisfy the relevant English language criteria (currently set at a minimum level of B1 as determined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (‘CEFR’).
Contrary to the current Tier 2 (General) system, if an applicant fails to meet the minimum salary threshold, the new PBS will still allow an applicant to make an application as long as the salary does not fall below £20,480.
However, this can only be achieved if an applicant can demonstrate that the job is listed within the ‘shortage occupation’ list, or the applicant has a PhD relevant to the job.
For example, a university researcher in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subject wishing to come to the UK on a salary of £22,000, (which is below the general minimum salary threshold), may still be able to enter the UK if they have a relevant PhD in a STEM subject.
Likewise, a nurse wishing to come to the UK on a salary of £22,000 would still be able to enter the UK on the basis that the individual would be working in a shortage occupation.
In essence, applicants will be able to ‘trade’ characteristics such as their specific job offer and qualifications against a salary lower than the minimum salary or the ‘going rate’ to meet the required 70 points under the PBS.
For your reference, please refer to the table below which explains whether a characteristic could be traded against another.
Highly Skilled Workers – Global Talent Visa Route
From January 2021, the new Global Talent visa route which replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa in February 2020 will also be extended to EU national on the same basis as non-EU nationals.
Under the Global Talent visa route, the most highly skilled applicants will be able to enter the UK without a job offer as long as they satisfy the required points for the visa, and most importantly are endorsed by a relevant and competent body. Please refer to our Global Talent visa page for further information.
Is this the end of the lower skilled workforce?
Apart from an annual limit of Seasonal Agricultural Workers who would be permitted to enter the UK, the UK Government has confirmed that all free movement for lower skilled workers will come to an end after 1 January 2021.
The current Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) Visa will still continue to operate and allow a route for young people between the ages of 18 to 30 to enter the UK to undertake work in lower skilled roles.
Students and specialist occupations
The student visa category will continue to be covered by the PBS.
Similar to the current visa requirements, applicants will achieve the relevant points if they can demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, have a relevant English Language qualification, and are able to financially maintain themselves.
Permitted entry to the UK for short visits for EU Nationals
The UK government has announced that EU nationals will be treated the same as non-visa nationals, e.g. US Citizens. This means EU nationals will be able to enter the UK for up-to six months without the need to obtain a prior visitor visa. EU nationals will also be able to continue to use e-gates at designated ports upon entry to the UK.
EU nationals living in the UK by 31 December 2020 are eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (‘EUSS’) and will have until 30 June 2021 to make an application under the EUSS.
As long as an application for EUSS is submitted by EU nationals and their family members by this date, they will be entitled to continue living and working in the UK and also continue to have access to benefits and the NHS.
We therefore strongly advise all EU nationals and their family members who are currently in the UK to apply for pre-settled status or settled status under the EUSS as soon as possible.
We would also strongly encourage employers who currently do not hold a Sponsor Licence to consider applying for a licence if they wish to sponsor skilled migrants, including those from the EU from early 2021.
If you require further information in relation to the new Immigration Points Based System Policy, please feel free to contact our expert Immigration team on 0161 826 6922.