The new UK Points-Based Immigration System
From 1 January 2021, the UK will introduce a new points-based immigration system. This system will assign points for workers’ specific skills, qualifications, salaries and shortage occupations, and award visas to those with enough points.
The new system will apply to both EU and non-EU citizens. This change marks the end of the Brexit transitional period, and with it the end of free movement of workers from the EU. Although businesses are tackling the effects of COVID-19, it remains important for employers to prepare for this new system, to avoid further disruptions to their business in 2021.
What must workers show?
Workers need a total of 70 ‘points’ in order to apply to work in the UK. They must show that:
- They have a job offer from a sponsor approved by the Home Office (20 points).
- The job offer must be for a role RQF 3 or above (20 points).
- They speak English to a required level (10 points).
- They will be paid the ‘going rate’ for their occupation or, if higher, the general salary threshold of £25,600. Different salary bands will attract different point awards: a salary of £25,600 or more will attract 20 points; a salary under £20,480 will attract no points; and any salary in between will attract 10 points.
Workers can gain additional points, which can counteract a lower salary, if:
- They have a PhD in a subject relevant to the job (10 points).
- They have a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job (20 points).
- The job is in a shortage occupation, as identified by the Migration Advisory Committee (20 points).
Many employers will already be familiar with the current points-based system for non-EU citizens. The new system will make several changes to the current position, making it much more flexible and guided by employers. As a result, employers will have a wider pool to recruit from than under the current points system and recruitment will not be as limited by salary or skillset.
These changes include lowering the general salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600 per year and reducing the required skill level from RQF 6 to RQF 3 (from degree level to A-level standard). The ‘tradeable’ points listed above are also a new feature, meaning that a worker with a lower salary may still be able to work in the UK if they have high level qualifications or are in high demand. In addition, employers no longer need to advertise job roles to UK citizens first and the annual cap on sponsored migrants entering the UK will be abolished.
What steps should employers take?
- Do you need to be an approved sponsor?
From 1 January 2021, employers must be approved by the Home Office in order to recruit workers from outside the UK. Employers should review their current workforce, and if required apply for sponsorship. UKVI will be accepting applications under the new system from autumn 2020. Applications usually takes 8 weeks to be processed, but a delay is expected due to the volume of applications likely to be made.
- Is your business eligible?
The business must not have any past unspent convictions for certain crimes including immigration offences, money laundering or fraud.
- What type of worker do you want to sponsor?
If you wish to sponsor workers for long-term job offers, you will need a Tier 2 licence. For temporary workers, you will need a Tier 5 licence. You can also apply for a licence covering both Tiers.
- Who will manage the sponsorship?
The employer should appoint someone within the business to manage the sponsorship process via the Sponsorship Management System. There must be someone acting as the key contact for UKVI, an authorising officer, and a Level 1 user responsible for day-to-day management of the licence. One person can take on all of these roles, or they can be split between a team.
- Make your application.
You can apply online here. There is a fee for the application, which varies between applications. The fee for small companies is £536, and for larger sponsors is up to £1,476. (A business will normally be ‘small’ if it has 50 employees or fewer, and an annual turnover is £10.2m or less.)
- Transition period
Until 30 June 2021, employers can continue to accept passports and national identity cards of EU citizens as evidence of their right to work.
Other routes for immigration
- EU Settlement Scheme
The Government has made it clear that the new points-based system will not apply to EU citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020. Instead, they and their family have until 30 June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
- Global Talent
This route will open to EU citizens in January 2021. It is a programme which already applies to non-EU citizens, whereby the most highly skilled can enter the UK without a job offer.
- Youth mobility scheme
The UK has arrangements with 8 countries to enable roughly 20,000 young people to come to the UK each year.
- Scientists, graduates, NHS workers
Government initiatives are being brought forward to support immigration for these key workers and graduates.
- Graduate Immigration Route
This route will be made available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. They can remain in the UK and work at any skill level for 2 years after they have completed their studies.
If you would like further information on the contents of this article, or a video call with one of our employment lawyers please contact James Simpson, Head of Employment, on 01494 478689 or at email@example.com