UK Government outlines new points-based immigration system

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has unveiled proposals that outline a new points-based immigration system in the UK.

Due to come into effect from 1 January 2021, the new system will mean that EU citizens and non-EU citizens will be treated equally during the visa application process after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

The Government hopes that the new system will help to reassert control of the UK’s borders, restore the publics’ trust and replace free movement between the UK and EU countries – prioritising the most highly skilled workers and students.

Although the Government is yet to introduce formal legislation on the system, it has outlined a number of key points that are explained below.

What will the points system be based on?

  • Specific skills
  • Qualifications
  • Salaries
  • Professions

To be considered for a visa application to work in the UK after 1 January 2021, workers will have to achieve a threshold of 70 points.

How to gain points

Earning or gaining points relies on the factors outlined above, but certain criteria must be met.

  • 50 points – these conditions are essential:
    • 20 points – a job offer from an approved sponsor
    • 20 points – the job offer is at the required skill level
    • 10 points – spoken English meets the required level
  • 20 points – £25,600 or above salary
  • 20 points – the job is in a ‘shortage occupation’ (designated by MAC)
  • 20 points – education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject related to the job
  • 10 points – education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job
  • 10 points – £23,040 to £25,599 salary

The minimum salary that may be accepted is £20,480 – however, there will no points provided for salaries between £20,480 and £23,039. Therefore, the lack of points must be calculated and met with points in other areas.

Who is classed as a skilled worker?

The new system will focus on prioritising skilled overseas workers and, as such, will:

  • enable those educated to A-Level/Scottish Highers-equivalent standard to be included (the current system only specifies degree graduates)
  • Those educated at a graduate level
  • See the addition of new specific ‘in demand’ skills, including:
    • Carpentry
    • Plastering
    • Childminding

(Certain areas of farm work and waiting tables are now removed.)

What is the salary threshold?

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its report on points-based systems and salary thresholds on 28 January 2020. The recommended salary was £25,600, which has since been accepted.

However, as outlined, those on a lower income with the right skills or qualifications will be allowed to enter the UK as long as they meet the threshold of 70 points.

What about students?

If students can demonstrate that they speak English, can financially support themselves during their studies in the UK and have received an offer from an approved educational institution, then they will be awarded the required points.

Global Talent Scheme

This is set to start on 20 February 2020 and is open to highly skilled EU citizens who do not require a job offer. Occupations in this category include Scientists and Researchers.

Link to the fast-track visa scheme is here

What about low-skilled workers?

The government stated there will be no route for low-skilled or temporary work applicants.

It said the UK needed “to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation.”

The Government has urged businesses to ‘adapt’ to the end of free movement between the UK and EU countries by investing in its staff members and automation.

Despite these proposals, EU citizens who are resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 will still be able to apply to settle in the UK via the EU Settlement Scheme until June 2021.

If you require help with the current visa application system or you are concerned about the impact of the proposed changes on your ability to recruit or work in the UK in future, please contact Donna Martin.

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Donna Martin

Donna Martin

Partner at Mackrell.Solicitors
Donna Martin is a Partner in the Employment team at Mackrell.Solicitors’ London office. She advises both employers and employees on a full range of contentious and non-contentious issues. As an employment law expert, Donna has significant experience in drafting employment contracts and handbooks, advising on grievance and disciplinary procedures and preparatory work prior to tribunals, including advising on the advantages and disadvantages of settling cases.