On 13 July 2020, the Home Office published further details on how the UK’s points-based immigration system will work from 1 January 2021. As set out in the Policy Statement published in February, anyone coming to the UK for work, including EU citizens, will need to demonstrate they meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points. There is no overall cap on the number who can apply under the Skilled Worker route.
The key change to note is that any employer wishing to employ EU citizens will need to have a sponsor licence and pay the Immigration Skills Charge (£1,000 per worker per year). A sponsor licence will be needed to recruit both EU and non-EU citizens under most work routes. Checks will be made against sponsors (solvency checks are a new addition) and the applicable roles to ensure they are genuine.
Sponsor licences will be renamed as ‘Skilled Worker licences’ and ‘Intra-Company Transfer licences’. Existing Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) sponsors will automatically be granted a new Skilled Worker or Intra-Company Licence with an expiry date consistent with their current licence, and receive an appropriate allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS).
For the skilled worker route (those who have a job offer from an approved sponsor):
- From January 2021, the job will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level); this has been reduced from degree level under the current system. There will be an applicable English language requirement, as well as a relevant salary threshold (higher of £25,600 or typical rate for the job). Points may be ‘traded’ on specific characteristics if the salary threshold is not met (but must still be over £20,480). For example, if the job is in a shortage occupation or the worker has a PhD relevant to the job.
For Intra-Company Transfers:
- This route will require applicants to be in roles skilled to RQF6, and subject to a different minimum salary threshold from the main Skilled Worker route. It will not be subject to English language requirements, but will be subject to a requirement that the worker has been employed by the sending business for a minimum period prior to the transfer (12 months). The cooling off rules will be adjusted however to ensure the system makes more flexible provision for short term arrangements.
There will not be a general route for employers to recruit at or near the minimum wage.
For most migrants, it will be possible to switch from one immigration route to another without having to leave and re-enter the UK.
The published statement also covers details regarding:
- New immigration routes – a new Health and Care Visa for key health professionals, and a new graduate route opening in Summer 2021 to allow international students to stay in the UK once they have completed their studies.
- Highly Skilled Workers – a broader unsponsored route to be developed within the points based system to run alongside the employer-led system. This proposal is still being explored and will not open on 1 January 2021, however it seeks to allow a capped number of the most highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer.
- Biometric enrolment not necessary for EU citizens – Instead, a facial image can be provided via a smartphone app. Biometric enrolment is to be part of a longer term plan but is not yet a requirement. Non-EU citizens will need to continue to submit photos and digital finger prints at an overseas visa application centre.
- EU and non-EU citizens will need to demonstrate their right to be in the UK (including their right to work). EU citizens will use an online service to prove their status, whereas non-EU citizens can continue to use a physical document (though some will be eligible to use the on-line checking service). Employers will need to be cautious that they are following the most up to date right to work processes for this which are set out here.
- The existing Global Talent Scheme (which reformed and replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route from 20 February 2020), Start-up and Innovator (to attract entrepreneurial talent) routes are also set out in further detail and will be open to anyone, regardless of nationality.
- Student routes – Are intended to ensure that the UK’s universities can welcome talented students to the UK.
- Visitors – EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and other non-visa nationals will not require a visa to enter the UK when visiting the UK for up to 6 months.
The implementation of the Points-Based System will be phased with further details to be published in due course.
In the meantime, those EU citizens resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 can still apply to settle in the UK through the EU Settlement Scheme until 30 June 2021.
Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.