Details of the UK’s proposed new immigration scheme revealed

EU flag and Union Jack

Freedom of movement between the UK and the EU is scheduled to end at 11pm on 31 December 2020 and the Bill bringing this into effect, the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2019 -21, is currently working its way through the House of Lords.

The final details for the new immigration scheme have not yet been published but the government has indicated that draft Immigration Rules will be shared with stakeholders shortly.

In the meantime, earlier this month they published further information on the proposed scheme and some of the key points are summarised below. Nothing in the new rules will affect freedom of movement within the Common Travel Area which covers travel between the UK, Ireland, and the Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man, Guernsey, and Jersey.)

Please be aware that while we are providing this information by way of a general update, unfortunately, Citation are not able to give immigration advice as we are not accredited by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OSIC). If you require further information or advice, please contact the Home Office helpline.

Points-based system

Central to the new scheme will be an employer-led, points-based system. Under this system, skilled workers will be able to apply to come to the UK if they can show they fulfil all of the following three criteria:

  1. They have a job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points)
  2. The job offer is at the required skill level (20 points) and
  3. They can speak English to an acceptable standard (10 points)

Under the points system, meeting all three of the mandatory criteria gives an applicant 50 points, but they need a total of 70 points to be eligible to apply.

The remaining 20 points can come from a number of factors such as salary, or the fact that they have a job offer in a shortage occupation (these occupations are designated by the Migration Advisory Committee).

For example, if the salary is below the required minimum threshold – £25,600 – they can make these points up if the nature of the role earns additional points (but the salary must be no less than £20,480). These points are described as tradeable and include all elements other than the three mandatory requirements.

There’ll be different minimum salary rules for workers in certain health or education jobs, and for “new entrants at the start of their career” where the salary requirement will be 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation. However, this will still be subject to the minimum threshold of £20,480 which must always be met.

The government has described the general salary threshold as “a measure of the economic contribution an applicant will make to the UK” and therefore these limits apply regardless of the number of hours worked and will not be pro-rated.

The proposed points structure is set out below:

Characteristics Tradable? Points
Offer of job by approved sponsor No 20
Job at appropriate skill level No 20
Speaks English at required level No 10
Salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039 Yes 0
Salary of £23,040 – £25,599 Yes 10
Salary of £25,600 or above Yes 20
Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC) Yes 20
Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job Yes 10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job Yes 20
Highly skilled workers

The government have committed to creating a “broader unsponsored route” to run alongside the employer-led system which would allow a smaller number of the most highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer. This option will not be ready for implementation in January 2021 and consultation will be ongoing throughout next year as to how this scheme will operate (initial thoughts are that numbers for this scheme would be capped and carefully monitored during the implementation phase).

Lower skilled workers

The government do not intend on creating a new route for lower-skilled workers, stating that “it is important that employers move away from a reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, productivity, and wider investment in technology and automation”.

Immigration Skills Charge

This is a charge which UK employers must pay for each skilled migrant worker they employ through the Skilled Worker and Intra-Company Transfer routes (this applies currently to non-EU migrants). The charge will be £1,000 per skilled worker for the first 12 months, with an additional £500 charge for each subsequent six-month period.

A discounted rate of £364 per sponsored worker per year will apply to charities and small businesses.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship will play a central role to the new points-based system and for many employers who have been reliant on EU nationals as part of their workforce, this may be the first time they have been involved in the sponsorship process.

Applying for a sponsorship licence will involve checks that:

  • they are a genuine business
  • they are solvent
  • the roles they wish to recruit are genuine and meet the salary and skills requirements

In addition, they must pay a licence fee and the Immigration Skills Charge. The current Tier 2 licence fee is £1,476 but a reduced fee of £536 is payable if the sponsor is a charity or a small business. The latter is defined as a business with:

  • annual turnover is £10.2million or less
  • 50 or fewer employees

If employers are not currently approved as a sponsor by the Home Office but believe they may need to sponsor skilled migrants from January 2021 (whether from within or outside the EU), they should consider applying for a sponsorship licence as soon as possible. Further information can be obtained from the Home Office Sponsorship, employer, and education helpline – 0300 123 4699 (available Monday to Thursday, 10 am to 3 pm).

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