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The Points Based System – Version .02

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Free Movement of EEA workers is ending on 31 December 2020 and the Government published a policy statement yesterday to introduce a new Points-Based Immigration System. This will apply to all migrants from 1 January 2021, whether or not they are from the European Union. It is branded as a new system, but it is essentially a repackage of current rules with a few changes to the details.

On one hand the new rules will be more transparent and it will be easier for people to qualify for work visas. On the other hand, EU citizens will be unaccustomed to the idea, and considerable expense, of obtaining a work visa. In any event it is important that migrants and employers are prepared.

The new work visa rules from 1 January 2021

All migrants must have a job offer from a licensed employer, which must be at or above the required skill level (defined as RQF 3, which roughly A-Level standard) and that they can speak English.

The visa applicant will have to score at least 70 points under a range of characteristics. The first three categories, for which 50 points are awarded, are mandatory:

 Points
Offer of job by approved sponsor                                                                         20
Job at appropriate skill level20
Speaks English at required level10

 

The migrant will then make up the remaining 20 points using one or a combination of the following:

 Points
Salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,0390
Salary of £23,040 – £25,59910
Salary of £25,600 or above20
Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC)20
Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job20

 

What has changed?

The Government accepted the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendation on reducing the salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600 (with lower thresholds for job shortages and PhD roles). Nonetheless, jobs will still need to be paid at the current market rate, which in many cases will be more than this figure.  

The skills threshold will be reduced from RQF6 to RQF3, which means that the pool of job roles that are eligible for sponsorship will widen. The cap on the number of people who can come to the UK on a work visa will be abolished and, additionally, employers will no longer need to advertise a vacancy.

Government Fees

Employers will be required to pay a Skills Surcharge of up to £5000 while each migrant must pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £400 per year, which is on top of a visa processing fee. For example, a family of four applying for a five year visa will incur Government fees in excess of £19,000.

Do all workers need to have a Sponsor?

The Global Talent visa will continue, and will apply to both EU and non-EU citizens. Those whose talent is recognised to be exceptional will be able to enter the UK without a job offer as long as they are endorsed by a relevant and competent body.

The Government plans to create a broader unsponsored route within the points-based system, to run alongside the employer-led system. Example characteristics for which points could be awarded include academic qualifications, age and relevant work experience. 

It’s not known when this will be introduced.

Self-employed people and those intending to open a business will have to qualify under the existing Start-up or Innovator route.

Lower Skilled Jobs 

Other than expanding the pilot scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture to 10,000 places, there will not be any further changes. There will be no immigration route for lower-skilled workers, which is any job below RQF Level 3. The Government’s position is that UK businesses must move away from a reliance on workers from the EU and not be an alternative to investment in staff training, productivity, and wider investment in technology and automation.

Studies

EU nationals will be required to get a Tier 4 Student Visa. Students must be sponsored by their educational institution, be able to speak English and show that they can support themselves during their studies in the UK. At the moment there are no plans to change it.

Visiting the UK

EU citizens and non-visa nationals will be able to come to the UK as visitors for six months without obtaining a visa. Those with biometric passports will be able to use e-gates, at least for the time being. Visa nationals will continue to apply for visitor visas from their home country.

EU citizens arriving before 31 December 2020

EU nationals already living in the UK and those who will enter by 31 December 2020 will be able to remain here. They must, however, register with the EU Settlement Scheme. Until 30 June 2021 employers, landlords and public service providers will continue to accept passports and national identity cards of EU citizens as evidence of permission to work. After 30 June 2021 they must have registered for EUSS.

Should we act now?

Key routes will be opened from Autumn 2020, allowing employers and migrants to apply ahead of the system taking effect in January 2021. Employers not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider applying now if they think they will want to sponsor migrants, including those from EU countries, from 2021. It is expected that many companies will require sponsor licences so there is likely to be a delay with applications towards the end of this year.

Employers should also ensure that their EU staff have registered with the Settlement Scheme. 

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