Author: Dan Bloom and Sarah Hodgson Audience Editor
A new UK immigration system will be introduced next year as the transition period for Brexit ends.
Major changes will see the end of free movement for EU citizens who want to come and live and work in the UK from January 1, 2021.
Instead, there will be a new points-based system where anyone who wants to reside or work here will need 70 points to qualify for a visa.
Points will be awarded for key requirements like being able to speak English to a certain level, having a job offer from an approved employer, and meeting a minimum salary threshold, reports The Mirror.
The new immigration regime is designed to cut the number of low-skilled migrants entering Britain, while making it easier for higher-skilled workers to get visas. There will be no limit on numbers, according to the government.
The new system is incredibly complicated, so if you don’t want to read a 130-page government document, here’s a very basic guide to how it will work.
How will the system work?
From 1 January 2021, EU migrants can no longer to freely travel to the UK for work.
Instead, all workers, EU or not, will need to gain 70 points under a system designed to assess their skills and salary.
The job they’re coming to must be sponsored by a Home Office-approved employer, and pay more than £20,480 (often higher).
Separately, there are routes for students, recent graduates, dependant family members and other young people to be in the UK without a job offer.
But by and large you’ll need a job offer fulfilling several requirements if you want to come to the UK.
What is the points system?
Under the new rules, “skilled” workers can only get a UK work visa if they earn 70 points.
Before migrants earn any points, their job must pay a minimum of £20,480 a year.
For a start, to get 50 points, they must fulfil all of the following – which are non-negotiable. They must:
- Have a job offer from a licensed sponsor (20)
- Speak English to an acceptable standard (10)
- Ensure their job offer is at skill level RQF3 (A-level equivalent) or higher (20)
They must then also earn 20 extra “tradeable” points – such as by having a higher salary, working in a shortage job, or having a PhD.
People can get these top-up points by:
- Earning at least £25,600 or the “going rate” for the profession, whichever is higher (20)
- Having a job offer in a “shortage occupation” (20)
- Being a “new entrant” to the labour market (20)
- Having a PhD in a relevant STEM subject (20)
- Having a PhD in a relevant non-STEM subject (10)
How does the salary threshold work?
There is no route for so-called “unskilled” work.
Anyone applying for a “skilled work” visa in the UK must earn a bare minimum of £20,480.
However, many applicants will find they need to earn a higher salary than that, in order to get the 20 extra “tradeable” points they need.
The extra points are assigned to either set thresholds or the “going rate” for the job – whichever is higher.
- 10 points for earning at least £23,040 or 90% of the going rate for the job, whichever is higher.
- 20 points for earning at least £25,600 or 100% of the going rate for the job, whichever is higher.
The “going rate” varies massively – it’s £67,300 for chief executives but only £21,800 for hotel managers.
The £20,480 salary floor is absolute and applies regardless of whether someone is working part- or full-time. You must earn at least that each year, no matter what.
But the “going rate” can be handled pro-rata for people who work time – as long as the cash amount salary threshold (£25,600, £23,040 or £20,480) is met.
What will the fees be?
Skilled workers will pay a £610 application fee – or £1,220 for stays of more than three years – if applying for a visa from outside the UK.
This falls to £464 or £928 for stays over three years for shortage occupations.
They must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge to use the NHS, which is rising to £624 per year.
Meanwhile, employers must also pay an “immigration skills charge” of £1,000 per worker per year.
Discounted rates of £364 per year will apply as they do now to charities and Small and Medium Enterprises.
What about NHS workers?
There will be a Health and Care Visa to give fast-track entry, dedicated support and a discount on the £610 standard visa application fee.
Visa holders and their immediate family members will be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Those who apply must still meet the basic requirements other skilled workers do.
However, they will be exempt from needing to meet the bonus “tradeable” requirements.
Instead, someone on a Health and Care Visa can get their 20 extra points even if their job only pays £20,480, as long as they’re on the list of health occupations.
Full list of professions that will qualify for the ‘Health and Care Visa’
- Biological scientists and biochemists
- Physical Scientists
- Medical Practitioners
- Ophthalmic Opticians
- Dental practitioners
- Medical Radiographers
- Health Professionals not elsewhere classified
- Occupational Therapists
- Speech and Language Therapists
- Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified
- Social Workers
What about social care workers?
Under the “reckless” plans, there will be no dedicated route for any junior-level care home staff to come to the UK for work from January.
They will also not be allowed to apply under the dedicated ‘Health and Care Visa’.
Instead, junior-level care home staff will only be allowed to come to the UK if they happen to arrive another way, other than the “skilled” route.
This could include coming to Britain as a student, under a Youth Mobility Scheme, or as a dependent family member of someone already here.
It is understood the majority of social care workers won’t pass the basic test for a skilled worker because their skill level is RQF1, not RQF3. Many also earn less than the absolute minimum of £20,480.
Care “managers” are listed in a blueprint of skilled jobs, but government sources confirmed junior care workers mostly won’t qualify under that route.
What about holidays to Britain?
Holidaymakers, students and business visitors can, in most cases, come to the UK for up to six months.
A visitor may enter the UK multiple times during that period, but they may not in effect live in the UK by means of repeat or continuous visits.
They may not work or access public funds.
What about family members?
There is no “unskilled” route, but students and dependant family members will be able to come to the UK.
Spouses, partners and children under 18 will count as dependants, as can other family members in some cases.
They can then go on to work in the UK in many cases without meeting the salary test.
What about students?
Students must also get 70 points but in a different way. They get 50 points for all of the following put together:
- Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies requirement
- Course requirement
- Approved Qualification requirement
- Level of Study requirement
- Place of Study requirement
For 10 points each they must then also meet:
- Financial requirement
- English language requirement
A Graduate Route will be launched in summer 2021 allowing students to stay for two years after the end of their degree, to look for work.
This will be three years for PhD graduates.
What about highly-skilled workers?
This would allow a small number of the most highly-skilled workers, who can gain the required level of points, to enter the UK without a job offer if they are endorsed by a “relevant and competent body”.
This will include science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals.
Points will be awarded for factors such as academic qualifications, age and relevant work experience and the route would be capped.
What about criminals?
Foreign criminals sentenced to more than a year in jail can be barred from entering Britain.
The change would mean criminals from the European Union are treated the same as currently happens to those from non-EU countries.
Anyone sentenced to more than a year’s jail in the UK would be lined up for deportation.
Those seeking to come to the UK can also be refused entry if they have:
- Committed an offence which caused serious harm
- Are a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law
- Their character, conduct or associations means their presence is not conducive to the public good.
Will overall numbers of migrants come down?
We don’t know. The Tories have scrapped their long-failed target to bring net migration down to “tens of thousands” each year. There’s no cap on numbers.
Figures for the year to March showed the scale of the challenge facing ministers, who pledged to bring down net migration.
Some 404,000 from outside the EU arrived – the highest since records began in 1975 when it was 93,000.
Non-EU net migration – the difference between the numbers of people entering and leaving the country – also reached a new high at 282,000.
EU net migration dropped to 49,000, down from 75,000 a year earlier and after hitting peaks of more than 200,000 in 2015.
Overall net migration stood at 270,000, up from 232,000 for the same period in 2018.