From January 1 2021, the UK will have a new immigration system and EU freedom of movement rules will end. This will be a substantial change for UK based employers, looking for skilled talent overseas, especially as the system applies to EU citizens, and getting their heads round a brand new method of doing this will take time.
The Points-based System will rewrite all the existing immigration routes into the UK for potential applicants to meet. Current routes - Tier 1, Tier 2, Students, New Entrants and a bespoke Visa group, have all been essentially whittled down, and replaced with points-based criteria.
In some ways, the immigration system has been liberalised. Gone is the Resident Labour Market Test and gone is the immigration cap. This means as many more skilled workers can live and work in the UK.
Previously high thresholds have been slashed and minimum education level is now A-Level instead of degree and notably, the minimum salary threshold has been lowered from £30,000 to £25,600.
So what are the points?
Most of us are familiar with Tier 2 - now called the Skilled Workers route - where applicants usually had to have education up to degree level or equivalent, and had a confirmed job offer. In the future, applicants will have to score a total of 70 points in order to work in the UK. Basic requirements include English proficiency (10 points), a confirmed job offer from a sponsored employer (20 points), and an offer at the appropriate skill level, A-level or equivalent (20 points).
To make up the remaining 20 points to reach the 70 points required, applicants will have to be offered salaries at £25,600 or more, or something called the going rate, a complicated calculation but basically meaning a higher salary threshold for higher paying jobs.
If the job offered does not meet the salary threshold, then applicants can make up points if the job is on a shortage list and this way, an applicant can gain the 20 points needed and pass. There are some other options to gain the extra 20 points – such as PhD in a STEM subject, but few will find they meet this hurdle.
For new entrants, e.g. younger workers, the same requirements apply except the minimum salary threshold for this route is the base rate of £20,480.
Tier 1 has been rebranded as 'Exceptional Talent', with a cap on numbers of applicants but no job offer is required. This route is intended for entrepreneurs and similar ilk.
The final route that will be of interest to employers is the bespoke visa group. Applicants wishing to work in the NHS, are a STEM graduate, entrepreneur or work in tech, a fast-track method is available instead.
So, a few changes to what we know now but a lot of red tape has been removed. But note there is no 'unskilled' or 'low-skilled' route.
Now is the time for all UK employers to act - they need to A) Obtain a sponsorship licence and B) gently encourage their EU workforce to apply for settlement in the UK (the scheme does not end until June 2021 so there is plenty of time).
If UK employers familiarise themselves with the points and obtain a sponsorship licence now, then they’ll be able to access that crucial overseas talent and fill the yawning UK skills gap in 2021.