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From 1st January 2021, free movement for EU nationals will end and a new points-based immigration system will come in. The main change of the new system is that it will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and significantly change the way in which migrants come to the UK to work and employers will need to adapt if they hire migrant workers.
Under a points-based immigration system, points are assigned for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and shortage occupations. Visas are then awarded to those who gain enough points. The points-based system will provide for skilled workers from around the world to come to the UK through an employer-led system.
EU citizens already living in the UK
The new system will not apply to EU citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020. They are eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and have until 30 June 2021 to make an application. The government has stated that as a transition measure, employers can continue to accept the passports and national identity cards of EU citizens as evidence of their right to work up until 30 June 2021.
From 1 January 2021, anyone coming to the UK to work will need a visa and to show that:
- they have a job offer from a Home Office approved sponsor
- the job offer is at the required skill level – RQF 3 or above (A Level and equivalent) which is much lower than the RQF 6 (graduate)level currently required
- they fulfil the English language requirement
In addition to this:
- if they earn more than the required minimum salary threshold of £25,600 and the 'going rate' for their occupation they will be eligible to make an application
- if they earn less than the required minimum salary threshold, but no less than £20,480, they may still be eligible if they can show that they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation or a PhD relevant to the job.
A new feature of the system is that some applicants will be able to trade characteristics, such as their qualifications against a lower salary. The general minimum salary threshold will be £25,600.
Identifying whether a job meets the required skill level
All jobs are given a Standard Occupational Classification code and skill levels for the SOC codes are stated in the Immigration Rules which are updated from time to time following advice from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). Employers will need to identify the appropriate code for their sponsored workers role.
Highly skilled workers
From January 2021, the existing Global Talent route will open to EU citizens on the same basis as non-EU citizens. under this route only the most highly skilled, who can achieve the required level of points, will be able to enter the UK without a job offer if they are endorsed by a relevant competent body. For the future the government has stated that an unsponsored route for highly skilled workers will also be introduced. This would allow a small number of the most highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer.
Controversially, there will not be an immigration route specifically for those who do not meet the skills or salary threshold for the skilled worker route.
Employers can also benefit from the Tier 5 (youth mobility scheme). The UK has arrangements in place with eight countries and territories to enable around 20,000 young people to come to the UK each year.
A new and much welcomed Graduate Immigration Route will be available to international students who have successfully completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. This will enable these international students to remain in the UK and work at any skill level for two years after they have completed their degrees.
Applying to be a licenced sponsor
Employers that are not currently approved by the UK Visas & Immigration Office to be a licenced sponsors should seriously consider applying now if they believe they will need to sponsor new skilled migrants from both outside and inside from the EU, from 2021. The process is lengthy and can take some time and financial consideration before applying.
For more information on becoming a licenced sponsor and how we can assist with your application please contact Shamaila Khan, Business Immigration Solicitor firstname.lastname@example.org or call Harold Benjamin solicitors on 020 8422 5678