The Home Office have published a policy statement today which sets out plans for a dramatic overhaul of the UK’s immigration system. Businesses who employ EU and non-EU staff will need to be aware of the proposals which will be passed through a new Immigration Act.
From 1 January 2021, EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally. Free movement for EU nationals will come to an end and will be replaced with the UK’s Points-Based System. Non-EU nationals by contrast will benefit from increased flexibility in how they can qualify for a work visa going forward.
One of the key announcements that has been made is that the UK government will not be introducing a new route for lower-skilled workers. The plans instead focus on allowing employers to bring skilled workers to the UK, although the government has indicated an intention to allow workers to come at lower skill levels than is currently permitted for non-EU nationals.
EU citizens will be able to enter the UK as visitors for up to 6 months but if they wish to live, work or study in the UK, they will need to apply for a visa and will be subject to the same requirements as non-EU citizens.
So, what will the new Points-Based System look like?
The new Points-Based System has been designed to attract to the UK “the brightest and the best” from around the world. Top priority will be given to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents including scientist, engineers, academics and other skilled workers.
Those offered jobs in January 2021 will need to score 70 points to be able to work in the UK with points being awarded as follows:
- *Job offer by approved sponsor – 20 points
- *Job at appropriate skill level – 20 points
- *English language at required level – 10
- Salary – up to 20 points
- Job in shortage occupation – 20 points
- PhD in subject relevant to job – 10 points
- PhD in a STEM subject relevant to job – 20 points
*These requirements are mandatory and must be met by ALL applicants
There are some significant advantages to the new Points-Based System over the existing system which include the following:
1. The salary threshold for skilled workers wanting to come to the UK will be reduced from £30,000 to £25,600
2. The skill threshold will be reduced from jobs needing to be at degree level to jobs at the level of A-levels instead
3. The cap on the number of skilled workers that can come to the UK will be suspended
4. The resident labour market test will be removed
Not much good news for business who rely on lower-skilled workers
The Government has confirmed that no route will be introduced for lower-skilled workers and that the UK businesses need to “adapt and adjust” and move away from “reliance on cheap labour from Europe”. There is a glimmer of hope for the agricultural sector as the pilot scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture will increase from 2,400 to 10,000. The government notes that UK businesses will be able to continue to rely upon EU nationals already in the UK, and that a large number of migrants already come to the UK each year from outside of the EU who end up in lower skilled work (such as dependents of migrant workers).
How can we assist your business so that you can continue to employ EU citizens after 1 January 2021?
Director Sally McEwen said:
"These changes to the rules make it very clear that businesses who employ international staff need to take urgent steps to consider how they will continue to do this after the end of this year. The sooner they start this process, the more time they will have to support their staff and HR teams. We urge businesses to act on this as a priority."