Home Office publish policy statement on new post-Brexit points-based immigration system

On 19 February 2020, the Home Office published its policy paper: “The UK’s points-based immigration system: policy statement”, giving UK employers a feel for what the new points-based system will likely look like when it takes effect, and what this means in terms of sponsored work.

When will it be operational?

As long as there is no delay, and legislation is successfully passed into law, the Home Office intend to open applications for key routes from Autumn of this year, with January 2021 being when the new proposed immigration system is supposed to become fully operational. It has not yet been announced which key routes will be open for applications in Autumn.

How will this affect the recruitment of EU citizens?

A key change is that from 1 January 2021, EU free movement rules will end and most new EU citizens coming to the UK for work will need to be sponsored by a UK employer (just like non-EU citizens currently need to be), if they are not eligible for another suitable visa. EU citizens who have been resident in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020 will still be able to make applications under the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline of 30 June 2021 and therefore do not need to be sponsored.

It is worth noting that Irish citizens have separate rights to live and work in the UK under the “Common Travel Area” arrangements which pre-date the UK’s membership to the EU, and EU free movement rights. Irish citizens therefore do not need to be sponsored to work in the UK under the new rules unless the “Common Travel Area” arrangements change.

What’s the difference between the current and new points-based system?

The table below sets out the key similarities and differences. Under both systems, sponsored migrants must score 70 points. However, the current system was designed in such a way, that an applicant could only score 70 the points by meeting all the requirements – there is currently no room for flexibility. Under the new system, there is some room for manoeuvre meaning that as long as the mandatory requirements are met, points can be scored elsewhere to make up 70 points. 

“For instance, under the new system, a university researcher in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subject wishing to come to the UK on a salary of £22,000, (which is below the general minimum salary threshold), may still be able to enter the UK if they have a relevant PhD in a STEM subject. Likewise, a nurse wishing to come to the UK on a salary of £22,000 would still be able to enter the UK on the basis that the individual would be working in a shortage occupation, provided it continues to be designated in shortage by the MAC.”

The new system also proposes to remove the resident labour market test, which currently requires advertising the vacancy in most cases. In addition, the current cap of 20,700 will be suspended under the new system.

Current points-based systemProposed new points-based system
Job offer from approved sponsor30 points20 points (mandatory)
Minimum skill levelRQF level 6 (equivalent to bachelor degree) or above in most cases20 points (mandatory) – RQF level 3 (equivalent to “A-level”) or above
Minimum English language requirement10 points10 points (mandatory)
Maintenance10 pointsN/A – may still be a requirement which needs to be met
Minimum salary20 points – £20,800 for new entrant/ £30,000 for experienced0 points – £20,480 (absolute minimum) to £23,039

10 points – £23,040 – £25,599

20 points –  £25,600 or above (the general salary threshold)
Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC)N/A20 points
Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the jobN/A10 points
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the jobN/A20 points


Conclusion

As the new points-based system is still in its proposal format and full details have not yet been confirmed, UK employers should be careful not to panic. However, UK businesses may wish to begin planning ahead.

For instance, UK employers could still hire new EU citizens under the current EU free movement system before the end of this year, and not be constrained under the new system as long as the EU citizen has a form of status under the EU Settlement Scheme. This will be especially helpful for businesses in the short-term who are reliant on what the government call “lower-skilled workers”.

In addition, UK businesses will need to consider whether they need to apply for a sponsor licence to be able to continue hiring new EU citizens once EU free movement rules end. If a sponsor licence is likely to be required, applying for one sooner rather than later can potentially mean avoiding a sudden surge of sponsor licence applications towards the end of this year, and should mean that UK employers will be ready and in a position to sponsor new EU citizens for suitably skilled jobs from “Day 1” of the new system being in force. There is a cost factor to consider for applying for and maintaining a sponsor licence, so early budgeting can help, as well as ensuring that internal work place systems are compliant with onerous sponsor obligations.

We expect further details to be released in due course on the proposed points-based system and on specific visa routes. We can assist with all matters of business and personal immigration including assisting with right to work checks/ procedures; application for and maintenance of a Tier 2 sponsor licence; and visa applications for individuals across the UK immigration system. If you have any questions and/or would like to subscribe to the immigration newsletter, please do not hesitate to contact Vincent Chung: vincent.chung@dixcartlegal.com.

The data contained within this document is for general information only. No responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are also advised that the law and practice may change from time to time. This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute accounting, legal or tax advice. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.