The new UK immigration system (from 1 December 2020)

Immigration

The most recent Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules was published at the end of October and spans to 514 pages. The changes will come into effect in 3 stages:

  • From 9am on 1 December 2020, many of the visa categories under the current points-based system (PBS) will be replaced, including the current Tier 2 (General) route being replaced by the Skilled Worker route
  • From 11pm on 31 December 2020, the Brexit Transition Period and EU free movement rules will end. At the same time, EEA nationals without an existing legal right to be in the UK (e.g. under the EU Settlement Scheme) will, for the first time in decades, be treated the same as non-EEA nationals for immigration purposes and require to apply for an appropriate visa to come to the UK to live and work

To help you navigate through this article, you may wish to click through to the following sections:

Out with the OLD: In with the NEW

For the last few years, the Home Office have wanted to move away from the current points-based system (PBS) and had actually started to do so from March 2019. From 1 December 2020, the current PBS will no longer exist, except for the Tier 1 (Investor) visa category.

The changes since 2019 are included in the below table showing some of the new/ replacement visa categories and when they became/ will become effective from.

Previous/ Current visa categoryReplacement/ New visa categoryEffective fromPurpose
Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)/ Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)Start-up/ Innovator29 March 2019For entrepreneurs to set-up and run their own business in the UK
Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)Global Talent20 February 2020For recognised (potential) leaders in certain sectors to live/ study/ work/ run their own business in the UK
Tier 2 (General)Skilled Worker9am on 1 December 2020For sponsored migrants to live and work in the UK
Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer)Intra-Company Transfer9am on 1 December 2020For employees working in a linked overseas entity to be transferred to work for the linked UK entity
Tier 4 (General)Student5 October 2020For people aged 16 and over to study in the UK
Tier 4 (Child)Child5 October 2020For people aged between 4 and 17 to study in the UK
Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme)Youth Mobility Scheme9am on 1 December 2020For certain foreign migrants to come to the UK on a working-holiday basis

What are the changes from 1 December 2020: sponsored workers?

From 9am on 1 December 2020, the current Tier 2 routes will no longer exist. They will be replaced by various work categories including the new Skilled Worker and Intra-Company Transfer routes.

UK employers will be able to offer sponsorship to migrants under the new corresponding route. If you have a valid sponsor licence, there is no need to take action to change your licence. Similarly, Tier 2 migrants will be able to continue living and working in the UK on their current immigration permissions.

If you are a UK employer who regularly recruits EEA nationals, and don’t have a sponsor licence, you may wish to read our previous article: Are UK employers ready for the new immigration sponsor system? We recommend that you apply for a sponsor licence sooner rather later, especially as EEA nationals without an existing legal right will need an appropriate visa to work in the UK from 1 January 2021.

UK employers and sponsors ought to review the new accompanying guidance sooner rather than later. We set out some of the differences between the current and new sponsored work visa routes in the following two tables.

Current Tier 2 (General) categoryNew Skilled Worker category
All the requirements must be met, to be able to score the minimum number of pointsThere are mandatory requirements which must be met to score 50 points; and the remaining 20 points can be scored based on the salary
Minimum salary threshold in many cases is £30,000Minimum salary threshold in many cases is £25,600 – lower thresholds can apply
Minimum skill level for the job is RQF Level 6 (equivalent to Bachelor degree) or aboveMinimum skill level for the job is RQF Level 3 (equivalent to A-level) or above
In most cases, it is necessary to carry out a resident labour market test (RLMT)No need to carry out a RLMT
Migrants are only allowed on this route for a maximum of 6 yearsThere is no 6-year limit

The new Skilled Worker category will also leave behind the current Tier 2 (General) requirements, including:

  • The 12-month cooling-off period for migrants
  • The annual quota of 20,700
  • The minimum salary threshold for indefinite leave to remain
Current Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) categoryNew Intra-Company Transfer category
Cannot apply to “switch” into the Tier 2 (General) category from within the UKCan apply to “switch” into the Skilled Worker category without leaving the UK
The cooling-off period means an individual has to be absent from the UK for 12-months, before they can apply for another Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer)The cooling-off period means an individual cannot be in the UK under the Intra-Company Transfer route for more than 5 years out of 6 years

Investors

The Tier 1 (Investor) route is essentially the only current PBS category that remains unchanged. HNWIs can therefore continue to apply for this visa if you have a minimum of £2 million to invest in qualifying UK investments. Individuals with this visa can come to the UK to live/ study/ work/ run your own business in the UK

Entrepreneurs

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route also continues to exist under the PBS but only to allow current migrants to “complete” their route. In most cases, current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants will only be able to continue to submit applications until 5 April 2023 for extensions, and 5 April 2025 for indefinite leave to remain.

Sole Rep/ UK Ancestry/ Visitors

All the other visa categories survive the new immigration system, with many of them appearing in their own, new sections within the Immigration Rules. The changes also allow most migrants already in the UK with a valid visa/ immigration permission to apply to “switch” into another visa category, including into: the Representative of an Overseas Business (Sole Rep) route and UK Ancestry route.

The Sole Rep route allows a senior employee of an overseas company to be sent to the UK to establish its first UK entity. The Sole Rep migrant will only be allowed to work as a representative of the overseas business.

The UK Ancestry visa allows Commonwealth citizens with at least one grandparent born in the UK to come to the UK to live/ study/ work/ run your own business in the UK.

The rules applying to Visitors remain broadly the same such as being able to undertake certain business activities. However, from 1 December 2020, it will also be possible to come to the UK to volunteer and study for up to 6 months, as your main reason for visiting.

What are the changes from 31 December 2020?

At the end of the Transition Period, the UK will no longer be obliged to give Turkish nationals preferential treatment under the Ankara Agreement. New rules, which largely replicate the current provisions for Turkish nationals already in the UK will take effect on this date.

In addition, with EU free movement rules ending, Irish citizens will be able to enter the UK (from anywhere in the world) and be able to live and work without restrictions.

EEA nationals with status under the EU Settlement Scheme who started a relationship with someone after this date may be eligible to sponsor their loved ones to join them in the UK.

Other items to note

Besides highlighting some of the main changes to the new UK immigration system, other changes and information you might want to take a note of include:

  • The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 will officially bring an end to EU free movement rules at 11pm on 31 December 2020
  • The Citizens’ Right (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 enters into force at 11pm on 31 December 2020. This provides a “grace period” to EEA nationals living in the UK immediately before this date under EU free movement rules. In most cases, these individuals have until 30 June 2021 to submit an application under the EU Settlement Scheme. As such UK employers cannot insist on seeing proof of their status under the EU Settlement Scheme until after 30 June 2021
  • If the Hong Kong Bill becomes law, in its current draft, would mean that a British National (Overseas) would have a right of abode, allowing them to live/ study/ work/ run your own business in the UK, without any immigration restrictions. All British citizens automatically have a right of abode, and some Commonwealth citizens also have this status. This Bill is currently in its infancy of the legislation process

First published: 01 December 2020

Further information

If you have any questions and/or would like tailored advice on any UK immigration matter, please speak to Vincent Chung at: hello@dixcartuk.com or to your usual Dixcart contact.

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.