February 29th, 2020 | Sterling

Beyond Brexit: The UK’s plans for a new immigration system

The UK government has released plans for a new immigration system, to take effect from 1st January 2021, when freedom of movement between the EU and the UK comes to an end. While we won’t see the details of the system just yet, with the help of immigration experts Fragomen LLP below, we explore how the new system will work and provide insights on how employers can prepare for the changes to come.

Whilst there are no practical changes until the 1st January 2021, as an employer, you’ll no doubt want to understand the impacts and put potential contingency plans in place, adjust any number of mobility or HR policies and adapt to a new system. Our recent webinar guests, Fragomen LLP, have created a simple and insightful overview of all that matters when it comes to these changes – their  insights form the foundation of the following summary.

The Next UK Immigration System

The new immigration system will be introduced in 2021 and we can expect:

  • EU and non-EU nationals will be treated equally. For skilled EU workers this means slower recruitment, substantial government fees and minimum salary requirements.
  • A faster and simpler system for non-EU workers, with lower salary requirements.
  • No visa category for low skilled workers, other than agriculture.
  • UK nationals will require work permission in Europe, except in Ireland. We can expect between one and six months, sometimes longer in specific circumstances, to land them.
  • Irish nationals will be excluded from the new immigration system and still able to work in the UK without immigration permission.

The Government has provided its initial policy guidance and we know that there will be two main points-based systems:

  • A skilled work visa for people with a job offer
  • The government will explore a highly skilled work visa for people without a job offer and could allow self-employment, albeit the category will not take effect on 1st January 2021.

As an employer planning to sponsor skilled migrants from 2021, government guidance suggests that if you’re not currently an approved sponsor, you may want to consider getting approval now.

It’s also important to note that for employers relying on low skilled workers, there is not currently an immigration category for this.  The government paper states that ‘employers will need to adjust’ and ‘move away from a reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, productivity and wider investment in technology and automation’. This scraps the last government plans to allow a one-year visa which allows low skilled workers to enter the country.  EU nationals will also not benefit from the existing youth mobility scheme programme which is available to certain nationalities.

For those workers with a job offer, the system will be based on a 70 points requirement to qualify for permission to work, with some of the characteristics mandatory and therefore not tradeable. These non-tradeable characteristic include, an offer of job by an approved sponsor (20 points), a job at an appropriate skilled level (20 points), and the ability to speak English at the required level (10 points) – a score of 50 must be scored in this first test. Whereas within the second test, the following tradeable characteristics must score the remaining 20 points:

  • Salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039 (0 points)
  • Salary of £23,040 – £25,599 (10 points)
  • Salary of £25,600 or above (20 points)
  • Job in shortage occupation (20 Points)
  • PHD in relevant subject (10 points)
  • PHD in STEM and relevant subject (20 points)

In contrast, for those workers without a job offer, the government is in consultation with stakeholders to develop a highly skilled route, its likely this will be implemented by 1st January 2021.

Whilst there’s a lot to consider, for further guidance and help to manage the Brexit transition, you can access Fragomen LLPs overview here, but in the meantime why not visit our previous blog and fill in any knowledge gaps.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.