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New Immigration System Post-Brexit

The government has released ‘further details’ on the UK’s future immigration system. The new system is focused on skilled workers, and applicable to both EU and non-EU migrants alike from 1 January 2021.

A reduction in the minimum salary and skills thresholds and the removal of the resident labour market test will make it easier for organisations to sponsor skilled workers. However, the cost and administrative burden of employing EU national workers will significantly increase.

Sponsorship of Skilled Migrant Workers

Organisations wishing to recruit skilled EU and non-EU national workers in the UK from 1 January 2021 will need a sponsorship licence from UK Visas and Immigration to do so.

Skill Level

Sponsored workers will need a job offer in a role that is skilled to at least Regulations Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 3 (the equivalent of A-Level). This is a reduction from the current requirement of RQF level 6 (degree level).

Salary Threshold

The minimum salary threshold has been reduced from £30,000 to £25,600. Applicants with a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the role or roles on the Shortage Occupation List can receive a slightly reduced salary. There will also be a reduced salary for new entrants to the labour market.

Resident Labour Market Test and cap on skilled workers

The government will suspend the cap on the number of people who can enter the UK each year under the skilled worker route.

The Resident Labour Market Test is to be scrapped. However, employers must still be seeking to fill a ‘genuine vacancy’, which meets the skill and salary thresholds. Roles cannot be created solely to facilitate immigration of a specific migrant to the UK. PAYE records will be ‘regularly reviewed’ to ensure migrant workers are being paid the correct salary.

Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)

The ICT category will remain, but in a significant change of policy, migrants will be able to switch to the Skilled Worker route without restriction. The cooling off period will also be amended to prevent an ICT migrant holding leave for more than 5 years in any 6 year period. 

Immigration Skills Charge and Immigration Healthcare Surcharge

The Home Office will continue to levy the Immigration Skills Charge of up to £1,000 per year of visa.

The Immigration Health Surcharge will increase on 1 October 2020 to £624 per year of visa from the current level of £400 per year of visa. There are some exemptions for those working in healthcare.

From 1 January 2021, both Charges will apply to EU workers, significantly increasing the cost of recruiting EU workers.

Lower-Skilled workers

There will be no visa route for lower-skilled workers. This will be of concern to employers who are already struggling to recruit and retain staff in lower skilled roles.

Global Talent

The current Global Talent route (formerly Tier 1 Exceptional Talent) will be available to EU national employees from 1 January 2021. This is aimed at attracting those who are endorsed as global leaders and the leaders of tomorrow in science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology. Among others, this will allow endorsed highly skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer. 

Highly Skilled Workers

The government still intends to introduce an unsponsored highly skilled work visa to allow a limited number of the mostly highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer. The Government are exploring proposals and this route will not be open from January 2021.

International Students and Graduates

Student visas routes will be available to EU and non-EU nationals who have been offered a place to study. They must have sufficient English language skills and enough money to support themselves and pay for their course.

A new graduate immigration route will be available to international students who have completed their degree in the UK from summer 2021. Students will be able to work or find employment in the UK at any skill level for up to 2 years, similar to the old ‘Post Study Work’ route.

Visiting the UK

EU, EEA and Swiss Citizens and other non-visa nations will continue to enter the UK for a maximum period of 6 months without a visa. They will need to enter the UK using their passport rather than their ID card. 

 What should employers be doing? 

  • Existing Employees: EU citizens and qualifying family members resident before 31 December 2020 should register under the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible.
  • New Hires: Consider bringing forward the UK start date of EU national new hires or secondments to before 1 January 2021 so that they can apply under the EU Settlement Scheme and avoid the costs of the new system.
  • Apply for a Sponsor Licence: Organisations that do not currently hold a Tier 2 sponsorship licence should apply for a licence as soon as possible.

How we can help? 

  • Sponsor licence applications to ensure organisations can make use of the new system
  • Immigration compliance mock audits
  • Assistance with registration under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Assistance with planning for and training people on the UK’s new immigration system

It is a time of uncertainty and change and as we look towards the introduction of the new system, the immigration team at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP will help you to adapt to these changes and plan for the future. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact Rose Carey, Kelvin Tanner, Paul McCarthy or your usual Charles Russell Speechlys contact.

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