The UK's New Post-Brexit Immigration System: New Immigration Rules for Skilled Workers
At 11pm on 31 December freedom of movement between the UK and the EU ends and a new Points Based Immigration System will apply to EU citizens and non-EU citizens alike. EU nationals residing in the UK by 31 December, plus certain qualifying family members, will still be able to apply under the existing EU Settlement Scheme until 30 June 2021.
Following the July 2020 policy statement, the Home Office has published its Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. The new Rules are set out in a more ‘simplified and accessible’ manner, in line with the Law Commission’s recommendations.
For those seeking to come to the UK for work, the new Rules are broadly consistent with the previous policy statements.
The existing Tier 2 categories closed on 1 December 2020. The Tier 2 (General) category for skilled workers with a job offer in the UK has transitioned into the ‘Skilled Worker’ route and the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) categories for existing employees of linked overseas entities are now known simply as the ‘Intra-Company routes’.
The requirement for employers to hold a sponsorship licence, with its associated compliance duties remains an integral part of the new system.
EU nationals will become eligible for the new routes from 1 January 2021, once freedom of movement ends.
Skilled Worker Route
- The annual cap on skilled workers entering the UK has been suspended. This means that, for the time being, there will be no longer be a limit on the number of migrant workers who can come to the UK under this category each year. This may be subject to review by the government at a later date
- The skills threshold for roles eligible for sponsorship has been reduced from RQF 6 (degree level or equivalent) to RQF 3 (A Level or equivalent). In practice, this opens up a large number of new roles that will now qualify for sponsorship from December
- The Resident Labour Market Test has been abolished, but Sponsors still need to demonstrate a genuine need for the role in question and that the migrant they wish to sponsor has the necessary skills, qualifications and experience
- The overall minimum salary threshold has been reduced, although the role will still need to meet the ‘going rate’ for the relevant job, if higher
- There is scope to earn extra ‘tradable’ points for those earning below the minimum threshold/going rate for their role, where an applicant is offered a job in a specific shortage occupation, they hold a PHD relevant to their role, or they are deemed to be a ‘new entrant’
- The cooling off period no longer applies and it will be easier to switch into this route from within the UK
- ‘Defined’ CoS replace ‘Restricted’ CoS for Entry Clearance applications – but the process is quicker with requests typically being processed daily rather than monthly as before
- The Intra-Company sub-categories remain largely the same with routes for Intra-Company Transfers and Intra-Company Graduate Trainees. Existing ICT visa holders will be able to switch into the Skilled Worker route from within the UK, providing a route to settlement (also known as ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain/ILR’)
- The cooling off period has been relaxed to allow a migrant to hold Intra-Company Transfer status for up to five years in any six year period. There is now a single high earner threshold of £73,900 that provides an exemption from the requirement for 12 months previous overseas employment and which allows a migrant to hold Intra-Company Transfer status for up to nine years in any ten year period
Existing Sponsors and Tier 2 Migrants
Existing Tier 2 sponsors will not have to apply for a new licence and have instead had their sponsor licences automatically transferred over to the new system and allocated an appropriate level of new CoS. Existing Tier 2 visa holders are not required to take any action, although they will need to meet the requirements of the new routes at extension and permanent residency stage.
Employers without a sponsor licence who may need to sponsor EU and non-EU workers from January 2021 should apply now.