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Post-Brexit: the UK's new global Points-Based System

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published on 22 July 2020 | reading time approx. 4 minutes

  

On Monday 13 July, the UK government unveiled more details of the new immigration system which will come into force in January 2021, after the transition period between the UK and the EU ends on 31 December 2020, ending the freedom of movement rule with the European Union.

  

  


The Policy Statement first published in February 2020 set out how the government will fulfil its commitment to the British public to take back control of its borders by ending free movement and introducing a single, global points-based immigration system, treating EU migrants the same as those from the rest of the world. 

Points-Based System

The Points-Based System will cater for the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students and a range of other specialist work routes, and gives weight to different factors such as skills and language abilities when awarding visas to allow people to work in the UK. 

In the February Policy Statement, the government stated that to get a visa, in addition to passing the relevant UK criminality checks: 
  • The applicant must have an offer of a job from a licensed sponsor
  • The job must be at or above the minimum skill level: RQF3 level or equivalent (A level or equivalent qualification). Workers will not need to hold a formal qualification. It is the skill level of the job they will be doing which is important
  • The applicant must speak English to an acceptable standard
Meeting these criteria will get an applicant to 50 points, but they must have 70 points to be eligible for a visa. The most straightforward route to the final 20 points is that the applicant will earn at least 25,600 £. They can also gain extra points for having additional qualifications (10 points for a relevant PhD; or 20 points for a PhD in science, technology, engineering or maths, (a “STEM” subject)) or an offer of a job in which the UK has a shortage (20 points), even if they don't earn the “base” salary.

The government has now said that people coming to do certain jobs in health or education can still get 20 points if their salary is less than 25,600 £ - so long as they are paid a minimum of 20,480 £ and in line with national pay scales.

Here are two examples of how applicants could earn 70 points in the new system:

a university researcher (salary 22,000 £):

​Job offer by approved sponsor
​​20 points
​Job at appropriate skill level
​20 points
​English language skills at required level
​10 points
​Salary of 22.000 £
0 points​
Relevant PhD in a STEM subject
​20 points
​Total of 70 points​

A mechanical engineer (SALARY 26,750 £):

​Job offer by approved sponsor
​​20 points
​Job at appropriate skill level
​20 points
​English language skills at required level
​10 points
​Salary of 26,750 £ (below 33,400 £ ‘going rate’ for profession)
0 points​
Job in a shortage occupation
​20 points
​Total of 70 points​

As in the existing Points-Based System, a sponsorship requirement will apply to the highly skilled and skilled worker route, to the Health and Care Visa and to the student route, as well as to some specialised worker routes. The government’s stance is that sponsorship maintains a relationship between a recognised UK employer or educational institution and a migrant to ensure that those who come on the work and student routes are genuinely intending to work or study.

The government will suspend the current cap on Tier 2 (General) visas (the current route for skilled workers), which will result in there being no limit on the numbers of skilled workers who can come to the UK.
Further, in contrast to the existing system, the “resident labour market test” will be abolished, so there will be no need to prove that a job couldn't have been offered to someone already living in the country.

Health and care visa

The Home Office has given details of a fast-track entry system for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, although this excludes most care workers - see The Social Care Sector below.
Those eligible for this visa will pay reduced fees and will be supported through the application process, with decisions expected to be given within three weeks.

Applicants via this route will still have to meet the relevant skill level and salary thresholds.

International students

There will be no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK to study.
A new graduate visa will be launched in summer 2021 and will allow students who have completed a degree to stay in the UK for 2 years, rising to 3 for those who have done a PhD.

The Social Care sector

The vast majority of vacant positions in the social care sector, however, will not be filled via the new Points-Based System as these workers are not classed as skilled, nor are they eligible for the rebranded NHS and care workers fast track visa. 

The final details for the Points-Based System are due to be confirmed later this year via guidance for applicants, Immigration Rules and secondary legislation.
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