Freedom of movement between the UK and the EU ended on 31 December 11 PM. A new points-based immigration system subsequently came into effect to apply to EU and non-EU citizens alike.
However, EU nationals residing in the UK prior to 31 December along with certain qualifying family members, will be able to apply under the existing EU settlement scheme until 30 June 2021.
The new rules for those seeking to come to the UK for work are broadly consistent with the old set of policy statements.
The ‘Skilled Worker Route’
- The Tier 2 category which is presently valid will close early on 1 December 2020. This general category is for skilled workers with a job offer in the UK. This category will transition into the ‘Skilled Worker Route’.
- Along with this, the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) category will now be simply known as ‘Intra-Company Routes’.
- The requirement for employers to hold a sponsorship licence will however remain an integral part of the new system along with its associated compliance duties.
- It is to be noted that the EU nationals will only be eligible for the new route starting from 1 January 2021, after expiry of the freedom of movement.
- There will be no 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 will be 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 will be abolished, but Sponsors may 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 will be reduced, although the role will still need to meet the ‘going rate’ for the relevant job, if higher
- There will be 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 will no longer apply and it will be easier to switch into this route from within the UK
- Skilled workers will require an offer for a medium or highly skilled role. The opening up of sponsorship to medium-skilled roles is a significant change that has been overlooked in the turbulence of recent months.
- The drop in skill level means that sponsorship is now a viable option for entire sectors of the economy that were not able to take advantage of it previously.
- Affected industries and roles include the following:
- Building and Construction, e.g. plumbers, electricians and bricklayers
- Human Resources
- Hairdressers and beauty salons
- Theatre and dance
- Manufacturing, e.g. process and production technicians
- Graphic design
- Product design
- Clothing design and manufacture
- Agriculture, horticulture and farming
- Forestry and fishing
Existing Sponsors & Tier 2 Migrants
- The sponsors will not have to apply for newer licences. The sponsor license will automatically be transferred to the new system. It will be allocated at an appropriate level of the new CoS
- The existing Tier 2 visa holders are also not required to take any action. They are however required to meet the eligibility criteria of the new route at extension and permanent residency stage.
- The Intra-Company sub-categories will 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 is being relaxed to allow a migrant to hold Intra-Company Transfer status for up to five years in any six year period. There will be a single high earner threshold of £73,900 that will provide an exemption from the requirement for 12 months previous overseas employment and which will allow a migrant to hold Intra-Company Transfer status for up to nine years in any ten year period
The Statement of Changes to immigration rules has been published by the Home Office following the July 2020 policy statement. In line with the law commission’s recent recommendations, these set out a more ‘simplified and accessible’ proposal.