The long-awaited Statement of Changes to the UK Immigration rules was laid before Parliament on 22 October to take effect from 1 December 2020. It provides us with a more definitive guide to the future points-based system in the UK, from 1 January 2021, when freedom of movement between the EU and the UK comes to an end.
The Statement of Changes outlines a number of new changes to the visa system; these highlight new rules for students, graduates and those working in the UK as ‘Skilled Workers’. These new rules are imperative to business as they will affect the way in which employers recruit from the EU from next year.
Here we outline the changes to the immigration requirements.
Visa requirements for Skilled Workers
This category will replace the Tier 2 General and is for individuals coming to the UK to work in a skilled job with a licenced employer known as a sponsor.
- The same system will apply to both EU and non-EU citizens;
- The minimum skill threshold is reduced from RQF level 6 (degree) to level 3 (A-Level or equivalent), effectively unlocking this route for a greater number of individuals;
- The cap on restricted Certificates of Sponsorship is to be suspended;
- The Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) advertisement process will be abolished, the requirement for general vacancies shall continue;
- The cooling off period will be abolished; there is no longer a requirement for a Tier 2 migrant to wait 12 months after their visa has expired or they have left the UK, before applying for a new visa;
- Reduction of the minimum salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600 a year;
- Applicants must score 70 points in total, 50 of which are mandatory as follows;
- Employer’s sponsorship (20 points);
- A job at an appropriate skill level (20 points);
- A knowledge of English equivalent to level B1 or above of the Council of Europe’s common European framework (10 points);
- To score the remaining 20 points, applicants must receive an annual salary of £25,600 or above.
Where they will be paid less than £25,600, they can achieve the remaining 20 points in one or a combination of the following ways;
- Salary of £23,040 - £25,599 (10 points)
- PhD in a subject relevant to the job (10 points)
- PhD in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics subject relevant to the job (20 points)
- Job in a shortage occupation (20 points)
Intra-Company Transfer visa
The Tier 2 Intra-Company transfer visa will be re-branded to ‘Intra-Company Transfer’ (ICT).
- The minimum skill level will remain at RQF level 6 (degree level);
- There will be no English Language requirement;
- Applicant must be employed by overseas branch for a minimum period prior to the transfer (12 months in the case of Intra-company transfer or three months in the case of ICT trainees);
- The ‘high earner salary threshold’ will be reduced from the current level of £120,000 per annum to £73,000 per annum;
- The 12-month cooling off period will be amended and will allow ICT visas for up to =five years in any six years rolling period. Also, nine years in any 10 year period for high earners;
- It has now become possible to switch from the ICT route to the Skilled Worker route from within the UK if applicants meet the qualifying requirements.
What is the English language requirement for a visa?
- Applicants only need to prove the required level of English language to the Home Office on one occasion rather than for each application they make;
- Applicants who have gained GCSE/A Level or Scottish Higher in English while at school in the UK can rely on this as a proof of their English language ability;
- Malta is included in the majority English-speaking country list.
What are the new visa rules for students?
- Maintenance levels are being amended in line with the current home student maintenance loans;
- The restrictions of working as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in training are being removed. Students and their dependents who are permitted to work under their visa permission will now be allowed to work as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in training, to enable them to work in the NHS;
- Foreign students wishing to study in the UK for six months or less can now do so on a visit visa;
- Students wishing to study an English Language course can now do so at an accredited institution in the UK for between six and 11 months;
Changes to the Global Talent route
- Changes have been made to the criteria for senior appointments to cater for emerging leaders as well as those at a more advanced stage of their career;
- The definition of the types of academic and research roles that qualify for the route will be expanded;
- There is a two stage process to include endorsement from an approved body and an application for entry clearance;
EU Settlement Scheme
EEA nationals residing in the UK by 31 December 2020 qualify under the EU settlement Scheme. If however, they relocate next year, an entry clearance application will be required under the new system, being accepted from 1 January 2021.
Keeping your global workforce moving
Tier 2 General and Intra Company Transfer will be closed to new applicants from 1 December 2020. This means existing migrant workers currently in the UK under these routes will need to apply for their extension and meet eligibility requirement rules under the new rules.
It is vital for UK businesses to take measures today to assess and identify their EU workforce as well as plan and implement in preparation for the UK’s new immigration system.
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