1st of January 2021 marks the start of a new dawn in immigration control in the UK. This includes the implementation of the new points based business immigration system. The central aim is to make it a level playing field to attract “the brightest and the best” from across the world. It means that individuals from the EU, EEA, and Switzerland will require sponsorship and a UK visa to come and work in the UK in the future.
We provide an overview of the new rules and the key changes to business immigration.
- EEA nationals living in the UK prior to December 31 2020 must obtain pre-settled/settled status by June 30 2021 or they could be deemed unlawful residents subject to possible deportation.
- Irish citizens will continue to be able to live and work in the UK without a visa but will have to show their passports to demonstrate their immigration rights.
- Employers will need a sponsor licence if they wish to recruit EEA nationals who do not have pre-settled or settled status in the UK. If an employer does not already have a sponsor licence, they are strongly advised to apply for one now.
- The new points based system will enable some applicants to trade points to help meet the 70 point visa threshold. Tiers are disappearing and being replaced by new categories.
- It will be easier to recruit international skilled workers in the future although the cost will stay the same: – there are fewer hurdles to jump with the removal of the job advertising requirement and the cap on visas each month, the reduction in the salary threshold, and a lower qualification requirement.
- Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa workers can switch into Skilled Workers category.
- The annual salary threshold for Tier 2/skilled workers applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain will be £25,600 or the going rate for the occupation there are in.
- There will be no visa for the “low skilled” who traditionally work in areas like social care, haulage and in factories.
Renaming of Categories
|Current Immigration Category
|From 1 January 2021
|Tier 1 Entrepreneur (closed)
|Start Up or Innovator
|Tier 1 Exceptional Talent
|Tier 1 Post Study Work
|Graduate (open in 2021)
|Tier 2 General
|Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer
|Tier 4 General
|Tier 5 Youth Mobility
|Youth Mobility Scheme
Points Based Skilled Workers Category
From 1 January 2021
An applicant must obtain a total of 70 points to obtain this visa.
An applicant will obtain 50 points for the following mandatory criteria:
- a job offer from a sponsor,
- the job is on the Standard Occupational Code and meets the required skill level of RQF 3 or above (equivalent to A level). The requirement was that the job met the level of RQF 6 degree level or equivalent.
- The candidate must speak English to a specific standard. The English language requirement will be satisfied if the applicant is from a majority English speaking country like Australia, if they have a degree from a UK university, or taught in English as assessed by NARIC. Alternatively an applicant must obtain a pass in an B1 English language test from an approved provider at an approved location.
An applicant will obtain an additional 20 points if the job meets the relevant salary threshold. This will either be the general salary threshold of £25,600 per annum reduced from £30,000 per annum or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher.
If the annual salary is less than this – but no less than £20,480 – an applicant may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against the salary. For example, if they are offered a job offer on the shortage occupation list or have a PhD relevant to the job.
Applicants are required to demonstrate that they have personal savings of at least £1,270 which must have been held in a Bank/building society account for a consecutive 28 day period ending no more than 31 days before the date of their application.
Under the new system, the limit of six years under this type of visa has been abolished. Also applicants are no longer subject to a cooling off period of 12 months from the expiry of their last visa.
Intra Company Transfer (ICT) Visa
An established employee can transfer from their employer abroad to work at a related business in the UK. The main requirements are:
- The proposed job role must be at the skill level of RQF 6 (degree level and above) and be on the Standard Occupational Code (SOC) job list.
- Applicants must have been working for an overseas entity linked by common ownership and control to the UK business for at least 12 months before transferring unless their earnings are over £73,900.
- Applicants must be earning at least £41,500 or the SOC code minimum, whichever is higher.
- ICT migrants may only remain in the UK for five years (nine years if they earn over £73,900).
- There are no regional salary thresholds or different arrangements for different parts of the UK.
- There is no English language requirement.
- The cooling off period will be simplified so that ICT migrants cannot enter or remain as an ICT employee for more than five years in any six year period. This will not apply to high earners earning more than £73,900 per annum.
- ICT migrants will be able to switch into the Skilled Worker from within the UK subject to meeting requirements, which provides a path to settlement although time spent under the ICT will not count towards residence requirements.
The Global Talent route, which has replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, will be extended to EEA nationals. Under this route, talented individuals will be granted immigration permission to work without restriction if they are endorsed by a specialist endorsing body following peer review.
Changes are made to:
- the criteria for consideration of senior appointments
- the definition of the types of academic and research roles that qualify, which is being expanded.
The Government also intends to introduce a non-sponsored “Australian-style points-based-system” where visas would be granted based on academics, age, earning potential etc. without the need of a job offer. Those granted this visa would be able to work without restriction. This route will not be implemented by 1 January 2021.
Tier 5 – short term work
Tier 5 of the current immigration system contains a range of different categories for those undertaking temporary work in the UK, for example sports people, religious workers and interns and those on exchange programmes. These visas require sponsorship from an organisation that holds a Tier 5 sponsor licence.
The Youth Mobility Scheme may be extended on a reciprocal basis to the nationals of individual EEA countries. Individuals aged 18-30 from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan are able to apply for a visa valid for two years which permits unrestricted work in the UK. There is no need for a sponsor licence.
Tier 5 visa holders will now be able to switch into the Skilled Worker visa category from within the UK.
International visitors may visit the UK for up to 6 months. They are prohibited from carrying out paid work but some activities are permitted. Some overseas travellers will need a visitors visa. Others including EEA nationals will only be required to show their passport at border control when holidaying in the UK.
An important change is that study may be the main purpose of the visit to the UK. In addition, the provisions allowing people to visit for up to 30 days for a short course at an accredited institution are being extended to up to six months. People aged 16 or over on an overseas study course may also now visit the UK to undertake research or have “research tuition” at a UK institution for up to six months. Their research or research tuition must be relevant to their course.
Volunteering for up to 30 days can now be the main purpose of a visit visa to the UK.
The Home Office has announced its intention to introduce a new ‘Graduate route’ to be launched in the summer of 2021, which will enable international students to remain in the UK for two years (or three years for PhD graduates) after they have completed their studies in the UK.
There will be no substantial changes to the rules for investors.
Those with at least £2m who are able to transfer these funds to the UK and invest in qualifying assets will be able to continue to apply for visas under the Investor category. As long as the investment is maintained for a five year period, the migrant can apply for settlement. Accelerated routes to settlement are available for those who invest £5m (settlement in three years) or £10m (settlement in two years).
The material contained in this article is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice specific to your situation, and should not be relied upon. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for your specific circumstances and before any action is taken.
© Miller Rosenfalck LLP, November 2020