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The Government have released an official policy statement on 18 February 2020 setting out how the new immigration system will function in the UK. Many of the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report published on 28 January 2020 have been accepted by the Conservative Government which will likely be integrated into a formal Immigration Bill to work its way through Parliament during the remainder of 2020.
The policy statement claims “the new points-based immigration system will open up the UK to the brightest and the best from around the world” with the Government “delivering a system that works in the interests of the whole of the UK prioritising the skills a person has to offer, not where they come from”
It is anticipated the new immigration system will begin to take effect from 1 January 2021. There will be a formal end to freedom of movement with the policy statement outlining the intention to “reassert control of our borders and restore public trust” by treating EU and non-EU citizens equally. The idea is that freedom of movement will be replaced with a further expansion of the Points Based System (PBS) in the UK catering for highly skilled workers, students and a range of other specialist work routes such as global leaders and innovators.
Perhaps most importantly for the likes of the manufacturing, hospitality and the retail sectors there will not be an introduction of a general low-skilled or temporary work route to the UK. The intention is fairly obvious here in that the Government are looking to shift the focus towards a greater use of technology and automation by UK employers. The message is loud and clear about the restrictions on low skilled labour under the new immigration system in the policy statement, bluntly put “employers will need to adjust”.
Changes Ahead: The Points Based System (PBS)
The UK’s tiered system for non-EU migrants is limited to a minimum salary threshold or for ‘exceptional talent’ applicants. Tier 2 (General) skilled visas are currently only available to migrants with a salary over £30,000 per annum. The policy statement has outlined the following changes will be implemented in early 2021:
How will the new system operate?
All applicants, both EU and non-EU citizens, will need to demonstrate that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor and that the job offer is at the required skill level under the PBS system. There will also be a requirement to meet the English language criteria under the new system. A total of 70 points will need to be achieved in order to apply formally for a visa to the UK.
Interestingly if a migrant earns less than the required minimum salary threshold above but no less than £20,480 they may still be able to come to the UK with the appropriate visa if they can demonstrate that:
In effect, the new PBS system is proposing that applicants will be able to ‘trade’ characteristics such as their specific job offer and qualifications against a salary lower than the minimum salary or the ‘going rate’ in their field.
There are still plenty of technical legal changes which are likely to occur over the next 10 months with how the new immigration system is likely to operate in practice. The policy statement caveats likely change and further detail by outlining that “the Home Office will publish further detail on the points-based system in due course, including detailed guidance regarding the point’s tables, shortage occupations and qualifications” although perhaps more reassuringly the Home Office have recently commented “we need to guard against making the system too complex” this of course remains to be seen.
It should be noted for employers based in Northern Ireland that regional salary differences have been rejected by the Home Office although a recommendation has been made to review this again in the future without setting a specified date by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
At Cleaver Fulton Rankin we regularly advise and support Northern Ireland businesses that are looking to obtain the necessary employment visas for global talent outside of Europe. With the new immigration system just around the corner and with the end of freedom of movement for EU workers our specialist immigration team can be contacted to provide the support your business requires moving forward.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Immigration is a complex area of law for both corporates and individuals. Please contact the Business Immigration team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.