Immigration System

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 11 November 2020. Free movement will therefore end at 11pm on 31 December 2020. This means that EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who want to work in the UK will have to apply under the new points-based immigration system.

The Points-Based Immigration System

From 1 December 2020, there will be a new points-based immigration system for work-based immigration applications. This article looks at some of the changes that will come into force as a result of this.

Tier 2 (General)/Skilled Worker

The Tier 2 (General) visa has been renamed the Skilled Worker visa. The details of the visa remain largely the same, for example, an applicant must still have a job offer that meets certain skill and salary thresholds from an employer who holds a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence. 

One of the major changes relates to switching visa categories from within the UK. It will now be possible to switch into the Skilled Worker route from within the UK for all visa holders except those who are here as a visitor, short-term student, parent of a child student, seasonal worker, domestic worker in a private household or have been granted leave outside of the Immigration Rules. The Resident Labour Market Test has been revoked, as has the cap on numbers.

There is also now a points requirement. Applicants will need to have a total of 70 points made up of 50 mandatory points (from sponsorship, a job at an appropriate skill level and English language skills at level B1) and 20 tradeable points (relating to the applicant’s salary, qualifications, whether the job is in a shortage occupation or is in a listed health and education occupation or the applicant is a new entrant to the labour market). 

There will be no limit on the amount of time a Skilled Worker can spend in the UK – applicants can be granted a visa for up to a maximum of five years at a time, with unlimited extensions. The Skilled Worker visa can therefore lead to settlement, provided the requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) are met at the time of application. 

Intra-Company Transfer

The Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) routes are largely in line with the existing ICT visa process. The eligibility and salary requirements are in line with the present system, however, ICT routes will now have the same flexibility as the Skilled Worker route in terms of switching from other visa categories from within the UK. 

The key difference will be in the length of visa offered. If the applicant is a “high earner”, i.e. their salary is above £73,900, they can get cumulative periods of permission in the ICT route of up to nine years in any ten-year period. If the applicant is not a high earner, they can stay in the ICT route for no more than five years in any six-year period. However, ICT visa holders will be able to switch into the Skilled Worker route once in the UK, meaning applicants would have the opportunity to settle in the UK provided the requirements for ILR are met at the time of application.

Global Talent

There have been some amendments to the Global Talent route to allow talented individuals who are more advanced in their career to apply as an “emerging leader”. There will also be an extension to the types of academic and research roles that qualify for the Global Talent visa. 

Priority Service for Sponsor Licence Applications

There will also now be a priority service available for sponsor licence applications. The turnaround time under the priority service will be 10 days rather than 8 weeks. This is the first time the priority service has been available for this type of application.

What does this mean for employers?

If UK employers want to recruit overseas nationals from 1 December 2020, and EU nationals from 1 January 2021, they will need to apply for a sponsor licence from the Home Office before they can do so. The overseas national will then need to apply for a visa under the points-based immigration system.