The government has unveiled details of its new immigration system, which will come into force on 1 January next year.
Home Secretary Priti Patel hailed the new scheme as an “historic moment” following Britain’s exit from the EU, which will bring to an end the bloc’s free movement rules in the UK.
She said: “We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential.”
The government says the new points-based system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy.
But critics say the proposals could be an “absolute disaster” for the social care sector, and there are “serious concerns” about the impact on farming.
So, how will the new system work?
How many points to potential migrants need?
Potential migrants to the UK will have to score 70 points on the new system in order to qualify for a visa.
How do you earn points?
Three conditions must be met by prospective migrants in order to move to the UK, which total 50 points towards the 70-point threshold.
- A job offer from an approved sponsor, such as an employer cleared by the Home Office. This will earn 20 points.
- Have a job offer that is at a “required skill level”. This will earn 20 points.
- The ability to speak English to a certain level. This will earn 10 points.You’ll likely need to earn more than £25,600
From January 2021, the minimum salary required for migrants coming to work in the UK will be reduced from £30,000 to £25,600.
If migrants earn a salary above £25,600, they will earn the 20 extra points needed to get to the required 70-point level.
If migrants earn less than this – but no less than £20,480 – they may still be able to come to the UK by “trading” points earned on specific characteristics against their lower salary level.
You’ll no longer need to be skilled to graduate level
As well as lowering the minimum salary threshold, the government is also lowering what counts as “skilled” from a graduate-level to an A-level qualified job.
How else do you earn points?
Those who meet the three required conditions but don’t earn more than £25,600 can still earn the 70 points needed to be granted a visa.
If they earn between £23,040 to £25,599 they will earn 10 extra points.
If their job is in an area where there are shortages of staff, as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee, they will earn 20 extra points.
The MAC includes healthcare workers, engineers, scientists, teachers and tech workers on its list of occupations where there are shortages.
The government is also promising a fast-track visa scheme for foreign doctors and nurses to work in the NHS as part of the immigration overhaul.
Applicants coming to work in the NHS will receive preferential treatment with extra points under the points-based system, and no cap on numbers entering through the NHS route.
If prospective migrants hold a PhD in a subject relevant to their job they will earn an extra 10 points.
This is boosted to an extra 20 points if the PhD is in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and is relevant to their job.
What if you don’t have a job offer?
The most highly-skilled workers, who can achieve the required level of points, will be able to enter the UK without a job offer if they are endorsed by a relevant and competent body.
This “Global Talent” route will be opened to EU citizens on the same basis as non-EU citizens from January next year and was recently expanded to be more accessible to those with a background in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Low-skilled workers will be denied visas
The government says it will not implement a route for lower-skilled workers to come to the UK under the new immigration system, following the end of EU free movement rules.
They are instead telling UK businesses they will need to “adapt and adjust” and instead invest in “staff retention, productivity, and wider investment in technology and automation”.
*The EU14 refers to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. The EU8 refers to Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia. The EU2 refers to Bulgaria and Romania.
What about farmers?
However, the government is committed to expanding a pilot scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture to be quadrupled in size to 10,000 places.
This is aimed at addressing the fears of employers such as fruit farmers, who say a clampdown on low-skilled workers could leave them without enough staff to pick their crops each summer.
What about students?
Students will also be covered by the points-based system.
They will achieve the required points if they have an offer from an approved university or college, can speak English and are able to support themselves during their studies in the UK.
What if you’re self-employed or a freelancer?
The government will not be creating a dedicated route for self-employed people, but have pointed to the existing route for “innovators” to enter the UK, which will be widened to apply to EU citizens as well as non-EU citizens from next January.
Specialist occupations, ministers of religion and sportspeople are also allowed to come to the UK under a range of existing immigration routes, which will also be widened to apply to EU citizens as well as non-EU citizens.
Artists, entertainers and musicians will continue to be allowed to perform at events and take part in competitions and auditions for up to six months.
What if you’re from Ireland?
Irish citizens won’t be subject to the new immigration rules and will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.