Government provides further details on the UK’s new Points-Based Immigration System

Today, on 13 July 2020, the Home Office has published a new 130-page document which outlines future amendments to the UK immigration system in relation to various visa routes.

See below the overview of the most crucial of such changes.

Written confirmation of immigration status

The document says that:

“EU and non-EU citizens wishing to come to and live in the UK from 1 January 2021 will need to demonstrate their right to be in the UK and the entitlements they have. All applicants will receive written confirmation of their immigration status. EU citizens will additionally be provided with secure access to their immigration status information via an online service which they will be able to use to confirm their rights and to access services when necessary, instead of a physical status document.”

Easier right to work and rent checks

EU and non-EU citizens coming under the new system will be able to demonstrate their right to work via an online system.

This is already in use for many individuals and can only be a good thing.

Employers need to keep up to date with the rules that are in place when the employees starts.

The document also confirms that a similar online right to rent service is planned for later this year.

EU citizens can avoid biometric enrolment

Initially most EU citizens won’t need to attend a Visa Application Centre to provide their biometrics. Instead, they’ll be able to just provide a facial image. Self-enrolment of biometrics is stated to be part of a longer term plan.

Working in the UK

Employers will still need a sponsor licence if they want to recruit EU and non-EU citizens under most of the work routes. Some applicants will of course qualify in their own right so won’t need to be sponsored.

Checks will be made to ensure that sponsors are genuine and solvent (the latter is new). Sponsors will need to show that roles are credible and meet salary and skills requirements (where applicable). Key personnel responsible for maintaining the sponsor’s status will undergo criminality and ‘other security checks’.

In an astonishing feat of creative achievement, the document confirms that sponsor licences for workers will be renamed ‘Skilled Worker licence’ and ‘Intra-Company Transfer licence’. 

Skilled Worker route

The skilled worker routes is pretty much as per the initial design:

  • no caps
  • no Resident Labour Market Test
  • a system of points including ‘tradeable’ points
  • lower skill threshold (RQF3 instead of RQF6 as of now)
  • minimum salary requirement (‘PAYE records for all skilled workers will be regularly checked to confirm they are being paid the correct salary’)
  • English language requirement
  • ability to bring qualifying dependants

Intra-Company Transfers (ICT) and ICT Graduates

The ICT routes are to remain broadly as they currently are.

However, at the moment, a worker transferring under the ICT provisions must have either been working overseas for at least 12 months or have been paid a minimum relatively high salary.

The good news is that it looks like the ‘cooling off’ period is going to be removed. This nonsensical rule has meant that skills sponsored workers have had to wait for 12 months before being able to return to the UK as skilled sponsored workers in many circumstances.

Highly Skilled Workers

They couldn’t quite bring themselves to call this the highly skilled migrant route, but the document confirms that:

‘Beyond January 2021 and in line with the recommendations from the MAC, we will create a broader unsponsored route within the Points-Based System to run alongside the employer-led system. This will allow a smaller number of the most highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer. This route will not open on 1 January 2021 and we are exploring proposals for this additional route with stakeholders over the coming year. Our starting point is that this route would be capped and would be carefully monitored during the implementation phase. Further details will be shared in due course.’

Students

Today’s document makes it clear that universities, colleges and independent schools seeking to recruit unlimited numbers of international students, including new EU arrivals, for long term study will need a sponsor licence. 

Unfortunately schools that are not independent schools can’t be sponsors.

Students will be awarded points (70 are needed) for meeting course, qualification, level of study, place of study and CAS requirements. 10 points each are issued for meeting financial and English language requirements (although 4-16 year olds will not need to meet an English language requirement, as is the case now).

Students will be able to come to the UK six months before their course starts, instead of three as of now and there will be more flexibility for in-country switching.

Time-limits on study will be removed for those studying at postgraduate level (as long as the student is progressing academically).

Sponsors will still need to monitor engagement, although new rules on this are to be published.

The Graduate route

The section on the graduate route provides some further detail.

Undergraduate and master’s degree students can apply for a two-year Graduate Visa.  Ph.D. students can apply for three years. They won’t need to be sponsored and will be able to switch to work routes.

To benefit from the route, they must have successfully completed a degree at a UK HEP with a track record of compliance.

They must have ‘undertaken all study in the UK (those who completed part of their course overseas as part of a study abroad program, or have studied part of the course outside as a result of Covid-19 will also be permitted to apply)’.

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