The U.K.’s New Immigration System

With the Brexit transition period ending on 31 December 2020, the U.K.’s new immigration system will be applicable to all new entrants to the U.K. from 01 January 2021.

With the Brexit transition period ending on 31 December 2020, the U.K.’s new immigration system will be applicable to all new entrants to the U.K. from 01 January 2021.

Although, the Home Office is yet to release the finer details of the Immigration Rules that will govern the new immigration system, there are key features and changes that have already been confirmed which will dramatically change the existing immigration system as we know it.

Some of the key features and changes are:

  • Applicable to all new entrants, including the EU population - the new immigration system will be applicable to EU nationals coming to the U.K. from 01 January 2021.
  • The removal of the Resident Labour Market Test (‘RLMT’) – employers will no longer need to satisfy the RLMT before hiring a new foreign national employee under the Skilled Worker category. As employers will no longer need to advertise the role for 28 days, the end to end timeline will be reduced.
  • Removal of the quota – there will be no numerical cap on the number of work permits issued per year under the Skilled Worker category.
  • Lowering of the salary threshold – the minimum salary per year of the applicant has been lowered down to £25,600 (which is a decrease from £30,000). The minimum salary requirement is further reduced to between £20,480 - £23,040, where the applicant can demonstrate that they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation, or that they have a Ph.D. relevant to the job.
  • Lowering of the RQF level – the required skill level for the role will reduce from RQF Level 6 (Degree level) to RQF Level 3 (A level). This means a wider range of roles that employers will be able to hire for in future.
  • New Graduate route – a new route has been introduced that will allow international students to stay and work in the U.K. after completing their studies. This route will allow foreign graduates of U.K. universities to remain in the U.K. and work for two years (three years for Ph.Ds). Visa holders in this category will be able to work at any skill level and will have the opportunity to switch to other routes once they find a long-term job.
  • More flexible Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa category
    • Under the new system, those on an Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa will be able to switch into the Skilled Worker route in the U.K. without having to complete a “cooling off” period. It remains unclear whether this will apply retrospectively to Tier 2 (ICT) visa holders and whether it will be possible to combine the time spent under the ICT visa and Skilled Worker visa for settlement.
    • ICT visa holders will be able to spend a total of five years in any six-year period in the U.K., avoiding the cooling off period. Where eligible due to their salary level, ICT visa holders will also continue to be able to spend up to nine years here.
  • Different visa application process for EU nationals – EU nationals are currently able to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme using their mobile devices to take a photo and scan a biometric passport. This technology is planned to be rolled out for EU nationals applying for the Skilled Worker visa. There is potential for this to apply to other nationalities in the future.
  • New right to work processes for EU nationals – there will be new prescribed methods for right to work checks for EU nationals and moves towards more online right to work checks. However, it has been confirmed it will remain the same as it is now for EU nationals until July 2021.
  • No route for low-skilled foreign workers – the Home Office believes that there should not be a dedicated route for low-skilled foreign workers as there is a significant flex in the labour market through the EU Settlement Scheme, through the partners of non-EEA nationals in the U.K. and currently employed in lower skilled work and through routes such as the Youth Mobility schemes and the expansion of the scheme for agricultural workers.
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How This Impacts Mobility

These changes offer an insight to a more employer friendly immigration system which is employer led. A more flexible, all-encompassing simple system, which brings two groups (EU nationals and third-country nationals) together and govern them as one will mean that employers who wish to hire EU nationals that are classed as new entrants will be subject to a more rigorous immigration system and there will be costs associated with this.

I believe that businesses will benefit from a single system. For example, a simplified immigration system will mean that businesses will have a more unified and efficient administrative processes in place. The key features and changes to the new immigration system will mean less administrative costs in terms of time and recruitment, thereby saving businesses resources in the long-term.

It is my opinion that the key features and changes of the new immigration system is a step in the right direction to modernise the immigration system. With these upcoming changes, it is important to remember that the sponsorship system will remain intact and the reporting and compliance obligations will remain. Business should consider undertaking regular review of their policies and any operational aspects associated with immigration and indeed overall global mobility, to ensure compliance and to maximise efficiencies.

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