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McGill & Co is a Scottish immigration law firm specialising in UK immigration, nationality and refugee law.

The future UK Immigration system

15 July 2020 Grace McGill Blog

 On 13 July the Home Secretary announced further details about the Home Office's new points-based system (PBS) which expanded on the  Government’s policy statement released in February 2020. The new PBS system, which brings to an end the right of freedom of movement for EEA nationals from 1st January 2021, will align the visa processes for all European and non-European nationals.

This document builds on the February Policy Statement by providing more detail to applicants, employers and educational institutions on the draft requirements and conditions underpinning the key immigration routes in the Points-Based System. The routes described in this document cover the main economic migration routes for those wishing to apply to work or study or set up a business in the UK. It is intended to give time to prepare ahead of some of these new routes opening later this year, in advance of ending free movement for EU citizens on 31 December.1 Unless otherwise stated, these routes will be open by January 2021. For all other routes, such as family reunion, from January 2021 EU citizens (who do not qualify under EU Settlement Scheme or other routes protected by the Withdrawal Agreement) will need to apply and qualify for entry or stay on the same basis as non-EU citizens. It is worth noting that beyond the main work and study route, most of the immigration routes will have the same requirements as they do now for non-EU citizens. EU citizens will need to get a visa for all activities other than short-term visits.

As the Immigration Bill continues its passage through Parliament, final details for the Points-Based System will be issued later this year via guidance, Immigration Rules and secondary legislation. This widely anticipated announcement was much of an anti-climax to most of us, but it is what it is as we stutter forward ….

What do we know so far?

The new Skilled Worker Visa

The Tier 2 General route will be re-branded as the Skilled Worker route. Applicants will need a job offer skilled at A-level or equivalent from a licenced sponsor, and they will need to speak English to an approved level (50 points). They will then need another 20 points from tradeable categories based on prior education, higher salaries and shortage occupation roles. See our above e-alert for more details. Current holders of Tier 2 General visas will in future extend their visas under the Skilled Worker route.

  • Removal of the Resident Labour Market Test which will significantly speed up the process.
  • Removal of the Tier 2 General Restricted Cap which means that there is no need to apply for restricted certificates of sponsorship again speeding up the process.
  • More flexibility for in-country switching between visa routes – except for visitors.
  • Removal of the "cooling off period". The cooling off period (which prevents most Tier 2 visa holders from returning to the UK in this category for 12 months following the termination of their visa) will no longer apply to Skilled Worker Visas. This will allow Skilled Workers visa holders to apply to return to the UK immediately after their visa expires.
  • The general salary threshold will be £25,600 – down from £30,000 for a Tier 2 (General) visa.
  • The continuation of Tier 2 ICT Visas

European Nationals EUSS scheme

All EEA nationals who arrive in the UK before 31 December 2020 need to register under the EUSS to protect and preserve their rights to remain in the UK. This application must be made by 30 June 2021. All other EEA nationals arriving from 1st January 2021 will need to qualify under the PBS scheme to come to the UK.

Tier 1 Investor and Sole Representative Route

No mention has been made of either route and we understand that both will continue as is ...for now.

Global Talent

In February 2020 the Global Talent route was launched. The route reformed and replaced Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) and is designed to attract recognised global leaders, and the leaders of tomorrow in science, humanities, engineering, the arts (including film, fashion design and architecture) and digital technology, enriching the UK’s knowledge, economy and society. Top scientists and researchers are able to benefit from a quicker endorsement process as part of a fast track STEM scheme. The Government has announced it will set up a cross-departmental unit called the Office for Talent. This will make it easier for leading global scientists, researchers and innovators to come and live and work in the UK.

Applicants must be endorsed by a recognised UK body. There is no limit on the number of eligible individuals who can use the route.

The Graduate Scheme 

To be launched in summer 2021 to allow those international students with a Tier 4 general student visa who have successfully completed a degree at a UK Higher Education Provider, that has a track record of compliance, to stay in the UK for two years (three years for PhD graduates) and work at any skill level, and to switch into work routes if they find a suitable job. It will be an unsponsored route. All successful applicants will be granted a one-time non-extendable leave period of two years if graduating at undergraduate or masters level, or three years if graduating with a PhD, on this route and will be able to work, or look for work, at any skill level during this period. The route will also be Points-Based, with the full number of points being awarded for the successful completion of a degree from a UK Higher Education (pg. 38 of the statement)  

Coming to Study

The new Points-Based Student route will build on the current Tier 4 system making it more streamlined for sponsoring institutions and their students. Students will require a total of 70 points to be granted leave. Points are non-tradeable and will be awarded for meeting the requirements of the route as set out in the table at pg. 33 of the statement.

Other Immigration routes & details

The annexes provide further detail on routes, fees, eligible occupations and going rates for skilled worker routes.

We shall await further details and shall provide further updates and commentary as we move forward.


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