UK's new immigration system- what's coming? - | Hudson McKenzie

UK’s new immigration system- what’s coming?

February 23, 2020 | Latest Thinking

On 19th February 2020, the Home Office published a policy paper, The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System which announces pivotal policy changes to UK immigration.

Essentially, the UK Government’s manifesto on immigration are to end free movement, reduce net migration and ultimately attract skilled labour into the UK. To guarantee a strict but fairer immigration system, this newly reformed system is designed to focus on worker’s skill sets and not their nationality. In addition, it will mostly accommodate students, highly skilled, skilled workers and an array of specialist fields in order to achieve a highly skilled, high wage and highly productive UK economy.

In alignment with such commitments and objectives, the government has issued to deliver the following changes: –

  • No immigration route for low-skilled migrant workers
  • 70 points-based eligibility criteria for skilled overseas workers
  • A broader foundation for highly skilled workers, students and those in specialist fields to come into the UK

Points system and an end to free movement

Skilled migrants coming into UK will need a job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points), meet the minimum appropriate skills threshold of A-level or above and which pays at least £25,600 a year (20 points) or £20,480 for an occupation with staff shortages (20 points), and speak English (10 points).

To achieve a minimum of 50 points, migrant workers must meet the ‘appropriate skill’ level, have secured a skilled job offer from an “approved sponsor” and speak English. In order to achieve the remaining 20 points required, other characteristics must be satisfied which include: salaries, education qualifications and job offers in a ‘shortage occupation’ prescribed by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). These characteristics are considered ‘tradeable’. This means that applicants can still meet the 70 points criteria by having a salary lower than the minimum threshold or the going rate in that particular field yet having specific education qualifications and job offers, for example.

Skilled Workers

For skilled workers, the points-based system will apply in order for both EU and non-EU citizens to seek approval to work in the UK. This will be employer driven because applicants must have a job offer from an “approved employer sponsor”. They must also be able to speak English and possess the required skill level as described above.

All employers will now need a sponsor licence to be approved to bring a migrant to the UK. (Currently, only 30,000 employers or 2% of employers in the UK, are on the register for sponsorship for non-EU nationals).

To make the process quicker and simpler for sponsors as well as having a wide pool of skilled overseas workers to have at their disposal, further reforms will be made. This includes the removal of the requirement to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test and suspend capping on migrants who can come on the skilled worker route. The skills threshold will be significantly reduced from RQF6 (degree level) to RQF3 (A levels and equivalents) and so will the salary threshold, from £30,000 to £25,600.

Skilled workers will also be able to benefit from trading points to meet the 70 points eligibility criteria described If applicants earn less than the minimum salary threshold or the going salary in their specific field, they will have the capability to trade in this requirement in exchange for having specific education qualifications and job offers, such as by having a PhD or working where there is a shortage of workers.

Global Talent

For highly skilled workers, the Global Talent Route has now been amended accordingly. This develops on further from the current Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Route and will now apply equally to both EU and non-EU citizens. The most highly skilled migrants who are capable of reaching the required points threshold will still be able to enter the UK if they do not have a job offer, as long as they are endorsed by a “relevant and competent” body. The cap on endorsing bodies has now been abolished and their number is now increasing. This scheme has been broadened to ensure that those with specialist backgrounds in STEM subjects, such as scientists and mathematicians have more accessible and faster track access route into the UK.

From 20th February 2020, a new science route will be launched in order to attract scientific talent and researchers to enter the UK and make a fundamental impact to our leading science and research sectors.

In line with MAC’s recommendations, there is an intention to create an expanded unsponsored route into the UK, i.e. highly skilled workers who do not have a job offer to still enter the UK. A new points-based system will commence alongside the current employer-led skilled workers points system. It would be capped and monitored when it is implemented to allow only a small number of workers to enter the UK without a job offer. This is to see whether this unsponsored route for highly skilled workers would undermine the current skilled worker route or create ample opportunities for the current system to be abused.

Post Study Work Visa

The new ‘Graduate’ route will be open to all international students who have valid UK immigration status as a student and have successfully completed a course of study in any subject at undergraduate level or above at an approved UK Higher Education Provider. The visa will allow eligible students to work, or look for work, in any career or position of their choice, for two years after completing their studies.

The new route will launch for the 2020/21 intake of students to university. After the two years, they will be able to switch onto the skilled work visa if they find a job which meets the skill requirement of the route.

Other Workers

There is now no visa route for low-skilled migrant workers to enter the UK. This is to warrant with certainty an overall reduction in net migration in the UK. However, certain provisions and initiatives have been recently introduced for selected NHS professionals and for those in agriculture. This is to help employers and businesses meet UK labour demands and provide them with flexibility to employ individuals in low-skilled jobs.

3.2 million registered so far for the European Settlement Scheme will still be permitted to stay and work in the UK. Additionally, initiatives will be proposed in the future for NHS Workers, graduates, scientists and those working in the agricultural sector to ease employers into this transition. Already, the UK government has issued a “youth mobility” arrangement for 20,000 young workers to come into the UK per year. A similar pilot scheme respectively applies for 10,000 seasonal workers in agriculture. Additionally, changes in skills and salary thresholds will add further flexibility for employers.

What next?

UK employers and businesses must now ‘adapt and adjust’ to the end of free movement of EU workers. It is suggested that businesses solely reliant on low-skilled labour adjust by introducing labour-saving techniques, such as investing in new machinery and AI technology.

Ultimately, businesses need to be absolutely aware of requisite salary thresholds and skill levels required under the 70 points-based system to recruit eligible workers from overseas. People must recognise and adapt to the policy changes and keep updated with the latest information from the Home Office.  

Should you wish to discuss anything regarding the above changes, please reach out to the firm’s managing partner Rahul Batra at or call +44 (0)20 3318 5794.