UNITED KINGDOM: Further Details of the Future Immigration System

July 13, 2020

The UK government has released further details of its proposed new points-based system for employment immigration routes, due to take effect from 1 January 2021, under which free movement will end and EU nationals will be covered by the same rules as non-EU nationals.

Among the new details are the following:


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.

EU and non-EU citizens who are entitled to work will be able to use an easier, online right-to-work check service, making checks simpler for employers. A similar online right-to-rent service, which most individuals will be able to use, is planned for later this year, making right-to-rent checks easier for landlords.

From January 2021, most EU citizens will be exempt from biometric enrolment and will instead provide facial images using a smartphone self-enrolment application form. The long-term aim is that all visitors and migrants to the UK will provide their biometric facial images and fingerprints.

Skilled Workers

The switching rules will be relaxed to allow most migrants to switch from one immigration route to another without having to leave the UK.

As previously announced, the government proposes to ‘suspend’ the annual cap on skilled work visas and to remove the resident labour market test.

Sponsored workers will continue to need a job offer from an approved sponsor, for a job at an appropriate skill level and the required level of English. The minimum skill level would be reduced from RQF level 6 (university degree) to level 3 (A-level or equivalent).

Some new ways to meet the English language requirement are being introduced.

The standard minimum salary requirement will be £25,600, as suggested by the recent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report, but with some flexibility. The minimum salary would be £20,480 for those working in jobs on the Shortage Occupation List or who have PhDs in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Applicants seeking points under the PhD skilled worker route will only be able to score points if the PhD is relevant to the job.

Skilled workers and postgraduate students will continue to have the right to bring dependents.

The rules balancing shortage occupations, high qualifications and minimum salaries are presented as a points-based system, with a total of 70 points required to be eligible to apply.

There will continue to be different salary thresholds for a small number of occupations based on published pay scales, and the requirements for new entrants will be set 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation. Only the base salary (and not the allowances or pension contributions) will be used to determine whether the salary threshold is met. There will be no regional salary threshold variations.

Intra-Company Transfer

The route will require applicants to be in roles skilled to RQF6, and subject to a different minimum salary threshold from the main Skilled Worker route. It will not be subject to English language requirements but will be subject to a requirement that the worker has been employed by the sending business for a minimum period prior to the transfer (12 months in the case of intra-company transfers or three months in the case of intra-company graduate trainees).

The route will not provide an avenue to settlement. Those admitted on the route will, however, be permitted to switch into the Skilled Worker route whilst still in the UK if they meet the qualifying requirements for that route.

The “cooling off” rules will be adjusted for intra-company transfers, so that an overseas intra-company transferee must not hold entry clearance or leave to enter or remain as an intra-company transferee for more than five years in any six-year period, except where they qualify to be granted up to nine years on the basis of their salary.

Health and Care Visa

A Health and Care Visa will provide fast-track entry, reduced application fees and an exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), for applicants in qualifying occupations who meet the skill and salary thresholds, and their families.

Front line workers in the health and social care sector who are not eligible for the new Health and Care Visa will pay the IHS, but will benefit from a reimbursement scheme.

Lower-Skilled Workers

There are no further details of the pilot scheme for seasonal agricultural workers.

Highly-Skilled Workers

The government recently launched the Global Talent route, a new version of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, but has not followed the MAC report’s recommendation to make this route points based. It will instead explore proposals for a broader unsponsored route for a smaller number of highly-skilled workers within the new points-based system.

Graduate Route

A new graduate immigration route will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. Applicants will be able to work, or look for work, in the UK at any skill level for up to two years, or three years if a PhD graduate.

Other Details

  • For family reunion, 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.
  • Students will be covered by the points-based system but will require an offer of a place from an approved educational institution and proof of financial means as well as English skills.
  • Existing routes for specialist occupations such as innovators, ministers of religion and sportspeople will be opened to EU citizens.
  • There is no dedicated route for self-employed people.
  • Those who come to the UK as a visitor will need to leave the country before making an application to another route.

UK Home Office On-Demand Webinar | A First-Hand Exploration of the New Immigration System

In a rare, one-of-a-kind virtual town hall, two Senior Civil Servants from the UK Home Office, Philippa Rouse, Director of Immigration and Border Policy Directorate, and Carrie Golding, will join Newland Chase UK MD Tony Butterworth to discuss the UK’s new immigration system and what employers can do to prepare for the significant changes. Watch now.

Our Advice

  • Be sure to watch the UK Home Office On-Demand webinar
  • Employers concerned about Brexit and the future UK immigration rules are encouraged to check our Brexit online resource.
  • Employers not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider doing so now if they think they will want to sponsor skilled migrants, including from the EU, from early 2021. For assistance with sponsor licence applications, please contact us.
  • Current UK sponsors should be sure to maintain their existing sponsor licence and compliance obligations, to minimise disruption under any new system.
  • Employers concerned about the future work mobility of UK nationals in the EU can also rely on Newland Chase’s global immigration services and expertise.

For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to the UK, please contact us.