The new immigration rules for the Post-Brexit Immigration system have been laid before parliament. These rules will govern the entry and exit of all non-UK nationals, including nationals of the EU from 1 January 2021.
The rules encompass changes to a wide range of existing immigration routes. For most employers, the focus will be on the new Skilled Worker route which is expected to be implemented from December this year.
We will be producing a series of blogs to cover these key changes. A summary of the key changes are below:
Changes to the Visitor route
The visit visa route is being changed to allow for simplification. It will:
- Permit study of up to six months under the standard visit route. All non-recreational study must be undertaken at an accredited institution. Recreational courses undertaken for leisure, that last no longer than 30 days and which do not lead to any formal qualifications, will not need to be undertaken at an accredited institution.
- Allow drivers on genuine international routes to collect as well as deliver goods and passengers in and out of the UK. This is to clarify the provisions.
- Harmonise the extension rules for visiting academics undertaking the full range of permitted activities as academics. This is to clarify the provisions.
- Remove the requirement for volunteering to be incidental to the main reason for the visit. This is to clarify the provision.
- Uncouple the sporting and creative Permitted Paid Engagement provisions. This will also allow us to start addressing the differing requirements of the two cohorts in a more tailored way.
Introduction of the Skilled Worker route
The Skilled Worker route is for both EEA and non-EEA nationals who wish to come to the UK for the purpose of working in a skilled job they have been offered. It replaces the Tier 2 (General) route. The key characteristics of the new route will be the same – an applicant must be sponsored to do a specific job, which meets skill and salary requirements, by an employer that has been licensed by the Home Office. The main differences between the Tier 2 (General) route and the Skilled Worker route are outlined below:
- The minimum skill threshold is being broadened from graduate occupations to occupations skilled to RQF level 3, roughly equivalent to A-levels or Scottish Highers. Applicants will not need to hold a formal qualification; it is the skill level of the job they will be doing which determines whether the threshold is met.
- The general salary threshold is being lowered from £30,000 a year to £25,600 a year. As is currently the case, sponsors must pay their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds both this threshold and the “going rate” for the occupation, whichever is higher. Going rates are being updated in line with newer salary data and the recommendations of the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
- Sponsored workers may be paid less than the above amounts, depending on the tradeable points they are awarded. Applicants must be awarded 70 points in total. Meeting the mandatory criteria (sponsorship, skill level and English language skills) will result in 50 points. An applicant may be awarded the remaining 20 tradeable points through a combination of points for salary, a shortage occupation or a relevant PhD qualification.
- The cap which currently applies under Tier 2 (General) is being suspended. This will reduce the end-to-end process for sponsoring skilled workers by up to four weeks.
- There will be no requirement for sponsors to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test. This will remove at least a further four weeks from the end-to-end process for sponsoring skilled workers. Sponsors must still be seeking to fill a genuine vacancy which meets the skill and salary thresholds of the new route.
- The criteria used to identify a “new entrant to the labour market” are being amended.
- The 12-month “cooling off period” and six-year maximum length of stay in the route are being removed.
- The £35,800 salary threshold for settlement applications is being removed. Instead, sponsors must pay their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds £25,600 per year and the going rate for the occupation.
- Those sponsored in shortage occupations or listed health or education occupations may be paid £20,480 per year but their salary must equal or exceed the going rate for the occupation. Other salary reductions permitted through tradeable points will not apply to settlement applications.
Following the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report earlier this year, we also expect further additions to the Shortage Occupation list.
Changes to the Intra-Company Transfer rules
The Intra-Company Transfer route is for established employees who are being transferred by their employer company to do a skilled role in the UK. The Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route is for employees who are being transferred by their employer company to a role in the UK as part in a structured graduate training programme. The route has been revised and has a points-based format, making it much easier for users to navigate the requirements and to unify several crosscutting requirements with other routes. The main changes are:
- A change is being made to the cooling-off requirement. Instead of migrants being barred from re-entering the UK as an ICT for 12 months after departing, they will be permitted to hold Intra-Company Transfer leave for up to 5 years in any 6-year rolling period or up to 9 years in any 10-year period for high earners.
- Provisions for high earners will be unified to a single salary threshold of £73,900. Workers with salaries at or above that threshold will be permitted to hold Intra-Company Transfer leave for up to 9 years in any 10-year rolling period and are exempt from the requirement to have worked for the overseas business for 12 months prior to entering the UK.
In-country switching into the Intra-Company Transfer route will now be easier. However, applicants will still need to be an existing employee with a period of overseas experience prior to applying unless they are a high earner.