The UK points-based immigration system explained

The true economic effect of Brexit remains to be seen – but one change certain to impact UK businesses is the introduction of a points-based immigration system. The Conservative government has outlined how, from New Year’s Day in 2021, the new system will transform the way migrants come to the UK for work.

Points will be assigned for skills, qualifications, salaries and shortage occupations, with only those who are awarded enough points eligible for visas. Employers will need to become Home Office-approved sponsors to recruit migrants without settled status – and subsequently may require guidance from the immigration experts at Withers.

Below is a summary of the key takeaways for those preparing to adapt.         

Worker skill levels

Migrants will need to earn skilled worker status in part by securing a job offer from an approved employer at a specified skill level (A Level equivalent and above). All jobs will be given a corresponding skill level to determine the points a migrant could earn for securing a similar role. The ONS Occupation Coding Tool can be used to identify whether a job meets the required skill level.

Migrants can then gain further points for their application by securing an offer within a minimum salary threshold, having particularly strong qualifications, or applying for a job in which the UK has a shortage.    

A small number of the most highly skilled workers will be able to come to the UK without a job offer. Those who do not meet the requirements for the skilled worker route will not be eligible to enter the UK.

How to become an approved sponsor

As touched on above, businesses will need to apply to become approved sponsors to hire workers from outside the UK. This process involves checking eligibility for a licence, choosing the type of licence to apply for – i.e. long-term or temporary recruitment – and appointing who will be responsible for managing the sponsorship process internally. Businesses can then apply online and pay a fee depending the tier of licence selected.

An example cost is £536 for a small business to be eligible to sponsor migrant workers in long-term positions.

The visa process

Applicants for these new immigration routes will be able to apply and pay for their visa online from autumn 2020.

The end of free movement in the UK is likely to be controversial. Regardless, staying up to date with the new legislation will allow businesses to transition smoothly into a new era.

  

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