Brexit created an opportunity for change in the UK’s immigration system. On 1 December 2020, the new points-based system officially began accepting applications.
However, the changes do not only address Brexit. They provide a new system that affects prospective migrant workers as well.
So how is the new immigration system different from its predecessor and what are the changes employers need to know about?
A key change is the replacement of the Tier 2 (General) category with a Skilled Worker route. The Skilled Worker route operates on a points-based system. To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, an applicant must accumulate 70 points.
By meeting the mandatory criteria, the applicant will earn 50 points. These are:
  • The applicant must hold a job offer from an approved sponsor
  • That role must meet the requisite skill level of RQF3 (equivalent to A level) or above
  • The applicant must speak English to an acceptable standard
An applicant must earn a further 20 ‘tradeable’ points. This can come from a salary of £25,600 or the ‘going rate’ for their position (whichever is higher). However there are alternative ways to score the remaining 20 points. These include
  • The job being in a specific shortage occupation
  • Holding a relevant PhD qualification
  • Being a ‘new entrant’ at the start of their career.
With these alternatives, so long as the minimum salary threshold of £20,480 is met, the applicant will be eligible.
Importantly, the scheme changes allow employers to forgo the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). Instead, employers will only need to show that there is a genuine vacancy which meets the skill and salary threshold. Employers who currently hold a sponsorship licence to hire Tier 2 workers do not need to reapply under the new scheme.
Workers holding the old Tier 2 visas can rest easy – their visas will still remain valid until they expire. To extend this visa, they must apply via the Skilled Workers route as it is about to expire.
The government aims to reduce burdens on businesses with this points-based system. So, as above, the skill level needed for the job offer is now RQF3 instead of RQF6 and the required salary is more flexible.
Also, the annual quota on the number of skilled workers who can apply has been suspended.
Image used under CC courtest of Neville Wotton