Last week, the Government issued its guidance to employers on the new employer led points-based immigration system.
This will be effective from 1 January 2021 and will end the free movement of people, transforming the way in which all migrants come to the UK to work.
Under the new system, anyone coming to the UK to work will need to demonstrate that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor, the offer is at the required skill level and that they speak English. In addition, there will be a required minimum salary threshold, and for anyone earning less than this, they will need to demonstrate that they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation or a PhD relevant to the job.
To identify whether a job meets the required skill level, the employer can refer to the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code for that job which they can find using the ONS Occupation Coding Tool on the Government’s website.
Points will be assigned for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and shortage occupations and a minimum of 70 points is required to be awarded a Visa. Anyone coming to work in the UK will need to be paid the higher of the specific salary threshold for their occupation – the ‘going rate’ – and the general salary threshold (£25,600). However, some applicants will be able to trade characteristics, such as their qualifications, against a lower salary.
As only Home Officer approved sponsors can employ individuals under the new system, the Government is encouraging employers to make applications for sponsor licences in good time, prior to the introduction of the system.
From January 2021, the current Global Talent route open to non-EU citizens will also open to EU citizens. This means that highly skilled workers can achieve the required level of points without the need for a job offer providing they are endorsed by the relevant competent body. The Government has plans to remove the sponsorship requirement in the future.
There will not be an immigration route specifically for lower skilled workers who do not meet the skills or salary threshold for the skilled worker route.
For the avoidance of doubt, the new system will not apply to EU citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020. Those individuals are eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and have until 30 June 2021 to do so. During the transition, employers should continue to accept the passports and national identity cards of EU citizens as evidence of their right to work up until 30 June 2021.
The end of the free movement of persons has been something anticipated by the UK since 2016 when leaving the EU was first on the table. The change to an employer led points-based immigration system may come as a challenge to employers but the Employment, Human Resources & Pensions Team is on hand to assist. Please contact a member of the team through the link or by calling 0207 880 4263.