Article by our solicitors Ameera Nosheen and Asya Chaudhry 03.10.2020
From January 2021, the UK government will introduce a new immigration system for hiring non-UK workers, with the same rules for EU and non-EU citizens.

Key changes from January 2021

From autumn 2020, the Home Office plans to open updated immigration routes for those who wish to work in the UK from 1 January 2021. These include:

  •  a skilled worker route for those with a job offer
  • points-based routes for workers without a job offer

From 1 January 2021, free movement will end in the UK. This means that newly arriving EU citizens will need permission to enter, live and work in the UK. Those who are already living in the UK before 1 January 2021 must apply for settled status before July 2021 to continue living and working in the UK.

When free movement ends, UK employers will need a sponsor licence if they want to recruit citizens from EU and non-EU countries who do not have leave to remain in the UK.

Skilled workers with a job offer

The government’s position is that those coming to the UK for work from January 2021 must:

  • have a job offer from a licensed sponsor
  • meet certain skills / salary criteria
  • speak English

The government has confirmed that it will also:

  • reduce the general salary threshold to £25,600 (from £30,000)
  • lower the required skills level from degree to A-level or equivalent
  • suspend the cap on how many people can enter the UK on the skilled worker route
  • remove the resident labour market test

A total of 70 points is needed to be able to apply to work in the UK. The points for some characteristics such as salary or qualification are tradable. Therefore, if someone earns less than £25,600, they may still be able to come if they can show that they have a:

On 29 March 2020, the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa for migrants without a job offer was replaced by the Global Talent visa. This will be opened up to EU citizens in 2021.

Migrants who want to set up or run a business in the UK who do not qualify for the Global Talent visa may be able to use the:

In its February 2020 policy statement, the government also said it may explore other options for highly skilled workers without a job offer. From January 2021, people without a job offer or the skills needed to meet the UK visa requirements will not be able to migrate to the UK. The government is trialling a seasonal workers’ pilot until the end of 2020, to test how well the system can support UK farmers during peak production periods.

Other existing routes for temporary visas (Tier 5), such as the Youth Mobility Scheme or for specialist occupations, will also be opened to EU citizens as well as non-EU citizens.

Sponsorship for employers

UK employers who want to recruit workers from outside the UK from January 2021 will need to apply for a sponsor licence, unless they only employ workers who have an existing right to work in the UK, such as:

  • EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status
  • non-EU citizens with indefinite leave to remain in the UK

Employers will need to make sure they comply with right to work checks and other regulations – especially between 1 January and 30 June 2021, when some EU citizens may still be applying for settled status. The Home Office is accepting applications for sponsor licences now.

We support an unsponsored visa route that would encourage highly skilled workers to move to the UK without a specific job offer in place.

For sponsored workers, we welcome the:

  • suspension of a cap on Tier 2 visas
  • removal of the resident labour market test
  • reduction of the Tier 2 general salary threshold to £25,600

However, we believe a salary threshold should be fair on all UK businesses, whatever their size, sector or location. We are also concerned that there will be significant issues for the economy if workers who earn below the salary threshold cannot migrate to the UK.

We are of the view that any future immigration system should be fair to all applicants, regardless of nationality.

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