We may all be struggling to cope with the global pandemic, but normal business continues.

In the Government’s own words:- “From 1st January 2021, free movement will end and the UK will introduce a points-based immigration system. The new system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally, and transform the way in which all migrants come to the UK to work.”

In line with its promise to be ready for our exit from the European Union, the Government has issued guidelines on its new immigration system. This is relatively simple to understand, even though we are certain it will create huge difficulties in interpretation once implementation starts.

The important highlights are:-

  • EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally in future;
  • It will not apply to EU citizens already living in the UK by the end of 2020;
  • Such citizens will have until the end of June 2021 to apply for the right to stay under the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • Visas will be awarded to those who gain enough points under the new immigration system;
  • Points are assigned for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and shortage occupations;
  • New immigrants will generally have to score 70 points on a new points-based immigration system;
  • Employers need to apply to be a sponsor at least eight weeks before they employ an immigrant worker;
  • A new Visa application process will be put in place;
  • There will be other routes for those who graduate in the UK, highly skilled workers and for talent shortages in time;

The cynic will say it is a good time to introduce controversial legislation. Others will point out to the fact that whatever is happening with coronavirus, we must get on with the new system.

The system is designed to make it easier for skilled workers from around the world to come to the UK through an employer-led system.

EU citizens already living in the UK

The new system does not apply to EU citizens living in the UK by 31st December 2020.  They, and their family members, are eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, and have until 30th June 2021 to make an application.

Importantly, up until 30th June 2021, employers can continue to accept the passports and national identity cards of EU citizens as evidence of their right to work.

Skilled workers

From 1st January 2021, anyone new coming to the UK to work will need to demonstrate that:

  • They have a job offer from a Home Office approved sponsor;
  • The job offer is at the required skill level – RQF 3 or above (A Level and equivalent);
  • They speak English;

In addition to this:

  • They can generally only make an application if they will be earning more than the required minimum salary threshold of £25,600;
  • They can still apply if they are earning at least £20,480;
    • If the job offer is in a recognised job shortage occupation; or
    • They have a PhD relevant to the job;

So, some applicants will be able to trade characteristics, such as their qualifications, against a lower salary.

A total of 70 points is needed to be able to apply to work in the UK.

Highly skilled workers

From January 2021, the current Global Talent route will open to EU citizens on the same basis as non-EU citizens. This means the most highly skilled, who can achieve the required level of points, will be able to enter the UK without a job offer if they are endorsed by the relevant competent body.

Lower skilled workers

There will not be an immigration route specifically for those who do not meet the skills or salary threshold for the skilled worker route.

The UK says that it has set up arrangements with eight countries and territories to enable around 20,000 young people to come to the UK each year.

Other routes

Initiatives are also being brought forward for scientists, graduates and NHS workers, which will provide businesses with additional flexibility.

A new Graduate Immigration Route will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. This will enable international students to remain in the UK, and work at any skill level for two years after they have completed their studies.

Employers – becoming an approved sponsor

Employers not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider applying as soon as possible if they think they will want to sponsor skilled migrants, including from the EU, from early 2021.

Visit ‘UK visa sponsorship for employers’ on GOV.UK.

To save you time, you will not get a licence if you have certain unspent criminal convictions. The ones they are most interested in are, not unnaturally, for immigration offences, and offences like fraud or money laundering.

There are two levels of sponsorship, employers can apply for one or both, depending on the types of worker you want to sponsor:

  • Tier 2 – skilled workers with long-term job offers;
  • Tier 5 – skilled temporary workers;

You need to appoint people within your business to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for a licence, as you will be audited regularly, and your sponsorship can be suspended if your paperwork is not in good order.


These vary for charities and small employers (less than 50 employees or £10.2m turnover) and all larger employers:

                                        Charities and Small Employers                 Larger Employers

Tier 2                                                  £536                                                   £1,476

Tier 5                                                  £536                                                   £536

Tier 2 and Tier 5                               £536                                                   £1,476

The visa process

New immigration routes, such as the skilled worker route, will be open from autumn 2020 for applications from those who wish to work in the UK from 1st January 2021. Applicants will apply and pay for their visa online.

NB – Anyone who comes to the UK as a visitor will not be able to apply for a visa to work once in the country.

EU citizens and non-visa nationals will not require a visa to enter the country when visiting, but all migrants looking to enter the UK to work must apply for permission in advance.

Most EU citizens will complete their application online.

Non-EU citizens will continue to go to Visa Application Centres (VACs) to enrol their biometrics.

Crossing the UK border

Citizens of certain countries can continue to use biometric passports to enter through e-gates. Those countries are currently Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA.

Similarly, EU citizens will continue to use e-gates, but rather pointedly this policy will be kept under review.

Others will need to see a Border Force officer.

Living in the UK

EU citizens can use the online checking service to demonstrate their immigration status and their right to work in the UK. Until 30th June 2021, employers, landlords and public service providers will continue to accept their passports and national identity cards of EU citizens as evidence of permission.

Non-EU citizens will continue to use their physical documentation.

Leaving the UK

Leaving the UK after leave has expired, or not leaving at all when required to, will impact a migrant’s immigration status and affect future interactions with UK immigration.

For more information on the points-based immigration system and to sign up for email alerts, visit GOV.UK.

The guidance provided in this article is just that – guidance. Before taking any action make sure that you know what you are doing, or call us for specific advice.