The following alert is directed to organizations with a presence in the UK or who anticipate the need to place employees at a UK worksite.

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Seyfarth Synopsis: The UK government has published a policy statement outlining the new Points Based System that will come into effect in January 2021 after the post-Brexit transition period ends. The emphasis will be on highly skilled workers with concessions for students, shortage occupations, and those who hold PhDs in STEM fields. The new system will be phased in starting Fall 2020 and will be fully operational by January 2021. EU nationals who enter the UK during that time must qualify under the new immigration system.

Overview of Changes:

The Government has accepted many of the recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee, as previously reported.

For skilled workers with a job offer, a total of 70 points will be required to be eligible to apply. Applicants, including EU nationals, must demonstrate that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor for a role at the required skill level and can speak English.

Some points will be tradable, and extra points will be available for jobs deemed shortage occupations and also for applicants who hold a PhD in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) field. For example, an applicant with a job offer in a STEM field who does not meet the salary threshold, may still qualify if s/he holds a PhD in a STEM field that is relevant to their role.

As EU nationals will require sponsorship under the system, any companies who may need to hire EU nationals and who do not currently hold a sponsor license are encouraged to apply now for a license to become an approved sponsor before January 2021.

Key Changes:

The main changes under the Points Based System will be:

  • The skills threshold will be reduced to Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 3, which generally equates to an A-level qualification in the UK or a high school diploma in the U.S. The current requirement is RQF 6, degree level.
  • The salary level for Tier 2 General applications will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600. However, the salary must also meet the minimum required according to the Standard Occupational Classification code for each role, as is currently the case.
  • The new entrant rate will be set at 30% lower than the rate for experienced hires.
  • There will be no regional salary variations for different parts of the UK, such as Scotland.
  • The resident labor market test will be abolished, eliminating the need to advertise the role.
  • The monthly quota on Tier 2 General applicants from outside the UK will be suspended.
  • All applicants, including intra-company transfers, must meet an English language requirement.

There will also be a visa category for highly skilled migrants for whom a job offer will not be required. The qualifying criteria will be based on academic qualifications, age, and relevant work experience. The number of visas available in this category will be capped.

EU nationals will be allowed to travel to the UK as visitors for up to six (6) months without obtaining a visa. However, to work in the UK, EU nationals will need to obtain authorization under the new Points Based System prior to entering the UK.

What Happens Next?

The Government will begin a consultation period in March 2020. The intention is to open key routes in the Fall, so that individuals can start to apply ahead of the system taking effect in January 2021. We expect the Government to publish further details of the new system over the coming months to allow sufficient time for businesses to prepare for the changes.

We will continue to monitor and report on developments as information becomes available.