UK Points-Based Immigration System

5 min read 19/02/2020

The UK points-based immigration system was announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel on 18 February 2020.

From this it remain clear that the UK is committed to cater for the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students and a range of other specialist work routes including routes for global leaders and innovators. The Home Office will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route stating that “employers will need to adjust.” Instead they will give priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents: scientists, engineers, academics and other highly-skilled workers.

Initiatives for scientists, graduates, NHS workers and those in the agricultural sector are being bought forward; which will provide businesses with additional flexibility in the shorter term.

The new points-based immigration system is to go live on 01 January 2021 when free movement for European Citizens is to end.

Salary and skills thresholds

Key changes were announced to salary and skills threshold under the current Tier 2 (General) category. The Home Office accept the MAC’s recommendation to reduce the salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600. The Home Office also accepted the MAC’s recommendation to lower the skills threshold from RQF6 to RQF3. The annual cap is to be suspended as is the resident labour market test (RLMT). However, the Home Office will not introduce regional salary thresholds or different arrangements for different parts of the UK.

Skilled workers

All applicants, both EU and non-EU citizens, will need to demonstrate that they can achieve 70 points under the given criteria. Firstly they must score 50 points by way of having a job offer from an approved sponsor, that the job offer is at the required skill level, and that they speak English. These are mandatory or ‘non-tradable’ criteria.

In addition to this they must obtain a further 20 points from supplementary or ‘trade-able’ criteria. The table below lists the points available against given criteria.

Offer of job by approved sponsorNo£20
Job at appropriate skill levelNo20
Speaks English at required levelNor20
Salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039Yes0
Salary of £23,040 – £25,599Yes10
Salary of £25,600 or aboveYes20
Job in a shortage occupationYes20
PhD in subject relevant to the jobYes10
PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the jobYes20
Highly-skilled workers

From January 2021, the Home Office will extend the current Global Talent route to EU citizens on the same basis as non-EU citizens. 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 a relevant and competent body.

The Home Office will also create a broader unsponsored route within the points-based system to run alongside the employer-led system. This will allow a smaller number of the most highly-skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer. Example characteristics for which points could be awarded include academic qualifications, age and relevant work experience. Visa Positive believe this could potentially be a re-introduction of Tier 1 (General)/HSMP; albeit with a far stricter points threshold.

Lower-skilled workers

The Home Office pilot scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture will be quadrupled in size to 10,000 places. The UK also enjoys youth mobility arrangements with eight countries and territories. Both routes will provide employers with further ongoing flexibility in employing individuals into lower-skilled roles.

Other changes

EU citizens will be treated as non-visa nationals meaning they can come to the UK as visitors for six months without the need to obtain a visa.

The current student visa route will remain under the points-based immigration system and EU students will be subject to the same criteria and non-EU students: they will achieve the required points if they can demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, speak English and are able to support themselves during their studies in the UK.

The visa process

For employers sponsoring skilled migrants, the process will be streamlined to reduce the time it takes to bring a migrant into the UK by up to eight weeks. The Home Office intend to further reduce this through additional enhancements to the system.

Visa applications will continue to be made online but EU citizens will have the ability to enrol facial biometrics using smartphone self-enrolment; fingerprints will not initially be required. Non-EU citizens will submit biometrics at a Visa Application Centre, as they do now.

The Home Secretary said: ‘We will choose who comes here based on the skills they can offer, to benefit the whole of the UK. They must speak English – so they integrate in our communities. They must have a job offer – so they make a genuine contribution to our country. They must be paid a salary that does not undercut local workers and ensures they can support themselves.’

Further announcements on the new points-based immigration system will be made available throughout 2020.

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