The new UK points-based immigration system – update

14 May 2020

The UK Government published proposals for a new UK points-based immigration system in February of this year. It is set to go ‘live’ when the current EU free movement law ceases to apply.

What will the new system look like?

Many of the details about the proposed new UK points-based immigration system are still not known. 

Like the current system for non-EU immigration, the new system is collectively referred to as a “points-based system”. However, from the information that has been made available so far, it suggests that only two of the specific categories in the new system are truly points-based. This is to say that they will have a degree of flexibility over how points can be acquired.

The first of these new categories is a route for highly-skilled workers without a job offer. This is still being developed and is not expected to be ready to launch next January. The other is a route for sponsored skilled workers; essentially the new Tier 2 (General) visa. The main changes that the Government is making to this visa route are:

  • Introducing a new tradeable points test to determine eligibility for a visa
  • Reducing the minimum salary and skill thresholds
  • Lifting the restriction on the number of visas available

It is likely that the new immigration system will incorporate some other existing visa categories, such as student visas and youth mobility visas. It is not yet known whether their eligibility criteria will change.

Reactions from employers

Changes to the sponsored skilled worker visa category have been largely welcomed. However, the minimum salary and skill level requirements, as well as the absence of provisions for low-paid workers or self-employed people are key concerns for sectors previously highly reliant on EU workers to do work deemed to be ‘low-skilled’. 

Similarly, there are concerns that, unless the costs and bureaucracy associated with sponsoring work visas are reduced, small and medium businesses will be priced out of using the system.

What happens next?

The ‘first phase’ of the new system is scheduled to become ‘live’ from January 2021. Some of the proposed new visa categories will begin to receive applications from August 2020. 

However, many of the new proposed visa categories are not expected to be ready to launch until January 2021. It is also expected that the system will be further modified after the initial launch.