Following Brexit, the government plans to have a new immigration system in place from 1 January 2021. This is being touted as Britain’s “new points based immigration system”. The aim is to prioritise the skills people have and how they will contribute to the UK economy.

The government intends to overhaul the Immigration Rules at the same time, to make them clear, consistent, and accessible.

Some of the biggest changes will be to what is currently the Tier 2 visa. This is the visa for skilled workers with a job offer. The rules at present are that the role must be at a required skill level and paid an appropriate salary, which in most cases means the salary cannot be lower than £30,000. Further, where someone is outside the UK and employers want to recruit them, the employer must first advertise the role for 28 days and prove no one currently in the UK is available to do it.

From 1 January 2021 the following changes are expected:

  • Jobs at a lower skill level can be sponsored for the first time. This brings into scope many jobs which previously would not be available for Tier 2 applicants.

  • The resident labour market test will be scrapped. This will save employers time and also should afford some certainty that they can go ahead with their plans to recruit a non-UK resident worker.

  • The minimum salary threshold will be reduced to £25,600.

  • There will be the opportunity to trade points based on salary, qualifications, and roles to be filled (see below for more detail). There may also be future changes to how points can be traded.

Employers who know they are likely to face a staff shortage due to Brexit should apply now for a sponsor licence. This is particularly important in light of potential delays in the immigration system once the Country is over the coronavirus crisis.

In making a sponsor licence application, it is important to get the application right first time. Employers who are refused a licence are then unable to apply again for a period of 6 months. Quite often rejections are down to not having the systems in place to ensure an employer can carry out the sponsor obligations. Employers should take advice early on in the process to ensure they know the obligations and can check their own internal HR systems will enable them to meet Home Office requirements.

Taking early advice helps employers fully evaluate whether there is a need for a licence and if the job is one which can be sponsored. If at this early stage it is identified that the job is not one which will be sponsored it can mean employers avoid unnecessary costs in applying for a licence.

Trading points

The biggest change to Tier 2 will be the opportunity to trade points. Currently an applicant needs 70 points which have to be comprised of: having a Certificate of Sponsorship, being paid the appropriate salary, English language ability, and holding sufficient maintenance funds.

The new proposal is for some points to be mandatory (job offer, skill level, English language ability) and others to be tradable.

Trading points means that an applicant has to make up the remaining 20 points from the following:

Salary Job/Education
Salary of £20,480-23,039 – 0 points PhD in subject relevant to job – 10 points
Salary of £23,040 – 25,599 – 10 points STEM PhD relevant to job – 20 points
Salary of £25,600+ – 20 points Job in shortage occupation – 20 points

 

Where salary rates for a specific job are higher than the minimum levels set out in the table above, but an applicant holds a relevant PhD or the job is a shortage occupation role, the points can apply to a salary lowered by a percentage (10% or 20% lower depending on the number of points in the job/education table). This doesn’t seem much in keeping with simplifying the rules and it is something likely to trip employers up.

With 9 months before the new system is expected to be in place, employers should be planning ahead and taking advice on their options so they can continue recruitment plans once the Brexit transition period has ended.

Currently, there appear to be no plans to extend the Brexit transition period but this may change as the Coronavirus crisis continues.

For further advice on these Tier 2 changes or for assistance in sponsor licence applications, please contact Farleys immigration team on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.