Changes to the UK's immigration rules - What will the new system look like?

13 November 2020

A summary of new immigration rules:

  • From the 1st of January 2021 free movement for nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland will end, and they will need a visa for all visits to the UK excluding short term trips.
  • The government has introduced a new points-based system which will allow for the most skilled workers, students and other specialist work routes roles to gain visas to work or study in the UK.
  • The immigration cap has been suspended meaning that there is no longer a limit on the number of skilled workers that can enter the UK. However, this has only been suspended and not completely disregarded.
  • A new skilled worker route will replace the Tier 2 (general) route. Under the new skilled worker system, anyone coming to the UK to work will need to demonstrate that:
    • they have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor
    • the job offer is at the required skill level – RQF 3 or above. (This has been reduced from the RQF Level six)
    • they speak English to the required standard

In addition to this, the job offer must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold. This is the higher of either £25,600 or the specific salary requirement for their occupation.

  • This skills threshold has been reduced from Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 to level 3 (A-level equivalent) though the salary requirement has not changed to reflect this. However, there is a formula for lower salaries which allows applicants to trade characteristics such as high academic achievement (a PhD relevant to the job) or a job offer in a specific shortage occupation. There is a limit to this lower salary formula, which means that the salary must not fall below £20,480.
  • There will no longer be a “cooling off period” for those who relocate to the UK via the new skilled worker route. Under the previous system, people who had previously held a Tier 2 visa and had returned to their home country must then wait 12 months before re-applying under the same, or another, visa category. However, this has now been abolished.

Aspire Comment:

New rules seem generally positive for both employers and those seeking employment in the UK.Under the EU withdrawal agreement EEA citizens who are already living in the UK will retain a right to reside here under the EU Settled Status and Pre-settled Status schemes.  Provision is made for EEA citizens who live abroad but work in the UK for less than 6 months per annum to access the UK via the Frontier Worker Permit and special provision applies, amongst others, to students, agricultural workers and artists, entertainers and musicians. 

The new skilled worker route will many advantages for employers seeking to recruit talent from abroad.However, the loss of free movement looks bound to have a negative affect on the availability of lower-skilled workers who will not qualify to enter the UK under the points-based system.  Equally, there seems to be little planning to identify and address the labour gap that this will create. 

It is likely that the Covid-19 pandemic could present employers with additional compliance issues as they attempt to navigate both Covid related issues and the new immigration rues at the same time.


See our previous news here:

New immigration rights for workers and the self employed who are not UK residents

Further details published on the points based immigration system 

Government announce new UK points based immigration system