Update on post-Brexit immigration system

United Kingdom

In the midst of the COVID-19 restrictions, Brexit can seem like a distant memory.  With the current situation requiring drastic action, with a profound impact on everyday life, the focus of government departments, including the Home Office, has been on dealing with the impact of that situation.  However, notwithstanding the public health situation, the post-withdrawal transition period that the UK has agreed with the EU will end on 31 December 2020. 

Thereafter, for all new arrivals to the UK, a new immigration system will apply, with the stated policy objective of creating a uniform system that applies to nationals of EU member states, and to nationals of other countries, in the same way.  On 9 April 2020 the Home Office published new guidance on how this post-Brexit immigration system will work in practice.  The timing of the release of this guidance suggests a theme of “the show must go on” in terms of Brexit preparations, irrespective of the other challenges facing government.

The new guidance is relatively concise at the moment, with the following key points worth noting:

  • It will be a requirement that all new migrants have an offer of employment from a Home Office approved sponsor. 

  • In terms of skill/remuneration level, all roles eligible for sponsorship will require to be at RQF Level 3 or A-level, and will also be subject to a general minimum salary threshold of £25,600.

  • Everyone coming to the UK to work will need to demonstrate that they speak English.

Applications will be determined by a points based system, with points awarded for the following:

  • Offer of job from approved sponsor – 20 points

  • Job at appropriate skill level – 20 points

  • English language – 10 points

  • Salary between £23,040 to £25,599 – 10 points

  • Salary of £25,600 or above – 20 points

  • Job on shortage occupation list – 20 points

A total of 70 points will be required for a visa to be granted, although allowances are made in terms of salary when a migrant has a PhD relevant to the role in which case additional points may be available to bring the migrant up to the required number of points.

Consistent with earlier indications, the Home Office has also confirmed that there will not be an immigration route specifically for those who do not meet the skills or salary threshold for the points based system.  This will be of potential concern to many employers operating in sectors with a high reliance on migrant labour from within the EU which fall outside the scope of the requirements in terms of the points based system on salary and skill level.  The guidance points toward the youth mobility scheme in that respect, but many employers impacted by limitations on their ability to recruit from the EU labour market will have their doubts about the ability of the youth mobility scheme to fill that void.

The best thing that employers who want to plan for the new system can do is to consider applying for a sponsor licence now.  The government has confirmed that such a licence will be required to employ migrants under the points based system.  There is likely to be a significant increase in applications ahead of the end of the transition period, with no reciprocal increase in the capacity of the Home Office to deal with increased demand.  Employers who wish to sponsor migrants under the scheme would be well advised to get ahead and apply for a sponsor licence now in order to protect their position.