The UK is introducing a new points-based immigration system from January 1st, 2021. If you want to work in the UK, or are looking to hire staff from outside of the country, you’ll need to be aware of the new regulations. 

Although the UK formally left the EU in January 2020, a transition agreement has meant that free movement has continued, allowing UK and EU citizens to travel and work without the need for a visa. The move to a new immigration system coincides with the end of the UK’s transition arrangement with the European Union, which expires on December 31st, 2020. 

Unless an alternative arrangement is agreed, freedom of movement between the UK and EU is set to end on December 31st, 2020. 

How will the new system affect EU and non-EU citizens?

The government says that the new points-based system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. This means that EU citizens who want to live and work in the UK will need to seek permission before travelling, in the same way that non-EU citizens currently need to apply for a visa before working in Britain.

According to the government, Irish citizens will be able to work in the UK without the need for extra checks. EU citizens already living in the UK with pre-settled or settled status, as well as non-EU citizens with indefinite leave to remain, can also be hired without extra checks as long as they have an existing right to work in the UK.

What is the new Skilled Worker Immigration Route?

One of the main elements of the new system is the skilled worker immigration route. This route allocates points to applicants on the basis of their qualifications, skills, prospective income and other factors, such as whether there is a shortage of appropriately skilled UK resident applicants for a job.

Each applicant needs to obtain 70 points to be able to apply for a visa to work in the UK. 20 points are made up from having a job offer from an approved sponsor. A business needs to become a licensed sponsor to be able to recruit staff from outside of the UK through the skilled worker route.  

How does a business become a licensed sponsor? 

If your business is already a sponsor, you will be granted a new license with an expiry date that matches your current license. This new license will allow you to sponsor prospective employees who live overseas.

If you aren’t currently licensed, you can apply to the Home Office to become a sponsor. There are fees for applying, and different types of application to choose from.

Are there other immigration routes?

Yes. The Global Talent route allows highly skilled individuals to apply for a visa to live in the UK without a specific job offer. The Graduate route, which will be available from Summer 2021, will allow international students who have completed a degree in the UK to remain in the country for 2 years after they graduate, while international students who complete a PhD will be allowed to remain for 3 years.

What about transferring employees into the UK?

The new system also permits Intra-Company Transfers (ICTs) under specific circumstances. For example, if you run a multinational business with international offices, the ICT route allows you to transfer employees to a UK office.

Where can I find more information?

The new points-based immigration system is one of the biggest changes for UK employers and employees in years. The regulations require careful consideration and scrutiny if you want to recruit staff from overseas. 

For more information on the new system, go to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-points-based-immigration-system-employer-information/the-uks-points-based-immigration-system-an-introduction-for-employers.