New points-based visa scheme opens in UK

Home Secretary Priti Patel hailed the UK's post-Brexit, points-based immigration system as "simple, effective and flexible" as it opened to applicants for the first time on Tuesday.

Under the new system, which comes in to force on January 1, skilled worker visas will be awarded on the basis of points allocated for the skills required for the job on offer, knowledge of English and a £25,600 minimum salary."The new immigration rules will ensure that businesses can recruit the most highly qualified from across the globe to drive the economy forwards and keep the UK at the frontier of innovation," said the Home Office."It will also encourage employers to focus on training and investing in the UK workforce, driving productivity and improving opportunities for individuals, especially those impacted by coronavirus."In addition to the skilled worker visa, other immigration routes that opened to applicants on December 1 included the 'Global Talent' visa for people with "exceptional" talents in the fields of science, engineering, humanities, medicine, digital technology or arts and culture; the innovator visa for those seeking to establish a business in the UK based on an innovative and viable idea; and the start-up visa for a person seeking to establish a business in the UK for the first time.Additionally, new intra-company transfer visas are being introduced, while the new route for international students opened in October 2020.Ms Patel said: "This government promised to end free movement (from the European Union), to take back control of our borders and to introduce a new points-based immigration system. Today, we have delivered on that promise."This simple, effective and flexible system will ensure employers can recruit the skilled workers they need, whilst also encouraging employers to train and invest in the UK’s workforce."We are also opening routes for those who have an exceptional talent or show exceptional promise in the fields of engineering, science, tech or culture."Fraser Vandal, an immigration specialist at law firm TLT, described the new system as the biggest change to UK immigration laws in recent memory, which would have a direct impact on how employers recruit overseas staff."The biggest change for most employers will be the fact that much more stringent rules will apply to the recruitment of EU nationals who arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 and who do not have status under the Settlement Scheme," he said."Employers who do not already have a Sponsor Licence should actively consider whether a licence may be required to maintain access to a wide talent pool."Mr Vandal also urged employers with exiting expat staff from Europe to ensure they registered under the EU Settlement Scheme, which will entitle them and their families to remain permanently in the country. The deadline to register is June 30 next year."Although a scheme application does not necessarily require input from an employer, it makes sense for employers to publicise the scheme using existing government materials so that individuals know that they need to apply," he said."Audits of existing right to work documentation can also identify eligible individuals. Although employers cannot force employees to make a scheme application, it makes sense to encourage staff to do so in order to reduce the risk of business disruption."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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