UK unveils points-based immigration rules

The UK government has laid out its proposals for a "firm and fair", points-based immigration system, which will come into force when the Brexit transition period ends at the start of next year.

A policy statement published by the UK Home Office on Wednesday said levels of migration would be reduced under the new rules with a crackdown aimed specifically workers deemed to be low skilled, prompting concerns of potential shortages in sectors such as social care, hospitality, construction and hospitality."The new single global system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. It will give top priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents, including scientists, engineers and academics," said the Home Office.

What specifically is the new points-based immigration system?

Under the proposed scheme, which will be set out in a White Paper expected in March, all those applying for a visa to live and work in the UK will need to have a job offer paying a minimum of £25,600, although workers who earn above £20,480 will be eligible if their job is on the government’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL), such as nursing, or they have a relevant PhD.

Must-have criteria for the new UK points-based immigration system

Applicants will also need to reach a 70-point mark under the new points system, which has three 'must have' criteria:
  • a job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points),
  • a "required skill level" (20 points)
  • a command of English (10 points)
A salary earning above the £25,600 threshold will earn another 20 points, as will a job on the SOL. A PhD can pick up 10 more points, and 20 more if it is in a STEM subject.The existing cap on Tier 2 visas for skilled workers will be scrapped and the government has rejected the idea of different regional salary thresholds and arrangements, as advocated by the Scottish government, in particular.

Related article:
The new UK points-based immigration system: further implications and what costs will employer's face?

Scientists and researchers: no job offer necessary if they qualify under the Global Talent Scheme

One exception to the scheme will be highly-skilled scientists and researchers who qualify under the new Global Talent Scheme and who will be able to come to the UK without a job offer. The scheme opened to non-EU citizens this month and will open to EU nationals when freedom of movement ends on December 31.

New immigration plan to provide 1/7th of the workers UK farmers need

As far as low-skilled workers are concerned, there will be no temporary or general visa options, although a pilot scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture will be quadrupled from 2,500 places to 10,000, although even this is only a seventh of the total of seasonal workers that farmers say they need."It is important that employers move away from a reliance on the UK's immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, productivity, and wider investment in technology and automation," said the Home Office.Little changes for overseas students, who will need to demonstrate a placement offer from an approved educational institution, a command of English and the ability to support themselves during their studies in the UK.

What does Home Secretary Priti Patel say about the new immigration rules?

Home Secretary Priti Patel said, "Today is a historic moment for the whole country. We’re ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people’s priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down."We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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