As the UK prepares to take on an unprecedented new role in the global economy, the government has revealed plans to overhaul its visa system.
While for many, thoughts of Brexit have been overshadowed by concerns about COVID-19, for others, Britain’s exit from the EU will mark a historic moment for the country’s immigration laws. The end of free movement for EU citizens in the UK will change the lives of thousands of European workers, and present new opportunities for migrants travelling from outside the EEC.
Critics say the new system will weaken Britain’s borders and open the country to an unlimited number of foreign workers, putting undue pressure on unemployed Brits. But supporters argue that by ending the distinction between EU and non-EU applicants, the UK will be able to attract global talent, boosting the contribution migrants make to the national economy.
UK immigration in 2020
The UK’s new visa system will launch in 2021, marking the shift away from EU-centric immigration rules. In January 2020, the government published guidance on its updated selection process, adding several additional clauses last month, to manage the spread of COVID-19.
As it stands, EU citizens can work and live in the UK without a visa, thanks to the EU Freedom of Movement agreement between member countries. In 2004, the UK extended this privilege to non-EU countries from within the EEC.
Workers from outside these areas are required to apply for a Tier 2 General visa, which qualifies them to work in the UK for a maximum of 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on their certificate of sponsorship provided it is less than 5 years. work for your sponsor in the job described in your certificate of sponsorship. Tier 2 visa holders are allowed to take on a second job, volunteer, study if it doesn’t interfere with the job they are sponsored for, and bring spouses and dependents into the UK.
To qualify for the visa applicants must have a certificate of sponsorship from their UK employer and the offer of an appropriate salary (normally £30,000), as well as personal savings of at least £945 in their bank account.
Under the current system, there are restrictions which limit the circumstances in which employers can sponsor an overseas worker. According to VisaFox, an online advice service for people navigating the UK immigration system, the Tier 2 visa process works to mitigate unemployment for British citizens.
VisaFox author, Hayley Maguire, said: “The visa approval process requires more than just applying and being offered a job. The employer must also prove that there isn’t a suitable settled worker already in the country that can fulfil the role. To do this, the position has to be advertised in the UK for a set amount of time as part of the Resident Labour Market Test.
Once the application has passed the Resident Labour Market Test, further checks will then be carried out to make sure the role is genuine and that the candidate is suitably skilled to do the job. Once the visa is approved, family members can then apply to join the skilled worker in the UK.”
What will change in 2021?
Britain’s departure from the EU will spell a complete departure from the Tier 2 visa process. As of January 1, 2021, those hoping to move to the UK for work will have to qualify for a visa based on a points system, which is designed to evaluate the contribution individual migrants will make to the national economy. EEC citizens will also be subject to the points-based evaluation, with no visa exemptions available for Britain’s European neighbours.
Migrants will have to gain a total of 70 points to be eligible for a visa, as well as having a job offer from a sponsor (20 points), in a position that fulfils the ‘required skill level’ (20 points), and a good level of spoken English (10 points). The job offer must also be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level).
Additional points can be made up by the following:
- A salary between 23,040, – 25,599: worth 10 points
- A salary of more than 25,600: worth 20 points
- Jobs on shortage occupation list: worth 20 points
- Has a PhD degree: 10 points
- Has a PhD degree in science, technology, engineering, or maths: worth 20 points
While the government predicts that the majority of migrants will enter the UK via the points-based work system, immigration law specialists at Axiom Stone said that many more options were available: “We understand that UK visa routes are wide and may be complex, especially where more than one option applies to you. Our job is to help people understand their options and advise as to the best option that is available for them.”
One of these new options is the Global Talent route, which will grant fast-track visa access to highly-skilled scientists and researchers who do not already have a job offer in the UK. Unlike the points-based scheme, the Global Talent route is only open to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.
UK Immigration solicitors are anticipating that thousands of UK based migrants will find themselves in uncertain positions as a result of the new system.
Migrant workers already in the UK whose visa expired before 31 July 2020 were given the option to submit an application for a long-term visa from within Britain, rather than from their country of origin as previously mandated.