Changes to the Immigration Rules from 1 January 2021

The new rules revoked the free movement arrangements that EEA nationals and their family members enjoyed up till 31 December 2020. Now EU nationals wanting to come and live and work in the UK must have a work visa like nationals from the rest of the world.

The one exception are the Irish. They continue to enjoy free movement to the UK, visa free.

The Ankara agreement visa which permitted Turkish nationals to come to the UK to live and work was also revoked on 31 December 2020.

Sponsor licence
A UK company must have a sponsor licence to be able to sponsor non UK (and non Irish) nationals to come and work for it. The licence will be valid for 4 years, can be used an unlimited number of times and can be renewed at the end of the 4 years.

Skilled worker route
The skilled worker category has replaced Tier 2 (General) and is for individuals coming to the United Kingdom to work in a skilled job with a licensed sponsor.

The minimum salary level for a sponsored employee has reduced from £30,000 pa to £25,600 pa and is less for less experienced employees. The salary level depends on the role.

The resident labour market test requirement has been removed but some advertising is still required unless justification can be provided for why no advertising is thought necessary.

Intra-company transfer route
The 12-month cooling-off requirement has been amended so that it will apply only to those who have already held leave under the route for:

– five years in any six-year rolling period; or
– nine years in any 10-year rolling period for high earners with a high earner salary of at least £73,900.

The switching requirements have been relaxed meaning that an ICT visa holder can now switch in country to the Skilled Worker category without having the need to “cool off” for 12 months.

The intra-company transfer route will be subject to a review by the Migration Advisory Committee later in 2021.

Differences between the two categories of sponsored visa
The main differences between Skilled Worker category and ICT category are that time under the ICT category does not lead to settlement, the ICT category does not require an English test to be passed and the salary levels are higher than under Skilled Worker category.

Expedited sponsor licence processing
The Home Office has introduced a new £500 fee for the priority processing of sponsor licence applications. The current wait time is 6 to 8 weeks. By paying the £500 and booking a priority slot, the wait time is 10 working days.

New Graduate Visa
The new Graduate route will open for applications on 1 July 2021 to international students who successfully complete a degree at undergraduate level or above in the UK. Students on the Graduate route will be able to work or look for work after their studies for a maximum period of 2 years, or 3 years for Doctoral students.

The Graduate route will be unsponsored, meaning applicants will not need a job offer to apply for the route. There will be no minimum salary requirements nor caps on numbers.

Tom Redfern    Email: