Immigration – Redesigned, Renewed and Restored Points Based System Coming to the UK Real Soon?

Trailers provide a glimpse of what is to come, the same way the Government has provided us with policy statements and snippet updates on what is in store for 2021. Come January 2021, what do we have to look forward to? Given the current circumstances firstly, confirmation of our defeat of COVID-19 and secondly an effective immigration system.

The UK already operates a Points Based System, so what difference will these new changes really make? The key difference is that from 1st January 2021, EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally in order to reduce the overall levels of migration and prioritising individuals with the ‘highest skills’ and ‘greatest talents’.  A route will not be introduced for general low-skilled or temporary work route in order to shift the focus of the economy away from the reliance of cheap labour from Europe and refocus on the investment in technology and automation.

Further, the new plans include expansion of the trial seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme, which is to increase from 2,500 to 10,000 visas per year, but this is unlikely to be sufficient comfort for a sector that currently brings in between 60,000 and 70,000 workers annually.

How will these changes revolutionise or impact the migration of skilled individuals?
We have summarised the key changes below and our comments on whether these should be seen as a pro/con:

Annual cap

The current cap of 20,700 per annum for Tier 2 General Migrants will set to be abolished from 2021.

Pro:  These changes will be more than welcomed by most employers, as there no longer will be a cap on the number of Tier 2 Migrants sponsored in the UK.

Skill Level

Current requirements: RQF 6 – i.e. degree level

New requirements from 2021: RQF 3 i.e. broadly equivalent to completion of secondary education

Pro: The relaxation will provide opportunities to those who have the equivalent of three A levels.

Con:  The relaxation of the skill level does not include lower skilled work as noted above, which is a significant issue for affected sectors. Further, the minimum salary requirements could rule out many roles, even if they would now qualify on a skills basis.

Resident Labour Market Test

The Resident Labour Market Test was designed by the Home Office to ensure and provide settled workers with the opportunity to apply for employment positions. The policy was introduced so that employment opportunities which arise in the UK should, in the first instance, be offered to suitable settled workers. Therefore, requiring all employers consider all applications received against requirements for a specified position.   From 2021, the Resident Labour Market Test will be abolished.

Pro:  This change will definitely be welcomed by all sponsors.  The requirement to advertise the job on two platforms including find a job for a period of 28 days will no longer be required. This will save employers time and money by removing the requirement to pay any administrative fee associated with advertising the job on the particular platforms.


There have been confirmed changes Minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 General Category.  However, there have been no proposed changes to Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer rates.

Current Requirement:

£30,000 p/a (£20,800 p/a for new entrants)

New Requirement:

£25,600 (£17,920 p/a for new entrants)
Pro: Migrants will still need to be paid the higher of the salary applicable to their specific occupation or the general threshold. It is yet to be seen as to whether this will have any real impact. It will depend upon the level at which occupation-specific salaries are set.
Con: For certain jobs, points for salary and qualifications will be tradeable, essentially permitting certain roles paying below the minimum threshold to qualify. The plans do not provide for any regional salary variations.

Current points attribution:

In order to meet the requirements for entry clearance as a Tier 2 General Migrant the applicant must meet a total of 70 points, the attribution is as follows:
• 30 points (valid and permitted sponsorship)
• 20 Points (compliant salary)
• 10 points (English language)
• 10 points (maintenance funds)

The new points attribution will be:
Tier 2 General migrants will still need 70 points: – some of which will be tradeable (as underlined below)
• 20 points (offer from approved sponsor)
• 10 points (salary £23,040 – £25,599)
• 20 points (salary £25,600 +)
• 20 points (skill level)
• 10 points (English language)
• 20 points (shortage occupation)
• 10 points (PhD in relevant subject)
• 20 points (PhD in relevant STEM subject)

Pros: This added flexibility will be welcomed and additional points for shortage occupations may help address some shortages.  If you will earn less than this – but no less than £20,480 – you may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against your salary. For example, if a job offer is made in a shortage occupation or have a PhD relevant to the job.

Cons: It is assumed these changes will apply to Tier 2 General only (not intra-company transfers).

What are likely to be the potential impact of these changes?
It is too early to say.  However, Employers are now encouraged to review particular roles within their organisations if they are in a position to identify EEA Nationals who may be required to fulfil a particular role in the foreseeable future. They should consider the following:
1) Applying for a Sponsor Licence in preparation where the skill level for the job is at least at RQF Level 3 or;

2) Where the skill level is below RQF 3 the candidate will not be eligible to be sponsored from January 2021.  The solution could be offering the job earlier and ensuring the EEA National is in the United Kingdom before 31st December 2020 and therefore eligible to apply to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme

Act now, avoid delays later…

Employers who have been in a position to avoid the Sponsorship process, may now find themselves needing a Sponsor Licence in order to recruit talent in 2021. There is likely to be a surge in the number of Sponsor Licence applications which will naturally impact processing times.  With plenty of time ahead of the implementation of these changes, we recommend that employers who do not hold a Sponsorship Licence should consider applying now, in good time. The licence lasts for 4 years.

Sonum Behar