The New Immigration Rules from 1 January 2021

From 1 January 2021, EU nationals arriving in the UK will need a work visa to live and work in the UK. Non EU migrants will continue to need a visa to live and work in the UK. The system will be the same for both.

The government is revising the rules to make it easier for an employer to recruit talent. An employer will need a sponsor licence (no change there) but there is a reduction in the minimum salary and skills thresholds and the removal of the resident labour market test. However, the cost and administrative burden of employing EU national workers will increase to be the same as for non EU nationals.

At the moment, we are finding that licences are being granted in a quicker time than the 8 weeks’ target published by the Home Office. That is one good reason for starting that process now and not delaying it till the end of 2020.

Skill Level
Sponsored workers will need a job offer in a role that is skilled to at least Regulations Qualifications Framework Level 3 (the equivalent of A Level). This is a reduction from the current requirement of RQF level 6 (degree level).

Salary Threshold
The minimum salary threshold has been reduced from £30,000 pa to £25,600 pa. Applicants to a role on the Shortage Occupation List can receive a slightly reduced salary. There will also be a reduced salary for new entrants to the labour market. There is a promise to regularly review PAYE records to ensure migrant workers are being paid the correct salary.

Intra Company Transfer
The ICT category will remain, but in a major change, migrants will be able to switch to the Skilled Worker route (the current General category) without restriction. The cooling off period will also be amended to prevent an ICT migrant holding leave for more than 5 years in any 6 year period. We don’t yet know how this change will affect former ICT visa holders currently serving a 12 months cooling off period. The major differences between the 2 categories from 1 January 2021 are that ICT minimum salaries are significantly higher, the ICT visa holder does not need to speak English and there are no settlement rights through the ICT route.

Immigration Healthcare Cost
The Immigration Health Surcharge will increase on 1 October 2020 to £624 per visa year per person from the current level of £400 per visa year per person. There are some exemptions for those working in healthcare.
This charge will apply to EU workers together with the Skills Charge (£364 or £1,000 per visa year for the main applicant depending on the size of the business). These significantly increase the cost of recruiting EU workers.

Global Talent
The Global Talent route is available to EU national employees from 1 January 2021. This is aimed at attracting those who are endorsed as global leaders and the leaders of tomorrow in science, engineering, humanities, the arts and digital technology. It is envisaged there will be a huge rise in applications for this route.

Post Study Visa and Youth Mobility
The old post study visa which was abolished by Theresa May is being reinstated. It will be available to overseas students who have completed their degree in the UK from summer 2021. Students will be able to work at any skill level for up to 2 years.
This route sits alongside the existing youth mobility visa which allows people from 8 countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan to work at any skill level in the UK for 2 years up to the age of 31.

Visiting the UK
EU, EEA and Swiss Citizens and other non visa nations will continue to be able to enter the UK for a maximum period of 6 months without a visa.

Lower Skilled Workers
There is currently no visa route for lower skilled workers except for agricultural workers. This is a serious problem for the care industry and the hospitality market. Watch this space.

Tom Redfern