The Government has set out its plans for a points-based immigration system to come into force on January 1 2021.
A policy statement published on Wednesday said free movement would end, laws surrounding this would be repealed and a new Immigration Bill would be introduced for a “firm and fair” system which would “attract the high-skilled workers” to create a “high wage, high skill, high productivity economy”.
It vowed to prioritise someone on their skills not where they came from, adding: “For too long, distorted by European free movement rights, the immigration system has been failing to meet the needs of the British people.
“Our approach will change all of this.”
The paper set out the first phase of changes.
– Skilled workers:
All applicants – both EU and non-EU citizens – who want to live and work in the UK will need to gain 70 points to be eligible to apply for a visa.
Points will be awarded for key requirements if they can demonstrate they:
– Have a job offer from an approved sponsor, such as an employer cleared by the Home Office (which earns 20 points).
– Have a job offer that is at a “required skill level” (20 points).
– They can speak English to a certain level (10 points).
Other points could be awarded for certain qualifications and if there is a shortage in a particular occupation.
The salary threshold for skilled migrants will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 for those coming to the UK with a job offer.
But migrants “will still need to be paid the higher of the specific salary threshold for their occupation, known as the ‘going rate’, and the general salary threshold”, the paper said.
If an applicant earns less than the required minimum salary threshold – but no less than £20,480 – they may still be able to come to the UK if they have a job offer in a specific occupation which appears on the Government’s jobs shortage list, or if they have a PhD relevant to the job.
This could mean lower earners such as nurses may still be able to apply for a visa, provided a shortage of staff in this area remain on the approved list.
The cap on the number of people who can come through the skilled worker route has been scrapped.
There are no plans to introduce regional salary thresholds or different arrangements for different parts of the UK.
– Highly-skilled workers:
This would allow a some of the most highly-skilled workers, who can gain the required level of points, to enter the UK without a job offer if they are endorsed by a “relevant and competent body”.
This will include science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals.
There will also be an “unsponsored” visa option where points will also be awarded for factors such as academic qualifications, age and relevant work experience for a small number of highly-skilled workers without a job offer. The route would be capped to begin with.
– Low-skilled workers:
There will be no temporary or general visa options for low-skilled migrant workers.
The paper said: “UK businesses will need to adapt and adjust to the end of free movement, and we will not seek to recreate the outcomes from free movement within the points-based system.
“As such, 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.”
It is estimated 70% of the existing EU workforce would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route, which will help to bring overall numbers down in future, according the Home Office.
It is thought there are around 3.4 million EU citizens living in the UK and most are said to be unskilled or low-skilled workers.
Last week it was reported the new system could cut the number of low-skilled migrant workers from European Union countries by up to 90,000 a year.
The policy document mentioned the immigration system would “reduce overall migration numbers”.
But the Home Office has been unable to provide more detail on how this would be achieved and if a target number had been set.
A pilot scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture will be quadrupled from 2,500 to 10,000 places.
Youth mobility arrangements with eight countries that result in around 20,000 young people coming to the UK each year will continue.
“Both routes will provide employers with further ongoing flexibility in employing individuals into lower-skilled roles”, the paper said, but added: “We expect employers to take other measures to address shortages.”
They will need to demonstrate:
– They have an offer from an approved educational institution.
– Can speak English.
– Can support themselves during their studies in the UK.
– Other routes:
– Current arrangements for specialist occupations such as religious ministers, artists, musicians and entertainers are expected to broadly remain the same and be extended for EU citizens.
– Self-employed and freelance workers can continue to apply for visas under existing rules and will not need to be sponsored.
– Visitors, including EU citizens, will be able to come to the UK without a visa for six months but will not be allowed to work.
– Asylum applications fall outside the points-based system and are expected to operate under existing rules.