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An Introduction to the UK’s New Points-based Immigration System

On 9 April 2020, the UK Government published guidance on the new points-based immigration system, which will come into effect on 1 January 2021.

All EU and non-EU applicants will be treated equally and dealt with under the same system, which the Government claims will prioritise skills over nationality; whilst reducing overall levels of migration.

The new system works by attributing points to certain skills, qualifications, salaries and occupations. To be awarded a UK working visa, applicants must have at least 70 points.

Eligibility criteria:

From 1 January 2021, applicants wishing to work in the UK must meet the following criteria:

  • They must have a job offer from a sponsor approved by the Home Office (employers must apply for a sponsor licence);
  • For a job at the skill level of RQF 3 or above (equivalent to UK A-Level);
  • They must be able to speak English (and pass an approved English language test);
  • Their prospective job must pay the higher of the general minimum salary threshold of £25,600 (reduced from the current threshold of £30,000) and the specific going rate for their occupation (which will vary);
  • Or if they would be earning less than £25,600 but no less than £20,480, they may still be eligible if they can demonstrate that they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation or a PhD relevant to the job.

Employers can be assured that the UK will continue to welcome talented graduates under the new rules. The most highly skilled workers will be able to use the Global Talent route to enter the UK without a job offer, provided they are endorsed by the relevant competent body e.g. Tech Nation, The Royal Academy of Engineering, UKRI and others. There will also be a new immigration route for international graduates who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens already living in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 will need to apply for settled status to remain living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021.

Becoming a Sponsor

After 1 January 2021, employers must apply to become sponsors if they want to recruit workers from outside the UK. Until then, current immigration rules continue to apply. An application takes eight weeks to process, and the cost is variable depending on the type of visa you wish to sponsor (Tier 2 for permanent positions and/or Tier 5 for temporary positions) and your annual turnover.

If you are an employer seeking advice on employing migrant skilled workers in the UK, please contact our Employment & Holistic HR team at  We shall be very pleased to introduce you to our specialist immigration law consultant Nicola Richards

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