The use of the point-based system by the UK, for a work visa, to attract highly skilled workforce around the world is quite appreciable. In the Feb of 2020, Home secretory Priti Patel announced the launch of a new points-based immigration system which will open up the UK to the brightest and the best from around the world.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

  • Today is a historic moment for the whole country.
  • We’re ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people’s priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down.
  • We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential.

As per the recent news on Dec 1, 2020, from Tuesday all foreign nationals, including from the European Union, who want to work in the UK from 1 January will have to apply for an online visa.

Skilled worker route

Under the new skilled worker system, anyone coming to the UK to work will need to demonstrate that:

  • they have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor
  • the job offer is at the required skill level – RQF 3 or above (A-Level and equivalent)
  • they speak English to the required standard (must have IELTS British Council Certification)

In addition to this, the job offer must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold. This is the higher of either:

  • the general salary threshold set by Her Majesty’s Government on the advice of the independent Migration Advisory Committee at £25,600, or
  • the specific salary requirement for their occupation, known as the “going rate”

All applicants will be able to trade characteristics, such as their qualifications, against a lower salary to get the required number of points. If the job offer is less than the minimum salary requirement but no less than £20,480, an applicant may still be eligible if they have:

  • a job offer in a specific shortage occupation
  • a PhD relevant to the job
  • a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job

There are different salary rules for workers in certain health or education jobs, and “new entrants” at the start of their careers.

There are different salary rules for workers in certain health or education jobs, and “new entrants” at the start of their careers.

A total of 70 points is needed to be able to apply to work in the UK

Further Reading: The UK’s points-based immigration system: an introduction for employers

What are the plans?

The government wants a “points-based system” which takes different factors like skills and language into account when awarding visas which would allow people to work in the UK.

In a policy statement being published on Wednesday 19 February, the government said that to get a visa, applicants from anywhere in the world must:

  • Have a job offer from an “approved employer” at an “appropriate skill level”
  • Speak English

That will get an applicant to 50 points. But they must have 70 points to be eligible for a visa. The most straightforward route to the final 20 points is that the applicant will:

  • Earn at least £25,600 (reduced from the £30,000 which currently applies to non-EU applicants)

They can also gain extra points for having better qualifications (10 points for a relevant PhD; or 20 points for a PhD in science, technology, engineering or maths) or an offer of a job in which the UK has a shortage (20 points), even if they don’t earn as much money.

What’s the UK system now?

Currently, those from within the EU do not need a visa to work in the UK because they benefit from freedom of movement – although there are limits on claiming certain benefits.

For those from outside the EU, there is already a system in place which is based on points.

These points are awarded for having English language skills, being sponsored by a company and meeting a salary threshold.

A maximum number of work visas are awarded – the cap is set at around 21,000 a year but it isn’t often met. Under the new system, this cap will be removed.

There are four “tiers” of visa assessed on points, covering:

  • Temporary workers, this might include those coming to do seasonal work on farms or in a theatre production
  • Students
  • Skilled workers
  • “High-value” migrants for example people with “exceptional talent” or major investors

The government does not intend to introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route but has been running a pilot scheme for seasonal agricultural workers. When this pilot finishes at the end of the year, the government will decide whether it will continue under the points-based system.

The previous work scheme – the Tier One (post-study work) scheme – for overseas students was closed by the government on 5 April 2012; the new proposals will give business comparable flexibility to that scheme.

Overseas workers will be allowed to stay on and work for two years under a graduate route visa without companies initially having to apply for sponsorship.

Further Reading: The UK work visa: requirements, sponsorship, and the points-based assessment

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