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Key workers and points-based immigration: will the new system cope?

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

The new system is designed to treat EU and non-EU nationals equally and to attract skilled workers to the UK

What are the changes? 

The new points-based UK immigration system is set to come into force on 1 January 2021 and will end free movement with the European Union (“EU”). The new system is designed to treat EU and non-EU nationals equally and to attract skilled workers to the UK. 

Why is this new system controversial?

Many applicants will not be covered by the new rules and this will have a disproportionate impact on jobs that are considered to be ‘low-skilled’. There is no single definition of what a low-skilled job or low-skilled worker actually is, although it has been said that low-skilled workers would be those without A-Levels or a Scottish Higher-equivalent education. This definition is problematic because many jobs which could fall into this bracket do not require formal education qualifications but are nonetheless very important for a healthy economy. The Government’s proposed changes have therefore attracted a significant amount of criticism because such ‘low-skilled’ jobs are frequently undertaken by migrant workers, particularly in the health and social care sectors. This last fact has taken on a particular relevance in 2020, as those who have been working in these ‘low-skilled’ sectors have been designated as key workers during the Coronavirus lockdowns. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important these sectors and those who work in them are to the economy and to the country as a whole, and yet many of these sectors now anticipate that they will be left with a reduced workforce following the introduction of the new immigration system. 

What is the outlook for 2021?

The new points-based system will introduce a route for skilled workers. Applicants who will apply under this route will need to demonstrate that: 

  1. they have a job from an approved sponsor;
  2. they have a job offer that is at a ‘required skill level’;
  3. they can speak English to a certain level; and 
  4. their sponsor will pay them the relevant salary. This will be the general salary threshold of £25,600 or the going rate for their job – whichever is higher. (If an individual will be applying to enter the UK on the basis of the Intra Company Transfer route, the general salary threshold will be £41,500 or the going rate for the job – whichever is higher).        

However, the Government is yet to address the underlying issues with occupations that it deems are ‘low-skilled.’ It seems that the UK could well be left with a critical lack of social care workers, fruit pickers, supermarket workers and cleaners among other professions that will be adversely impacted by the new system. 

Gherson has a wealth of experience in dealing with all aspects of UK immigration. If you have any specific questions or queries in respect of your particular circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice, send us an e-mail, or alternatively, follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2020

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