The day that many thought would never happen eventually happened, and the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. So what has changed so far? So far, the answer is nothing.
What is yet to change?
The UK has now entered a transition period, which will end on 31 December 2020. This transition period will allow the UK time to implement its ‘new’ immigration system and for EU nationals residing in the UK by 31 December 2020 to obtain formal status under the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021.
What will the future UK immigration system look like?
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent panel of economists and academics that advises the UK government on immigration policy, released its proposals for the future UK immigration system for workers wishing to enter the UK on or after 1 January 2021.
The MAC was commissioned by the UK government in September 2019 to advise on salary thresholds and the potential introduction of an “Australian-style” points-based system.
This new system will apply to all nationals entering the UK from 1 January 2021 when freedom of movement from the EU ends.
The report focused predominantly on workers and did not reference the immigration status of students, high-net-worth individuals, the self-employed or family members. It will be very interesting to see how all these visa categories will be amended by the incoming immigration system in January 2021.
The MAC report takes a view that sponsorship of migrant workers should be maintained and that minimal changes to the current Tier 2 system should be made, whilst integrating EU nationals into this type of visa process.
Non-EU migrants may be happy about a few of the proposed changes, as they would need to meet lower threshold requirements. By way of summary, the MAC proposed the following changes:
- The Tier 2 (General) category to be broadened to allow sponsorship of skilled workers where the skill level of the job is below degree level;
- The salary threshold to be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 for "Experienced Hires" and from £20,800 to £17,900 for "New Entrants";
- The definition of New Entrant to be widened to include those working towards recognised professional qualifications and those moving into post-doctoral positions;
- New Entrant salary thresholds to apply for five years, as opposed to the current three years;
- No increase to the salary threshold for those applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain following time spent as a Tier 2 (General) migrant beyond the current salary of £35,800;
- Salary thresholds should apply equally across the UK with no regional variations, though a limited pilot programme should be considered to attract migrants to “remote” areas;
- The Resident Labour Market Test and annual quota should be abolished;
- Abolition of the Shortage Occupation List and potentially the Tier 2 (ICT) category.
Although the above requirements are more advantageous to non-EU nationals, EU nationals entering the UK from 1 January 2021 will most likely be deterred by these proposals especially as there has currently been minimal consideration or discussions with regards to jobs which the Home Office classify as ‘lower skilled’ – such as those in the hospitality or construction industry, for example.
In addition to the above, there will be a burden on employers who had never previously required a sponsorship licence to hire employees. They will not only have to consider their future in this regard but also take into account that there will be an extensive additional cost to both the employer and employee in hiring migrants in the future.
What about those without sponsorship?
Migrants trying to enter the UK without a job offer already face significant challenges, especially as of March last year, when the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route was closed. This has created a tremendous gap in the different points based categories, with the replacement of the Start Up and Innovator visa proving to be extremely onerous due to the need for a migrant to obtain an endorsement for their application. Nevertheless, there remain budding entrepreneurs who would like to enter the UK commercial market and assist the UK economy.
The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, issued to those who are recognised as a leader or an emerging leader within their field, also has a very high threshold for entry and the MAC criticised the definition of talent and the risk averse approach taken by the endorsing bodies. The government seem to have agreed with this and therefore as of 20 February 2020 the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route will close and be rebranded as the ‘Global Talent’.
This was affirmed by the Home Office in their Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, published on 30 January, which come into force on 20 February 2020.
The new Global Talent Visa will widen the scope of the route, specifically for individuals involved in research and innovation. The Global Talent visa will have four routes for securing a visa:
- Senior Appointments: provides a fast-track endorsement for individuals who have accepted a senior position at a UK higher education institute or a specified research institute (providing certain requirements are met);
- Fellowship: provides a fast-track endorsement for applicants who have been awarded a specified fellowship in the last 12 months;
- Endorsed funders: provides a fast track endorsement for researchers and specialists whose name or job title is mentioned in a successful grant application from a specified funder; and
- Peer Review: provides a standard endorsement for applicants who have received an endorsement from The British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering or the Royal Society.
Furthermore, the Global Talent visa, unlike the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, will not have a cap on the number of individuals who can be granted a visa under this route.
When will the Government provide further guidance
The UK government will publish a White Paper in March 2020 with the proposed new immigration system due to be in force from January 2021. The Government will then affirm whether any of the above recommendations by the MAC have been considered, given the controversy of the MAC declining to endorse the ‘Australian points based system’ route.
As expected, before the new system can be finalised there is still a long way to go and a lot more to be taken into consideration by the Government with regards to the vast array of circumstances faced by migrants wishing to come to the UK.
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.
Consultant and trainee solicitor in our Corporate Team
Trainee solicitor in our Corporate Team