New UK Immigration Points-based Skilled Worker System Now Up and Running
Much has been said by the current Government and particularly the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, of their fondness for the Australian points-based immigration system. This was promised as the post-Brexit (and post-transition period) immigration model as a means of ensuring that those with the highest level of skills and qualifications are encouraged to work in the UK.
Skilled Worker Visa Route Now Open For Applications
Rather than going live on 1st January 2021, the new Skilled Worker route opened for applications on 1st December 2020. Most people familiar with the immigration system will know that the new Skilled Worker visa is based on Tier 2 (General) work visa, but there are some key changes employees and sponsors should be aware of.
The official announcement from the Home Office stated, “Applications for the new skilled worker visa open today (1 December), meaning the brightest and the best from around the world can now apply to work in the UK from 1 January 2021. Under the points-based immigration system, points will be awarded for a job offer at the appropriate skill level, knowledge of English and being paid a minimum salary. Skilled worker visas will be awarded to those who gain enough points”.
For EU and EEA nationals wishing to come to the UK to work from 1st January 2021, the Skilled Worker visa will be their main immigration route. As such, all migrants outside of the UK will follow the same process. There are some minor concessions for EU and EEA nationals, however, when it comes to the application fee (as we will explain later in this article).
What Are The Main Features Of The New Skilled Worker Route?
Like the Tier 2 scheme which this replaces, migrants using this route will need to have a job offer from a licensed sponsor. The skill level threshold has been lowered, however, from RQF level 6 to RQF level 3 (from degree to A-level). Remember, this does not mean migrant workers using this scheme need a qualification at this level, rather that they have the skills equivalent to the qualification to perform the role they are being sponsored for.
The Home Office has lowered the salary requirement threshold from £30,000 to £25,600 (or the ‘going rate’ for the role). It is possible to be eligible with a salary of £20,480 if the applicant has a PhD in a STEM subject (this is referred to as trading points) or they have a job offer for a role on the shortage occupation list.
Like the Australian immigration system, migrant workers need to score a minimum number of points to apply. This is currently set at 70 points. Points are awarded as follows:
- Offer of job by approved sponsor: 20 points
- Job at appropriate skill level: 20 points
- Speaks English at required level: 10 points
- Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher): 0 points (Tradeable)
- Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher): 10 points (Tradeable)
- Salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher) Tradeable: 20 points (Tradeable)
- Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee: 20 points (Tradeable)
- Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job: 10 points (Tradeable)
- Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job: 20 points (Tradeable)
Other notable features of the new Skilled Worker immigration route are that it is no longer required for employers to carry out resident labour market tests (RLMTs) for any role. This means that migrant workers can be hired without the need to check if there is a local or settled worker who can do the job. This will significantly reduce the administrative overhead of businesses recruiting from overseas, and it will speed up the process for both employee and employer. The cap on how many skilled workers can be hired from overseas has also been removed.
Overseas workers using the Skilled Worker route will still need to meet the English language requirement, as they were previously. This requirement states that applicants must be able to read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.
How Much Does The New Skilled Worker Visa Cost?
The application fees for the Skilled Worker visa depend on where the application is being made, the duration of the visa and whether the job on offer is on the Skilled Occupation list; as follows:
Applications made outside the UK:
- up to three years - £610 per person (£464 if the role is on the shortage occupation list)
- more than three years - £1,220 per person (£928 if the role is on the shortage occupation list)
Applications made inside the UK
- up to three years - £704 per person (£464 if the role is on the shortage occupation list)
- more than three years - £1,408 per person (£928 if the role is on the shortage occupation list)
Applications fees are reduced by £55 for those on the shortage occupation list, or applicants from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.
Businesses reliant on foreign workers will need to become acquainted with the Skilled Worker visa route as soon as possible. Sponsors using the current Tier 2 route should be able to adapt with ease and will benefit from a more relaxed system when it comes to checks and caps. If you need any assistance with the new Skilled Worker route or to apply for a Sponsor License if you are an employer, speak to an immigration law Solicitor who will be able to guide you through the process.