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The Post-Brexit Points-Based Immigration System

The first details are emerging of the Government’s post-Brexit points-based immigration system, set to be introduced from January 2021.

As far as economic migration is concerned, there will be 3 categories of visa under the new points-based system:

  • Exceptional talent/contribution
  • Skilled worker
  • Sector-specific rules-based

The “Exceptional talent/contribution” category 

The “Exceptional talent/contribution” category will be available to (i) migrants who have received awards in a qualifying field or otherwise been endorsed as a recognised leader or an emerging leader in their field; (ii) sponsored entrepreneurs setting up a new business in the UK; and (iii) investors who want to invest in the UK.  There will be no requirement to have a job offer and the category will lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

The “Exceptional talent/contribution” category will include the fast-track visa route for top scientists announced by the Government in August 2019.  Designed to attract elite researchers and specialists in science, engineering and technology, this sub-category of the exceptional talent route will not require an offer of employment and will provide an accelerated path to settlement after 3 years.  Set criteria will confer automatic endorsement and there will be no cap on numbers.

The ‘Skilled worker’ category

The ‘Skilled worker’ category will, post-Brexit, apply to both non-EU and EU nationals.  Employer sponsorship will remain a key requirement for the vast majority of migrants, meaning that they will need both a job offer and to score points.  However, the sponsorship process for skilled workers will be streamlined to reduce the time it takes to bring in a migrants to meet labour demands. This category will also lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will advise annually on whether caps or incentives are required based on whether there are shortages or an excess of migration via the skilled worker category.

Some special types of skilled worker visas, such as the NHS visa, will also receive fast-track entry and reduced fees. Qualified doctors, nurses and Allied Health Professionals coming to fulfil acute job shortages in the NHS will be awarded extra points. There will be no cap on the number of qualified applicants who can migrate to the UK with an NHS Visa.

The “Sector-specific rules-based” category

The third category, the “sector-specific rules-based” category, will be made up of specific temporary schemes such as for low-skilled labour.

Designed to fill specific labour shortages, these schemes will be revised on an ongoing basis based on expert advice from the MAC. The rules for each scheme will vary but they will all be time-limited and will not provide a path to settlement.

One example of a “sector-specific rules-based” category is the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ scheme.  The Government has pledged to raise the cap for the next year of this pilot scheme from 2,500 to 10,000 places in 2020-21.

Youth mobility and short term visits (i.e. touring and work assignments) will also fall within the “sector-specific rules-based” category. 

Will the UK be open for business?

The Government’s plans have already been criticised by business groups including the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses for their lack of clarity on how the proposed points-based system will actually work.  Among their concerns are that firms do not currently know who they will be able to hire next year and recruitment decisions could effectively be left to bureaucrats rather than businesses.

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