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Immigration 2021: New Statement of Changes Published

If you’ve been living under a rock, you might have missed that freedom of movement between the UK and the EU will end on 31st December, with a rebooted points-based immigration system coming into force from 1st January.

Following a July 2020 policy statement, new Immigration Rules were published by the Home Office last week.

Let’s have a quick look at what this means for skilled workers and other routes.

The new system will accept new applications from 1 December 2020. In line with this, categories that are being replaced, including Tier 2 ICT and Tier 2 General, will close to new applications on 30 November 2020.

Skilled Worker – replacing Tier 2 General

The skilled worker route is set to be the most widely used work-related category under the new immigration system. A Skilled Worker must have a job offer in an eligible skilled occupation from a Home Office-approved sponsor. A dependent partner and dependent children can apply on this route.

Here are the key points published in the Statement of Changes in regard to the skilled worker route:

- The minimum skill threshold will widen from graduate occupations to occupations skilled to RQF level 3 (A level equivalent). Applicants will not require a formal qualification.

- Removal of the cap for sponsoring certain skilled workers under Tier 2 General, which could decrease end-to-end processing by up to 4 weeks.

- Sponsors will not need to complete a formal resident labour market test, which will reduce processing times by a further four weeks.

- The general salary threshold must be at least £25,600 or the going rate for their occupation, whichever is higher. This has been lowered from £30,000.

- The 12-month “cooling off period” and six-year maximum length of stay in the route will be removed.

- Reduction of the minimum salary migrants must secure to settle in the UK. The government reduced the £35,800 minimum salary by almost 30% to the lower threshold of £25,600, and by even more for migrants taking jobs on the shortage occupation list where the threshold will be £20,480.


Intra-Company Route

- The high earner threshold will be set at £73,900. Workers who make that amount or more will be allowed to hold Intra-Company Transfer leave for up to nine years in any ten-year rolling period. They will be exempt from the requirement to have worked from their sponsor outside the UK for at least 12 months.

- Instead of a cooling-off period, migrants ICT workers can hold Intra-Company Transfer leave for up to five years in any six-year rolling period, or up to nine years in any ten-year period for high earners.


Global Talent, Start-Up and Innovator Routes

- The Statement of Changes states that these routes will continue to play a role in the UK’s immigration system, which will be extended to EU citizens from January 2021.


Unsponsored Route

- Most migrants who are already in the U.K. with a valid visa will be able to switch to another visa category, without having to leave the country.

- Following recommendations from MAC, the Government aims to introduce a new, unsponsored route within the Points Based System. This will be for a small number of the most highly skilled workers, allowing them to come to the UK without a job offer.

Students

- Students will be able apply to to study in the UK six months prior to their course start date, instead of three months. This will allow for more flexibility for in-country switching.

- As long as the student is progressing academically, time constraints will be removed for those studying at postgraduate level.


Graduate Route

- The Graduate route will commence in the third quarter 2021. This will give international university students the opportunity to stay in the UK to work for at least 2 years after they graduate.

- Undergraduate and master’s degree students can apply for a two-year Graduate Visa. Ph.D. students can apply for three years. Both of these routes will not need to be sponsored and will be able to switch into work routes in the U.K.

Visitors

- The government will introduce Electronic Travel Authorisations for visitors and passengers transiting through the U.K. who do not currently need a visa for short stays or who do not already have an immigration status prior to travelling.

Overall, the Statement of Changes confirms a number of changes and updates to the points-based immigration system.


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As 1st January looms ever closer, any changes that look to streamline and simplify such a significant change to the immigration system will be welcomed by both.

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