Government announces important changes to the Points Based System for 2021
Today the government has given the first indication of how it intends to tweak the Points Based System after 31 December 2020. The take-home point for employers is that the amended scheme is set to cover EU nationals. That will mean some significant adjustments for those relying on workers from the EU.
European nationals continue to enjoy the benefits of free movement during this year’s transition period. However, it now appears that the government is making good on its promise to end free movement thereafter, meaning that all EU nationals arriving into the UK for work as of 1 January 2021 will invariably need to be sponsored.
The revised scheme will incorporate a lower salary minimum threshold of £25,600 (or £20,480 for those in shortage occupations or who have PhDs in STEM subjects, or £23,040 for those with PhDs in other disciplines). Of fundamental importance for employers in certain sectors is that, whilst the skills threshold will be lowered to A-level standard (compared to the current degree-level), there will be no provision for unskilled workers. The May government’s stance was that 12-month visas would indeed be available for unskilled workers but this does not appear to be an option under the Johnson government’s proposals. Although it appears that there will be a route for seasonal agricultural workers, care home and other businesses with many European staff in unskilled roles may well be baulking at the possibility that the labour force available to them may dry up as of next year.
One positive is that it appears that the Resident Labour Market Test, whereby most jobs have to be advertised to the resident labour force as a prerequisite for sponsorship, will be abandoned.
In summary, two things are clear from the changes:
- this is no Australian points-based system: it appears that applicants will have very little flexibility as to how they accumulate the points needed. Generally, they will either meet the requirements or they will not be granted a visa; and
- employers will need to start planning their human resources now. Those without sponsor licences will need to keep an eye on what the final scheme looks like and will need to think ahead in terms of applying for a sponsor licence in good time before the changes come in.
To find out more, please get in touch with our specialist immigration team.