The UK Government published updated guidance on 9 April 2020 on the UK's points-based immigration system. We have already discussed the details of the points-based system in a previous blog post . While most of the guidance confirms the previously announced details, the Government have provided some guidance on the timing and process for future applications.

This new guidance has confirmed that the Government intend to proceed with their plans to introduce the new points-based system from 1 January 2021 following the end of the Brexit transition period, which is due to end on the 31st December 2020. However, given that most government efforts are going to the current COVID-19 pandemic, some stakeholders (including the Scottish Government) are calling for the transition period to be extended to allow for meaningful negotiations on the future trade deal with the EU to take place. While the Scottish Government have called for an extension of two years, the UK Government's guidance is to assume that the new system will come in as planned on the 1st January 2021.

This new guidance has confirmed that the new immigration routes will open from Autumn 2020 to allow for applications to work, live and study to be made in advance of the 1 January 2021 start date. Therefore, the recommendation is for employers who anticipate a need to sponsor migrant workers after the end of the transition period to ensure they apply for a sponsor licence in plenty of time to ensure that they can facilitate sponsorship as soon as possible if needed.

The guidance advises that applications to become a licenced sponsor (which will allow employers to sponsor migrant workers under the new system) will take around 8 weeks. However, we do expect that COVID-19 will impact these processing times (given that many of the UKVI centres are temporarily closed or working with reduced staff numbers). Therefore, we recommend that employers who anticipate a need to use the new points-based system should make their licence applications as soon as possible.

It is also important to note that it is now possible to make a licence application if you anticipate you will need to sponsor staff from level 3 (medium skilled) who will earn £25,600 per year and above (albeit this can be lower in some circumstances). Previously, employers could only make a licence application where they could sponsor staff at level 6 (highly skilled) who would earn £30,000 per year, and in some cases more.

If you are an employer who will be looking to employ individuals under the new points-based system from 1 January 2021, contact us for advice in relation to sponsorship applications and what you can be doing to prepare now.


Erin McLafferty