The UK Government has recently published a Statement of Changes to the immigration rules which sets out some more detail on the new points-based system. We have previously blogged on the new system here and on the more recent updates to the new points-based system guidance here. 

This blog will cover some of the additional information that we now know about the new system. The key changes are outlined in our previous blogs.

What date will the new rules come into effect?

Applications under the new rules will open on 1 December 2020. Non-EEA nationals can apply for leave and begin work under the new system from that date. However, EEA and Swiss nationals will not be granted entry clearance under the new rules until 1 of January 2021 (when freedom of movement ends).

Contact us if you need assistance with applying for a Certificate of Sponsorship in these circumstances.

Will the English language requirement change?

Yes. The Statement of Changes has clarified that the English language requirements will change under the new system. The list of countries which are deemed to satisfy the English language requirements will be updated to include Malta. 

In addition, people with a degree from Ireland will be able to rely on that as proof of English language ability. Also, applicants in most visa categories who have gained GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK will be able to rely on this to prove their English language ability.

Increase to the Financial Requirement

The 'Maintenance' requirement will become known as the 'Financial Requirement' under the new system. The amount the applicant must prove that they have, in order to fulfil the requirement will increase to £1,270 (from £945). Employers who certify the financial requirement for their sponsored employees should be aware that they will be confirming that they would maintain the applicant during their first month in the UK if necessary, for this increased amount.

If a sponsored worker is not relying on their employer certifying this requirement, they will now only need to prove that they had the required funds for a period of 28 days before the application. Electronic bank statements will also be acceptable evidence of the financial requirement and it will no longer be necessary for them to be certified by the bank on each page for this purpose.

Skilled Worker route: changes to cooling-off rules and maximum periods

In addition to the changes outlined in our earlier blog, the Statement of Changes to the rules confirms some further changes to the Skilled Worker route (formerly Tier 2 (General)).

The 12-month “cooling-off period” and six-year maximum length of stay in the route are being removed. Under the current rules for Tier 2 (General), a cooling-off period of 12 months generally applies which prevents the migrant worker from re-applying to return to the UK under a new Tier 2 application for 12 months. These cooling-off rules will not exist in the Skilled Worker route. In addition, Tier 2 (General) is also subject to a maximum period of stay in the UK of six years. The Skilled Worker route will not restrict the length of stay in that category.

New Intra-Company route: changes to cooling-off rules and maximum periods

The "cooling-off period" in relation to the Intra-Company route will change from 1 December 2020. The new system will allow applicants to hold Intra-Company Transfer leave for up to five years in any six-year rolling period or up to nine years in any 10-year period for high earners. This is a change from the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) rules which have a 12 months cooling-off period similar to the Tier 2 (General) route mentioned above.

With effect from 1 December 2020, specific concessions for 'high earners' under this immigration route are also being unified to a single salary threshold of £73,900. Workers with salaries at or above that threshold will be able remain in this route for up to 9 years in any 10-year rolling period and will also be exempt from the requirement to have worked for the overseas business for 12 months prior to entering the UK.

There will be added flexibility in terms of the ability of those in the Intra-Company Transfer route to switch into other immigration categories whilst remaining in the UK.

Other changes

Some of the other key changes announced in the Statement of Changes are as follows:

  • The £35,800 salary threshold for settlement applications is being removed. Instead, sponsors must be paying their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds £25,600 per year and the going rate for the occupation in order for the employee to be eligible to apply for settlement.
  • The Migration Advisory Committee published its recommended changes to the Shortage Occupation Lists on 29 September 2020. The UK Government has announced that it will not make these changes at this time. Instead it will assess how the UK labour market develops post-COVID 19 and in response to the introduction of the new points-based immigration system.
  • The visitor rules will also be amended to include a number of changes including permitting study of up to six months under the standard visit route provided that study is undertaken at an accredited institution (subject to a limited exception).

Please get in touch if you would like information or advice on sponsorship or anything else raised within this blog.