A new points-based immigration system will be introduced in the UK next year - here’s how it will work

Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 3:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 3:49 pm
People will require 70 points to be eligible for a visa from 2021 (Photo: Shutterstock)
People will require 70 points to be eligible for a visa from 2021 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Huge changes to the UK’s immigration system are to come into effect at the end of the transition period for Brexit, the Home Secretary has announced.

A new points-based immigration system is to be introduced from 1 January 2021, which will see free movement with the EU come to end.

How will the points system work?

As of 1 January 2021, anybody who wishes to come and live and work in the UK - whether they are from the EU or not - will now require 70 points to be eligible for a visa.

Points will be awarded for meeting key requirements, including being able to speak English to a certain level, having an offer on a job from a list of eligible occupations, and meet a minimum salary threshold of £20,480 per year.

The new system is intended to reduce the number of low-skilled migrants who enter the UK, while making it easier for those who are highly skilled to get a visa - and there will be no limit on numbers.

To earn 50 points, applicants must fulfil all of the following criteria, which are non-negotiable:

  • Have a job offer from a licensed sponsor - 20 points
  • Speak English to an acceptable standard - 10 points
  • Ensure their job offer is at skill level RQF3 (A-Level equivalent) or higher - 20 points

Further points will then be awarded for meeting additional criteria, including having a PhD, earning a higher salary, or working in a so-called “shortage occupation”, such as nursing and civil engineering.

Top up points can be earned by the following:

  • Earning more than a “general salary threshold” of £25,600 - 20 points
  • Having a job offer in a “shortage occupation” - 20 points
  • Being a “new entrant” to the labour market - 20 points
  • Having a PhD in a relevant STEM subject - 20 points
  • Having a PhD in a relevant non-STEM subject - 10 points

Separately, there are also routes for students, recent graduates, dependant family members and other young people to come to the UK without a job offer.

Why has a points system been introduced?

Ministers have said that the new points-based system will allow the UK to control how many people come into the country, and will treat people from every part of the world equally.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel said, “The British people voted to take back control of our borders and introduce a new points-based immigration system.

“Now we have left the EU, we are free to unleash this country’s full potential and implement the changes we need to restore trust in the immigration system and deliver a new fairer, firmer, skills-led system from 1 January 2021.

“Britain is open for business and ready to welcome the best and brightest global talent.”

What about those on low wages?

The new points system has come under fire for excluding low wage and low skilled workers, which could include hospitality staff, labourers and care workers, if they cannot meet the criteria for applications.

Applicants applying for a UK visa must earn a minimum of £20,480 per annum to be eligible, regardless of whether they are in part-time or full-time work.

However, many will need to earn a higher salary in order to get the extra 20 points they need. The extra points are assigned to either set thresholds or the "going rate" for their job role - whichever is the highest.

Here’s how extra points can be earned:

  • 10 points for earning at least £23,040 or 90 per cent of the going rate for the job
  • 20 points for earning at least £25,600 or 100 per cent of the going rate for the job

What is the Health and Care Visa?

Some NHS health professionals will be able to apply for a specific Health and Care Visa.

This is designed to provide health professionals a cheaper and easier route to work in the UK, with a discount on the standard £610 standard visa application fee, but it will not be open to care workers, Downing Street has confirmed.

The visa will be open to workers who have a confirmed job offer in one of a series of “skilled” roles within the NHS or care sector, or for NHS service providers, including doctors, nurses, social workers and paramedics.

To apply for the visa, applicants must meet the basic requirements as other skilled workers, but they will be exempt from needing the top-up points requirements. Instead, people on the Health and Care Visa holders will earn their extra 20 points, even if their job only pays £20,480, provided they are on the list of eligible health occupations.

These include:

  • Biological scientists and biochemists
  • Physical Scientists
  • Medical Practitioners
  • Psychologists
  • Pharmacists
  • Ophthalmic Opticians
  • Dental practitioners
  • Medical Radiographers
  • Podiatrists
  • Health Professionals not elsewhere classified
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Speech and Language Therapists
  • Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified
  • Nurses
  • Midwives
  • Social Workers
  • Paramedics