Now that the UK has undergone an assertive ‘Brexit’, leaving the European Union, the kingdom has decided to revamp its immigration policy effectively in favor of non-EU migrant applicants. To the good fortune of non-EU applicants, the proposed system ends all preferential treatment to EU applicants, even during the COVID-19 crisis, thereby extending a warm welcome to all skilled migrants from around the world for a level playing field in the job market of the UK.
The UK Home Office has introduced a “Point-based system” of immigration within the sponsored-route like what the Australians have, which considers factors like skills, language, job offer while awarding visas to work or remain in the country. This system will take effect from 1st January 2021 onwards.
Employer-led Sponsorship System
The UK is introducing an Employer-led system where approved English employers are trusted to fill ‘genuine vacancy’ and decide whether an applicant is skilled/qualified for the job or not. Employers will not be forced to seek the Resident Labor Market Test while recruiting migrant workers under the Tier 2 General scheme anymore nor appoint EU applicants alone. No more preferential treatment to the EU applicants in the job market. This is in turn means that English employers can easily stretch their discretion to the huge labor market outside of the EU and appoint an appropriate workforce purely based on merit and qualifications.
Sponsoring skilled workers, in compliance with the immigration rules and the information specified in the Certificate of Sponsorship, is the only burden on the Employer. Prima facie, this appears to be a grey area with interpretations and loopholes favoring non-EU migrant applicants.
According to the new arrangements, any skilled-worker who wishes to apply for work visas to the UK must:- Firstly, obtain a job offer from an approved sponsor; Secondly, the above-mentioned job is to work in specified occupations requiring a skill level of RFQ (Regulations Qualifications Framework) 3 or any equivalent like the A-Level or above. This reduction of required skill level from RFQ 6 to RFQ 3 is a blessing to incoming skilled workers; Thirdly, the candidate must demonstrate the required English language ability The above three prerequisites alone would fetch an applicant 50 points out of the prescribed 70.
Interestingly, the general salary threshold has been lowered from £30,000 to £25,600. Now, a minimum of £25,600 salary or the “going rate” for their particular job, another 20 points and sets the candidate eligible to apply.
However, if the salary offered is lower than the general salary threshold but more than £23,040 (which alone grants 10 points), the person can still gain 10 more points to reach 70 if he/she possesses a Ph.D. in a subject relevant to the job.
Now, if the candidate’s salary is again lower, but not less than £20,480 (the least approved minimum which attracts no points), then he/she will have to trade off this by demonstrating a job offer in an occupation in shortage in the UK or possessing a Ph.D. in a STEM subject relevant to the job; both of which awards 20 points each totally with the prescribed 70 points. And fortunately, since Oct 2019, the number of occupations that come under the Shortage Occupation list has greatly increased from about 1% to about 12%.
The new Health & Care visa
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the Home Office has introduced a new Health and Care visa system under the Tier 2 (General) inviting foreign medical workers to the UK starting from Aug 4th, 2020.
Apart from the normal pre-requisites of Tier 2 (General) as mentioned above, the applicant must also have received a confirmed health-sector job (any skilled roles as listed in Annex D of the UK’s Points-Based Immigration System) offer from the National Health Service (NHS), the social care sector or NHS-commissioned service providers.
Benefits of Health & Care system:
Fast-track entry, with reduced application fees, exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge, and dedicated support regarding the application process, for eligible individuals (along with family members) to come to the UK.
For the time being, the above point-based pilot scheme will be applied to three more categories viz. Students, High-Skilled workers, and Seasonal workers in agriculture. In addition to this, the Home Office is planning for a broader unsponsored route for the Highly-skilled workers within the points-based scheme.
Concerning all specialist occupations including innovators, ministers of religion, sports, arts, etc., the already existing broad immigration routes applicable will be employed. The approach to criminality will be standardized to a consistent and firmer one across the immigration system both to the EU & non-EU applicants equally.
Generally speaking, the Home Office is easing sponsorship standards, salary/skill thresholds. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, the government has effectively relaxed its policy on immigration through the point-based sponsored-route, especially for non-EU applicants.
In this period, where free movement of unskilled labor from the EU has ended, its time the English employers utilize the option of hiring fair-waged skilled workers from outside the EU to continue strengthening their businesses. And for migrants from non-EU countries, it’s just in time to prove your worth and seize the opportunity. Ultimately, proper preparation and legal planning are the keys to work out lucrative deals to success.