Now that the UK has undergone an assertive ‘Brexit’, leaving the European Union, the kingdom has decided to revamp its immigration policy effectively in favour of non-EU migrant applicants. To the good fortune of non-EU applicants, the proposed system ends all preferential treatment to EU applicants, 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 Policy Statement released by the Home Office on 18th February 2020, in consultation with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) seems to have brought a new variety of “Point based system” within the sponsored-route immigration. The said system will take effect from 1st January 2021 onwards.
According to the policy statement, the administration plans to introduce an Employer-led system where approved English employers are trusted to decide whether an applicant is skilled/qualified for the job or not. Employers will not be forced seek the Resident Labour Market Test while recruiting migrant workers under the Tier 2 General scheme anymore nor appoint EU applicants alone. Under the new system, there exists no preferential treatment to the EU applicants in the job market over those from the rest of the world, thereby ending the free movement of unlimited numbers of unskilled workers from the EU. This inturn means that employers can very well stretch their discretion to the huge labour market outside of the EU and appoint appropriate work force purely based on merit and qualifications.
When it comes to the sponsorship element, fascinatingly, the new system does not mandate anything other than a job offer from an approved employer, and not the actual sponsoring of the employee by the employer. Prima facie, this appears to be a grey area with interpretations and loopholes favouring the non-EU migrant applicants as no sponsorship as such is demanded.
According to the new arrangements, any skilled-worker who wishes to apply for work visas to the UK must obtain a job offer from an approved sponsor, a job at the appropriate skill level and speak English at the required level. 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 £25,600 salary or above awards another 20 points and sets the candidate eligible to apply. Nonetheless, the higher specific salary threshold (the ‘going rate’) necessary for certain fields/occupations will remain.
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 PhD 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 which is in shortage in the UK (as designated by the MAC) or possessing a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job; both of which awards 20 points each to tally 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%.
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 in parallel to the employer-led system.
Concerning all specialist occupations including innovators, ministers of religion, sports, arts, etc., the already existing broad immigration routes applicable will be employed. Similarly, the approach to criminality will be standardised 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 and salary thresholds. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, the government has effectively relaxed its policy on immigration through sponsored-route, especially for non-EU applicants. Whereas, for EU candidates, it’s consequentially the vice-versa.
In this period where free movement of unskilled labour from 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, its 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.