The new Government has signalled that major, if not radical, immigration reform will be announced during 2020, to come into force from 2021. In this article we consider how immigration is affected, take a brief look at the proposals being put forward by the UK Government and what employers as well as individuals (both EU and non-EU nationals) need to know to prepare.

So, where are we? The UK is now certain to leave the EU on 31 January. We will enter a transition period until 31 December 2020, during which time although the UK will leave the EU, freedom of movement for EU nationals will in effect continue to apply. Those in the UK on 31 December 2020 will have the right to stay post Brexit and will have until 30 June 2021 to apply for an immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The Government is set to introduce a rebranded points-based system to come in force from January 2021, with detailed policy announcements expected later this month. So far, we understand there will be three work related immigration categories:

  1. For investors, entrepreneurs, exceptional talent – highly skilled migrants who have received world leading awards or otherwise demonstrated exceptional talent, or entrepreneurs setting up a new business, or investors. These will not require a job offer and will receive fast track entry.
  2. For skilled workers – available to those who have a job offer in the UK. Eligibility will remain broadly the same as under Tier 2 – although the Migration Advisory Committee will likely make recommendations on caps and incentives, depending on labour market conditions. It is also expected that this category will see a skill reduction, meaning that medium skilled roles (such as for those qualified to A Level) will also be eligible for sponsorship. Special jobs, such as those in the NHS, will benefit from fast track entry and reduced fees.
  3. For lower skilled workers, there will be a sector-specific rules-based scheme. This category is likely to incorporate the current Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) – the two year work permit for those aged 18-30 from approved countries, as well as other short term temporary routes. People entering under lower skilled routes will not be able to settle permanently in the UK.

In other changes, we expect the post-study work route to open for Tier 4 students who graduate from summer 2021; and a new visa to attract scientists to the UK, on which the current limit is expected to be scrapped. The extension of posts on Shortage Occupation Scheme to include digital and IT occupations will make the process of sponsoring visas for talent in that area quicker and simpler.

Our advice to employers is:

  • keep track of Brexit developments and work out who in your present workforce is affected by Brexit
  • make applications under the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible
  • keep staff updated and
  • plan any transfers/hires in light of the new obligations which apply to EU nationals and their families.
  • if an employer does not yet have a sponsorship licence, now is the right time to apply for one.

Finally keep abreast of new developments as the rules will increasingly affect non-UK national workers at all levels…Watch this space!


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