On Tuesday the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) released its report on the introduction of a Points Based System (PBS) and salary thresholds after the end of the Brexit transition period. MAC’s report was in response to the Government’s request that it examine a points-based system to take effect after the end of the Brexit transition period, currently scheduled for 1 January 2021.
The key recommendations are:
- The MAC needs more data – this is a recurring point in the report from the outset, with the outgoing Chair, Professor Alan Manning, stating it a “perennial problem” in his candidly worded foreword. The report also recommends that data disaggregated by gender is collected to investigate whether the current system discriminates against women – this is specifically raised in regard to the prospect of pro-rating salaries for part time workers;
- The current Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category is not fit for purpose and should be replaced or expanded with an expression of interest system. The MAC recommends that this category is used as the Points Based System entry route the Government wants. On 30 January UKVI rebranded Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) to the Global Talent category – a further endorsing body (UKRI) has been introduced, as well as confirmation that this category will not be subject to a cap in numbers, and the documents required are not prescribed;
- The Tier 2 (General) route should remain and be expanded to include medium-skilled workers;
- The rules on Tier 2 (General) Migrants holding shares in their employer should be reviewed;
- The proposed increase to the settlement threshold should be paused and the settlement rules reviewed;
- The new entrant rate should apply for five years, not just three as it currently does, and should be widened to include those working towards recognise professional qualifications and those who are moving directly into postdoctoral positions;
- Salary thresholds should be reduced to £25,600, in light of the reduction in skills threshold to RQF3+;
- A simplified formula for the salary thresholds for new entrants, i.e. a reduction of 30 % on the base experienced rate stated above, which would be £17,920;
- Abolition of the cap on Tier 2 (General) visas and Resident Labour Market Test should be maintained;
- Use of national pay scales for certain occupations, such as most of those eligible for NHS positions and schools;
- Salary thresholds should not be pro-rated to allow for part time work, however there should be more flexibility for visa holders switching to part-time work after becoming a parent.
- Salary thresholds should be the same across the UK, however a separate pilot visa for ‘remote’ areas of the UK should be run with a lower salary threshold for migrants in those areas;
- A temporary worker route or sector-based schemes could be introduced to address low-skilled shortages following Brexit;
- A review of whether the Shortage Occupation List will still be needed after the new immigration system is introduced.
The Government is not obliged to accept the recommendations of the MAC, but is likely to rely on the recommendations to devise its new immigration system.
The MAC’s recommendations do not propose a complete overhaul of the existing immigration rules, but rather a re-purposing and expansion of the existing Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) and Tier 2 routes.
The recommended reduction in the general salary threshold is in fact a recommendation to maintain the threshold at the 25th percentile as it currently is. However, the lowering of the skills threshold to include medium skilled jobs has the effect of lowering the salary threshold. Whilst this will be a welcome reduction to employers whose workforces are chiefly made up of highly skilled workers, those whose workforce is largely made up of lower skilled workers and those businesses in regional areas where the average salary tends to be lower may find themselves being required to increase salaries in addition to paying substantial visa fees to maintain their workforce.
The Government is expected to respond to the report in March. We will update you during the months ahead.