The government has revealed more details of a new immigration system which will come into force in January 2021, ending the freedom of movement rule with the European Union (EU) – which allows EU citizens to work in the UK (and UK citizens to do the same in the EU).

Under the new scheme, EU migrants will be treated the same as those from the rest of the world.

The changes will take effect after the transition period between the UK and the EU (during which almost all the rules stay the same) ends in December 2020.

Taking control of immigration was one of the key themes of the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum.

Long term net migration to the UK. . .

What are the plans?

The government wants a “points-based system” which takes different factors like skills and language into account when awarding visas that would allow people to work in the UK.

In a policy statement being published on Wednesday 19 February, the government said that to get a visa, applicants from anywhere in the world must:

  • Have a job offer from an “approved employer” at an “appropriate skill level”
  • Speak English

That will get an applicant 50 points. But they must have 70 points to be eligible for a visa. The most straightforward route to the final 20 points is that the applicant will:

  • Earn at least £25,600 (reduced from the £30,000 which currently applies to non-EU applicants)

They can also gain extra points for having better qualifications (10 points for a relevant Ph.D.; or 20 points for a Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or maths) or an offer of a job in which the UK has a shortage (20 points), even if they don’t earn as much money.

The government has now said that people coming to do certain jobs in health or education can still get 20 points if their salary is less than £25,600 – so long as they are paid a minimum of £20,480 and in line with national pay scales.

Graphic showing points-based system
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Health and care visa

The Home Office has given details of a fast-track entry system for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Most care workers will not be covered by the scheme though.

Those eligible for this visa will pay reduced fees and will be supported through the application process, with decisions expected to be given within 3 weeks.

Successful applicants will be exempt from the immigration health surcharge. The charge (which currently only applies to non-EU workers) is £400 per person per year and is due to rise to £624 in October.

Applicants via this route will still have to meet the relevant skill level and salary thresholds.

What about people coming here to study?

There will be no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK to study.

A new graduate visa will be launched in summer 2021 and will allow students who have completed a degree to stay in the UK for 2 years, rising to 3 for those who have done a Ph.D.