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The Government has unveiled its new points-based immigration system

Summary:

Home Secretary says UK will attract the brightest and best, and era of cheap, low-skilled labour will end

Date of Publication:
19 February 2020

The Government has unveiled its new points-based immigration system

19 February 2020
EIN

In a press release issued late yesterday, the Home Office said that Home Secretary Priti Patel would today announce the launch of the new, and much heralded, points-based immigration system.

A brief policy statement was released this morning with further details and you can access it here.

The Government says the new system will take effect from 1 January 2021 and it will "end the reliance on cheap, low-skilled labour coming into the country."

The policy statement explains: "We will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route. We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust."

The Home Secretary said: "We're ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people's priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down.

"We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country's full potential."

Under the new system, migrant workers both from the EU and from outside the EU will need to gain 70 points to be eligible to apply for a visa.

There are three essential requirements which must be met by all and which gain 50 points combined:

  • Have a job offer from an approved sponsor (worth 20 points).
  • Have a job offer that is at a "required skill level" (20 points).
  • Speak English to a certain level (10 points).

The Government has followed recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) meaning the salary threshold for skilled workers will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600.

In addition, a lower salary threshold of £20,480 will apply for jobs in a "specific shortage occupation", as designated by the MAC, or for those with a PhD relevant to the job. The Guardian says such shortage occupations could include nursing.

The Home Office explains that in effect, applicants will be able to 'trade' characteristics such as their specific job offer and qualifications against a salary lower than the minimum salary or the 'going rate' in their field.

The following table from the policy statement provides an overview of how points will be allocated for the skilled worker route:

Characteristics

Tradeable

Points

Offer of job by approved sponsor

No

20

Job at appropriate skill level

No

20

Speaks English at required level

No

10

Salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039

Yes

0

Salary of £23,040 – £25,599

Yes

10

Salary of £25,600 or above

Yes

20

Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC)

Yes

20

Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job

Yes

10

Education qualification: PhD in a STEM* subject relevant to the job

Yes

20

(* Science, technology, engineering and mathematics)

The Migration Advisory Committee will be commissioned to produce a shortage occupation list covering all jobs encompassed by the skilled worker route and to keep the list under regular review.

There will be no cap on numbers, with the policy statement saying: "We will suspend the cap on the number of people who can come on the skilled worker route and remove the resident labour market test. These changes will ensure that a wide pool of skilled workers will be able to come to the UK from anywhere in the world and the process will be made simpler and quicker for employers. These are important changes signalling that the UK is open for business."

The policy statement adds: "This is just the first stage in our plans for a points-based system. The Home Office will continue to refine the system in the light of experience and will consider adding further flexibility into the system including additional attributes that can be 'traded' against a lower salary. For example, this might include a greater range of qualification levels or other factors such as age or experience studying in the UK. However, we need to guard against making the system too complex."

The Guardian says the new system will effectively see Britain "close its borders to unskilled workers" and will "end the era of cheap EU labour in factories, warehouses, hotels and restaurants."

According to the Home Office, it is estimated that 70% of the existing EU workforce in the UK would not meet the requirements of the new skilled worker route.

Labour's Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, responded by saying: "This isn't an 'Australian points-based system', which is a meaningless government soundbite. It's a salary threshold system, which will need to have so many exemptions, for the NHS, for social care and many parts of the private sector, that it will be meaningless."

Abbott was concerned that the system would create a two-tier workforce and deny rights to those on short-term visas.

"Ultimately, it will also be very difficult to attract the workers we need at all skill levels while the Tories' hostile environment is in place. It needs to go. Labour will be pressing hard on all these points as the legislation proceeds," Abbott added.

Migrants' Rights Network said on Twitter: "People aren't 'unskilled' when they work in sectors like care or elsewhere - an absolute insult to label people as such. Just another proposal that forgets how much the UK benefits from migrants financially & culturally!"

The Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Carolyn Fairbairn, responded to the Government's announcement by saying: "Several aspects of the new system will be welcomed by business, particularly abolishing the cap on skilled visas, introducing a new post-study work visa for overseas students, and reducing the minimum salary threshold from £30,000.

"Nonetheless, in some sectors firms will be left wondering how they will recruit the people needed to run their businesses. With already low unemployment, firms in care, construction, hospitality, food and drink could be most affected."