The situation

The UK Migration Advisory Committee has published a report advising on a post-Brexit immigration system for the United Kingdom, specifically on an 'Australian points-based system' and salary thresholds.

A closer look

Key recommendations include the following:

Topic Recommendations

Maintaining current Tier 2 (General) category for workers with a job offer

  • The current framework for Tier 2 (General) as a work visa requiring a job offer should continue, as should plans to remove the Resident Labour Market Test and the annual limit on new entrants. This will make the category more certain and cut two to three months from the lead time for Tier 2 (General) category.

Creating a new points-based system for workers without a job offer

  • Modify the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) to focus more on those with exceptional promise rather than an established track record, and move away from the current system of endorsement to a points-based assessment focusing on age and qualifications, among other criteria.

  • Applicants could express an interest in coming to the United Kingdom and would be awarded points for certain characteristics, for instance qualifications and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.

  • Monthly allocations of visas would be available (derived from an annual limit on numbers) with the highest-scoring applicants awarded a visa and others waiting for subsequent months.

Amending salary thresholds

  • Reduce the minimum salary requirement for the Tier 2 (General) visa category from GBP 30,000 to approximately GBP 25,600.

  • Exclude allowances and bonuses from the salary calculation, where these can currently be included.

  • Maintain a single national salary threshold rather than introducing regional salary thresholds.

Expanding new entrants

  • Reduce the percentage for new entrants' salary by 30 percent.

  • Widen the definition of a new entrant to include not only those applicants under the age of 26 and those switching from a student visa, but also those who are working toward recognised professional qualifications and those who are moving directly into postdoctoral positions.

Other recommendations

  • A pause to the proposed increase to the settlement salary threshold and a full review to possibly introduce a more flexible system for granting settlement.

  • Future consideration to introduce a separate salary threshold for Northern Ireland.

  • Possibly introduce a pilot visa to attract foreign talent to 'remote' areas.

Evaluation

  • Gather high-quality data to enable review of whether the future immigration system achieves the desired objectives.

Impact

The report has no direct impact on employers and foreign nationals in the United Kingdom, as the government is not obliged to follow the MAC's findings. However, since MAC recommendations typically have a considerable impact in shaping the government's policy, this report serves as a further indication on what the UK immigration system will look like as of 2021.

Background

The UK Home Secretary requested this report in 2019. The current UK immigration system was set up as a points-based system in 2008 but evolved away from a true points-based approach over the years.

Looking ahead

Fragomen anticipates the new immigration system to work as described below:

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Next steps include the following:

  • White paper. The Home Office (Ministry of Internal Affairs) is expected to publish a White Paper in March 2020 with policy guidelines which will shape upcoming legislative proposals on the UK immigration system.
  • Legislative process. The new immigration system is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2021, leaving limited time to draft, approve and enact relevant legislation.

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