UK immigration update: New guidance – key takeaways for employers

On 13 July 2020, the UK government provided further guidance on what the new immigration system would look like from 2021 onwards for those individuals who are not eligible for EU Settled Status. The 130 page document briefly sets out various proposed changes and re-branding to existing immigration categories, as well as information on the introduction of some new ones such as the Graduate visa. The key takeaway points were as follows: 

  • The Resident Labour Market Test will be scrapped in 2021 – the company must still be “seeking to fill a genuine vacancy” but the document provides no further information on whether the company will be expected to show any attempt at recruiting locally first;
  • The Immigration Skills Charge will still apply to both the Skilled Worker category (currently Tier 2 General) and the Intra-Company Transfer category (current Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer);
  • Those who graduate from a UK university can apply for a “Graduate” visa which will enable them to work without sponsorship for two years (or three years for those with a PhD);
  • Those holding Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visas can switch into the Skilled Worker category from within the UK, thereby meaning they no longer have to return overseas to make an application;
  • The Global Talent visa will have no cap on numbers – individuals must still get an endorsement from one of the relevant endorsing bodies.

The guidance did mention that there will be a highly skilled worker category which will have a cap to the number of holders but further information on this will be outlined later this year. There was also reference to the Seasonal Workers for agriculture visa, which is currently being piloted and further guidance will be outlined later this year.

Individuals who are eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme still have until 30 June 2021 to apply for pre-settled or settled status which will entitle them to continue living and working in the UK after that date. Those who do not apply in time will fall under the new immigration regime.

What about British Nationals (Overseas)?

The guidance re-affirmed the previous UK government commitment to offer a visa route to those holding British Nationals (Overseas) passports. On 22 July, the UK government released further guidance on this category. It will open to applicants from January 2021 and individuals will need to meet the following criteria to apply:

  1. Hold British National (Overseas) status – a current BNO passport will not however be required to make such an application
  2. Be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong
  3. Be able to demonstrate an ability to maintain and accommodate themselves for at least six months
  4. Demonstrate a “commitment to learn English” in the UK
  5. Have no serious criminal convictions

Applicants will be subject to the Immigration Health Surcharge (currently set at £400 but increasing to £624 in October 2020) and also hold a valid tuberculosis test certificate from a clinic approved by the Home Office.

The government will release further detailed guidance on the new immigration system over the coming months.