In October 2020, the UK government issued new immigration rules which will end free movement between the EU and the UK as of 1st January 2021. This means that from 31st December 2020, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will become subject to the UK’s new immigration system.
The new rules mainly focus on work visa routes to the UK including:
- Simplification of the business visitor rules;
- Introduction of the Skilled Worker visa;
- Updates to the Intra-Company Transfer visa.
To allow individuals to prepare in advance, the majority of these changes will take effect from 1st December 2020 with applications for non-EEA nationals opening on this date. EEA nationals will be able to apply for immigration permission under the new system from 1st January 2021.
Irish nationals will not require a visa or permission to work in the UK.
The Tier 2 (General) route will be closed to new applications from 1st December 2020 and will be replaced by the new Skilled Worker route.
Under the Skilled Worker route, workers must receive an annual salary of at least £25,600 or the “going rate” for the role, whichever is higher. This is down from the current threshold of £30,000 under the Tier 2 General route.
In certain limited circumstances a lower salary threshold will apply for example where the individual holds a PhD, where the role appears on the Shortage Occupation List, where the individual is a new entrant to the labour market (for example a new graduate) or where the job is listed in a health or educational role.
Under the old rules, employers wishing to hire overseas nationals were required to advertise the role unless it was on the shortage of occupation list. This was known as carrying out the “resident labour market test”. This will be abolished under the new immigration rules and so employers will no longer need to conduct Resident Labour Market testing.
Under the Tier 2 General route, applicants are subject to a 12 month “cooling off period” where they cannot apply for a new Tier 2 visa within 12 months of their previous Tier 2 visa expiring, unless they earn over £159,960. However, the cooling off period will not apply under the new rules, meaning that individuals on an Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa will be able to move to a Skilled Worker Visa.
Individuals will be able to move between visa types more easily although restrictions remain regarding changing from a visitor to a work visa whilst in the UK (this can only be done overseas).
There will be no limit on the length of time an individual can hold a Skilled Worker visa, unlike the 6 year cap under the old Tier 2 route.
Individuals will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after 6 years.
If you already have a sponsor licence, you don’t need to apply for a new one. If you haven’t, you will need to apply for one in order to employ individuals from overseas from 1st January 2021.There is a priority service for applications which aims to process applications within ten working days for a fee of £500.
The salary threshold of £35,800 required to qualify for ILR will be abolished and individuals will only need to meet the going rate for their role, or £25,600 whichever is higher.
For any individual wishing to work in the UK under the Skilled Worker Route, they will require a total of 70 points under the new Points Based System (PBS) consisting of a job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points) at the required skill level (20 points), they must speak English (10 points) and either meet the general minimum gross salary threshold of £25,600 or “trade” points by showing the role is on the Shortage Occupation List or that the individual holds a PhD.
Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)
This is the new route which will replace the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa. This route will remain broadly the same but the following changes have been introduced.
Individuals can hold an ICT visa for a maximum of 5 years in any 6 year rolling period or any 9 years in a 10 year period for a high earner.
The cooling off period will still apply and therefore individuals will not qualify for a further ICT visa for 12 months once their ICT has come to end. This will not impact their ability to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa.
High earner threshold
Where an individual meets the high earner threshold they will benefit from less restrictive immigration rules. The high earner threshold will now be £73,900 rather than £120,000. A high earner will no longer be required to have attained 12 months service with the overseas organisation.
Applying from the UK
Individuals can move to this type of immigration permission whilst remaining in the UK as long as they are not here as a visitor and meet the other eligibility requirements.
Service Providers from Switzerland
A new category of permission has been created to allow individuals to work in the UK for up to 90 days per calendar year where the following criteria is met:
- There is a contract between a Swiss employer/company and a UK employer/company to provide services; and
- The contract was signed and started before 31 December 2020
Individuals may qualify if they are Swiss nationals who are self-employed or employed in Switzerland. Non-Swiss nationals may also qualify if they meet this criteria and have lawful residence in Switzerland (i.e. if they have valid permission to live and work in Switzerland).