Many things have changed and will change in the UK as a result of Brexit. One of those things is the UK immigration system, which went into effect after the country officially left the European Union (on December 31, 2020). When Britain was part of the EU, its immigration system was based on the EU principle of free movement, through which EU citizens enjoyed unrestricted access and the right to work within and across each of the 27-Member States. Post Brexit, the UK immigration has abandoned these principles in favor of a points-based immigration system, which is outlined below. 

Who is not affected?

  • The following citizens and categories of immigrants are not subject to the points-based system:
    • Irish citizens (who retain visa-free access to the UK).
    • EU citizens who were UK residents prior to Brexit (i.e. who were lawfully living in the UK pre-2020. These people are eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme).
    • Certain kinds of workers.

Who is affected?

  • Anyone who is not a UK citizen who is looking to immigrate to the UK for work and study purposes. This includes EU citizens, who previously enjoyed visa-free access to the UK. 

Overview of the UK Points-Based Immigration System

  • The UK points-based system was established with the goal of facilitating and encouraging the immigration of people from outside the UK who will positively contribute to the country’s economy, academic environment, and culture. 
  • The points-based system mainly applies to economic migrants as well as students looking to work and study in the UK.  
  • The points-based system therefore primarily affects workers seeking Skilled Worker Visas and students seeking Student Visas. 

Points System for Skilled Workers 

  • Migrants must acquire a Skilled Worker Visa in order to immigrate to the UK for most work purposes. In order to be eligible for this kind of visa, you must have a job lined up with a UK company/employer who the UK Home Office has validated, receive a certificate of sponsorship, and satisfy other conditions/salary requirements, including knowledge of English. 
  • Under the new system, would-be migrants must secure 70 “points” in order to be eligible for UK immigration 
  • The ideal candidate for UK immigration is someone who possesses various qualities, including language skills, job security, and a guaranteed minimum salary post-arrival. 
  • The UK system works by identifying and quantifying the qualities, skills, and other qualifications the government deems attractive and desirable. Each positive quality represents a certain number of points. Essentially, the more qualities/qualifications an applicant possesses, the more points they are awarded, and the more likely they are to achieve immigration. 
  • For example, the government has defined fluency in English to be a positive quality that is desirable in migrants. A migrant who demonstrates English-language fluency would therefore be awarded 10 points, and be on his way to accumulating the 70 required for UK immigration. 
  • In general, the system rewards applicants who are highly educated, have a legitimate job offer with a guaranteed a minimum salary of £25,600 and are qualified to work in STEM, healthcare, or in another industry where workers are needed.  

Mandatory Points 

  • The available points for Skilled Worker Visas are divided into mandatory and tradeable categories. Mandatory points are those that must be earned collectively, meaning that an applicant must possess all of the below qualifications in order to be eligible for UK immigration.   
  • Mandatory points therefore encompass mandatory qualifications/qualities that a migrant must possess in order to be eligible for immigration, and can be earned by possessing the following qualifications: 
    • English fluency (10 points).
    • Valid job offer via accredited UK sponsor (20 points).
    • Valid job offer via accredited UK sponsor at required skill level (20 points).
  • Collectively, the above qualifications add up to 50 points. A candidate can earn the 20 additional points needed to obtain the required 70 total points through the below tradeable points. 
  • For example, if you are a UK immigration candidate, you must be able to speak English fluently, have a valid job offer from an accredited UK sponsor, and that job must fulfill a required level of skill, for a total of 50 points. 
  • It is not enough, for example, if you don’t speak English but you satisfy the job offer and skill level requirements, for a total of 40 points. The 10 points lost from your lack of English fluency cannot be made up in tradeable points. If you don’t have the 50 mandatory points, it doesn’t matter how many tradeable points you acquire. 

Tradable Points 

  • Whereas the mandatory points are a packaged deal, tradeable points can be acquired individually.
  • Additionally, you can only obtain one from each of the below two categories: Salary and Other
  • For the former category, your job must satisfy one of the below salary requirements. This means you must either meet the minimum salary requirement and the correlated percentage of the industry-standard rate.  
    • Minimum salary of £25,600—Minimum industry-standard rate (20 points).
    • Minimum salary of £23,040—Minimum 90% of the industry-standard rate (10 points).
    • Minimum salary of £20,480—Education/health position that also matches related national salary average (10 points).
    • Minimum salary of £20,480—Minimum 80% of the industry-standard rate; 70% for recent entrants. (0 points).
  • Other (You must also satisfy at least one of the below characteristics) 
    • (As defined by the MAC) If your job is in a shortage occupation (20 points).
    • (As defined by the MAC) If you are a new arrival to the labor market (20 points).
    • PhD in STEM academic field related to job (20 points).
    • PhD in academic category related to job  (10 points).
  • Whatever job you seek to fill, your salary for it must be at least £20,480 in order for you to satisfy the minimum salary requirements.
  • Even though you don’t acquire any points by making under £23,040 (the lowest salary you can receive and still acquire available points), you can make up for missing points from a low salary by adding points in the “Other” category.  
  • For example, if you will make £20,480 (and therefore receive zero points from the salary category) you can obtain the 20 additional points you need to reach 50 by satisfying one  of the 20-point characteristics in the “Other” category, (essentially, satisfying any characteristic other than “PhD in academic category related to your job,” which will only give you 60 points—10 points under the 70 you need). 

Points System for Students

  • Individuals looking to immigrate to the UK on a Student Visa are also subject to a points-system, which requires them to obtain a minimum of 70 points in order to be considered eligible. 
  • Points will be awarded based on whether a student has satisfied various course requirements, financial requirements, and English-language requirements.  
  • For example, under the points-system, students who meet the English language requirement will receive 10 points. 

Other Requirements 

  • In addition to acquiring the mandatory 70 points, applicants for Skilled Worker Visas and Student Visas must also satisfy requirements relating to security and criminal record. 
  • For migrants, depending on the industry you are applying to work in, this could include some form of criminal background check. It goes without saying that applicants who are assumed to present a security/criminal risk to the UK will be denied a visa, regardless of whether or not they satisfy or even exceed the main conditions under the points-based system. 
  • Applicants will likely also have to present biometric information (including fingerprints and photos) in order to be considered eligible. 

Immigration Fees 

  • Under the new system, migrants will be subject to various fees, which vary depending on factors such as where you are applying from, how long you want to stay, what kind of job you are applying for, and whether you are from an eligible country.
  • Most applicants will be eligible for the following fees: 
    • Application fee (£610—£1,408).
    • Healthcare surcharge (£624).
  • In addition to the above fees, migrants will need to show evidence of possessing a minimum bank account balance of £1,270 as proof of being able to financially cover their UK living costs.

Please note that the above information is subject to change. For the most up to date information on the UK points-based system, and for general questions related to UK immigration, please contact our expert consultants.

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