In January 2021 free movement rights will end and the immigration system will be updated.
According to the Policy Statement issued in February 2020, the following changes will be made in relation to sponsored employment:
- there will be no cap on the number of people who can come to the UK for sponsored employment;
- there will be no resident labour market test;
- the minimum level of pay will go down from £30,000 to £25,600 or to £20,480 for jobs in the shortage occupation list;
- the level of skill required for sponsored employment will be lowered to RQF level 3, as compared to the current RQF level 6.
In simple terms, it means that the route will be open not only to senior management and professionals, but also for secretarial and junior executive positions, the minimum salary will be lowered, and there will be no restriction on the number of people who can take advantage of this route.
How the new points-based system will work at the Tier 2 level
The new system will introduce a combination of the so-called tradeable and non-tradeable points, to justify it being a points-based system. Non-tradeable points will be the mandatory requirements mirroring those currently in place. These will include:
- Offer of employment from an approved sponsor;
- Job requiring an appropriate level of skill, at least RQF level 3;
- Knowledge of English at the required level.
Meeting these requirements will give the applicant a nominal 50 points out of the 70 points required for a successful application.
The remaining 20 points will be given for the appropriate level of salary. This will have to be £25,600 or above to score the required 20 points. But the salary points can be traded against additional points given for a PhD or if the job is on the shortage occupation list. Thus, a PhD in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics will allow the applicant to accept a job offer with the annual salary as low as £20,480. Equally, low pay is supported if the job is on the shortage occupation list. Other PhD holders will be able to accept a salary starting £23,040 if their PhD is in a field related to the job.
It is ironic, and sadly in tune with the contemporary British politics, that the lowest pay threshold is reserved for the applicants with the highest academic qualifications and for shortage professions, such as doctors, nurses, engineers, architects and, surprisingly, web designers.
Minimum pay threshold and occupation-specific thresholds
Occupation specific thresholds will remain in place and there is no indication that the existing levels will be changed. The occupation-specific codes will continue to apply and will set the minimum pay when the occupation-specific minimum pay level is higher than £25,600.
Proposed changes related to “new entrants”
In January 2020 the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended giving a wider definition to “new entrant” and making it applicable to five years instead of the current three years.
There is no indication in the policy paper that “new entrant” would be given a wider meaning and the current minimum pay threshold for new entrants of £20,800 will most likely be lost.
The current definition of New Entrant covers Tier 2 applicants under the age of 26 and those who received their offer of employment in a milkround, or those who are switching in the UK from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Tier 4 visa having completed a degree course or finished a minimum of 12 months study towards a PhD.
If the current definition of new entrant applies, the advantages associated with it will be limited to lowering the occupation-specific threshold by 70%. The general lowest pay threshold of £25,600 will apply to new entrants in the same way as to everyone else, with the only exception given to shortage occupation jobs and PhD graduates.
According to the policy document, this is only the first step in the immigration reform. We’ve been promised that the rules will be further refined to achieve even more flexibility.
Immigration Skills Charge for Tier 2 sponsors
Immigration Skills Charge has been introduced in April 2017 will remain £1000 per year per certificate of sponsorship or £364 where the sponsor is a small business or a charity. Exempt from the Immigration Skill Charge are PhD level occupations and those switching in-country from a Tier 4 visa to Tier 2 visa.
Minimum salary for ILR for Tier 2 General migrants
From 6 April 2019, the minimum salary requirement for indefinite leave to remain for Tier 2 General migrants is £35,800 a year. This figure did not go up in April 2020 and MAC recommended not increasing it any further.
The above requirements do not apply to Tier 2 General migrants sponsored for a PhD level or a shortage occupation job. Also, it does not apply to Tier 2 Minister of Religion category.