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10th August 2020

Further Details Emerge on the UK’s Future Immigration System

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Having left the EU in January, the UK is currently within a transition period which is due to end on 31st December 2020. On 13th July 2020, the Government released the policy paper, “UK points-based immigration system: further details statement” (Further Details).

Until that date, the way in which workers from the EU can come to live and work in the UK remains the same.

In February 2020, the Government published its policy statement entitled “UK points-based immigration system: policy statement” (Policy Statement) setting out what the UK’s points-based immigration system would look like once the transition period ends. It was confirmed that, from 1st January 2021, anyone that wishes to come to the UK for work, including EU citizens, would be subject to immigration control. Under the new points-based system migrant workers will need a job offer from an employer who holds a sponsor licence, and will need to demonstrate that they meet a specific set of requirements and score a minimum number of points before they are able to come to live and work in the UK.

On 13th July 2020, the Government released the policy paper, “UK points-based immigration system: further details statement” (Further Details). This document builds on the previous Policy Statement by providing more detail to applicants, employers and educators on the proposals that will underpin the key immigration routes within the points-based system.

Much of the Further Details document simply confirms that which had been set out previously in the Policy Statement, which we reported upon earlier this year here. However, the Annexes to the document will be of interest to employers in a number of sectors (such as Agriculture, Charities and Construction) as they set out the roles which will be deemed to be “skilled roles” and, therefore, roles into which employers who hold sponsor licences can recruit workers from outside of the UK.

The Further Details document also introduces the a new, fast-track Health and Care Visa to provide a route for certain healthcare workers to work in the UK. It also provided confirmation of the Global Talent route which launched on 20th February 2020 and is open to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens to enable highly-skilled scientists, researchers and innovators to come to the UK without a job offer. The Further Details document together with the Annexes can be found here.

It is worth noting that from 1st January 2020, even if you are looking to recruit into one of the permitted “skilled roles”, you will only be able to source such labour from outside the UK (whether from within the EU or otherwise) if you are registered with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as a licenced sponsor. To become a licenced sponsor, employers need to go through a sponsor licence application process and abide by certain obligations and duties required by the UKVI.

Given that from 1st January 2020 any business that wishes to recruit from overseas will need to apply to become a registered licenced sponsor, and that currently only a small percentage of UK employers have such licences, we expect there to be an influx of such applications being made shortly. Depending on your circumstances, it can also take some time to go through the application process. Whilst we appreciate that Human Resource departments will have their hands full currently with furloughed staff, bringing staff back to work and potential restructuring exercises due to the current pandemic, we cannot stress enough how important it is that, if your business may need to fill labour shortages with workers from outside the UK in 2021, you should not only consider your future requirements but also consider making any sponsor licence application as soon as possible.

In addition, you shall also need to ensure that your current workforce is ready for the end of the transition period. EU workers that wish to remain living and working within the UK shall need to apply for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme by no later than 30th June 2021. Businesses should therefore be undertaking audits of their current staff to ensure that those who have not already applied under the EU Settlement Scheme do so before the deadline and, where applicable, be supporting such staff in gaining the relevant status.

For more information please contact Lynne Adams or Gemma Hill in our employment team.