The UK government has detailed its new immigration system, which will come into effect from 1 January 2021.
The new system will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and visas will only be awarded to those who gain enough points, said UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
“The new single global system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. It will give top priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents, including scientists, engineers and academics,” Patel said.
“The global talent scheme will also be opened up to EU citizens which will allow highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer.”
How the new system works
Patel said that the points threshold will be carefully set to attract the talent the UK needs. Skilled workers will need to meet a number of relevant criteria, including specific skills and the ability to speak English, to be able to work in the UK.
All applicants will be required to have a job offer and the minimum salary threshold will be set at £25,600 (R497,454), with a few exceptions.
The new points-based system will also expand the skills threshold for skilled workers. Those looking to live and work in the UK will now need to be qualified up to A level or equivalent, rather than degree level under the current system. This will provide greater flexibility and ensure UK business has access to a wide pool of skilled workers, the Home Office said.
There will be no specific route for low-skilled workers low skilled workers, or self-employed or freelance individuals on the system.
Speaking in an interview with Sky News, Patel said that potential migrants to the UK will have to score 70 points on the new system in order to qualify for a visa.
Three conditions must be met by prospective migrants in order to move to the UK, which total 50 points towards the 70-point threshold.
- A job offer from an approved sponsor, such as an employer cleared by the Home Office. This will earn 20 points.
- Have a job offer that is at a “required skill level”. This will earn 20 points.
- The ability to speak English to a certain level. This will earn 10 points.
The remaining points are allocated based on other conditions, outlined in the table below.
While the basic criteria provide the most solid route to the visa, there are some exceptions.
For example, a prospective applicant may still succeed in getting a visa even if they do not have a job offer, as long as they are highly skilled and endorsed by a competent body, and still make up the 70 points required.
Students are also covered by the points system, as long as they can show they have been accepted by an approved university and can support themselves financially during study.
Good news for South Africans?
The new immigration system will see South Africans given access to work visas – in some cases with a path to permanent UK residence – based on their skills and qualifications, rather than their nationality, said immigration company Move Up.
“The UK is scrapping their dual EU and non-EU visa system in favour of a more streamlined immigration and work visa process. This is aimed at attracting talent from around the world to keep the UK globally competitive,” said Move Up managing director, Ryan Rennison.
“The playing field has now been levelled – all nationalities will be required to apply for visas under the same skilled worker’s route.
“The major difference is that applicants need to have sponsorship from a UK employer before applying,” said Rennison.