UK's New Points-Based Immigration Policy
The UK had been implementing one of the main principles of EU law which is freedom of movement for a long-time as they were part of the EU. However, after the UK left the European Union on 31st of January 2020, it adopted a new immigration policy.

According to the government, UK's new immigration system will be based on a points system which can be said that it is similar to Australian or Canadian point systems. The UK's point-based system will come to enforcement on 1st of January 2021. According to this new immigration policy, starting from January 2021, all applicants, both EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally. The government stated that the priority will be given to the most high-skilled and talented.

II. Salary and Skills Thresholds:

The UK government accepted the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendations which were published in its reports for salary thresholds and points-based systems (28th January 2020). In light of the MAC's recommendation, the UK lowered the general salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,000. Yet, migrants still have to be paid the higher of the specific salary threshold for their occupation and the general salary threshold. This points system will allow workers will be able to 'trade' characteristics such as specific job offers or qualifications to lower salary. Moreover, in light of the MAC's recommendation there will be no regional salary thresholds meaning that there will be single threshold across the UK.

The government implemented the MAC's recommendation to the bring skill threshold down from RQF6 to RQF3[1]. The government state that the cap on the number of people who can come on the skilled worker route will be suspended and the resident labour market test[2] will be removed. The government points that the processes of the new immigration system will be enforced on every applicant no matter where they are coming from (EU or non-EU). The government's reasoning behind this new immigration policy is ensuring that a wide pool of skilled workers will be able to come to the UK from anywhere in the world and the process will be made simpler and quicker for employers who are eligible.

i. Skilled Workers:

The points-based system is an employer-led system that allows skilled workers to come and work in the UK. All applicants, both EU and non-EU citizens, have to demonstrate that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor, that job offer is at the required skill level (RQF) and they are able to speak English. If the applicant earns more than minimum salary threshold, the applicant will be eligible for the application. However, if the applicant earns less than minimum salary threshold but not less than £20,480, the applicant may be still come to the UK. Although, they have to demonstrate that the applicant has a job offer in a specific shortage of occupation or the applicant has a PhD relevant to the job. In order for an applicant to be eligible for the application, a total of 70 points is required by this immigration policy.

As an example, a university researcher in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subject wishing to come to the UK on a salary of £22,000 may be still be able to enter the UK if they have a relevant PhD in a STEM subject.

The government states that the MAC will be commissioned to produce a shortage occupation list covering all jobs encompassed by the skilled worker router and to keep the list under regular review.

The government stated that the Home Office will publish further detail on the points-based system in due course, including detailed guidance regarding the points tables, shortage occupations and qualifications. For the time being, skilled workers will be able to be accompanied by their dependants.

As this new immigration system will be implemented from January 2021, the Home Office may implement new rules to the process. The current system is only the first stage of the process.

ii. Highly skilled Workers

From 1st of January 2021, the UK will extend the current Global Talent route to EU citizens on the same basis as non-EU citizens. In light of the MAC's recommendations, the UK will additionally create a border unsponsored route within the point-based system to run alongside the employer-led system. The government states the reasoning behind this action is allowing small number of the most highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer. Yet, the government adds the proposals relating unsponsored route will be more definite in coming years.

iii. Lower-skilled Workers

The UK government's manifesto with the new immigration policy is to reduce overall migration numbers. The UK government stated that the free movement of workers will end and there will be no implementation for a new route for lower-skilled workers.

The government expect from UK businesses to adapt to the new immigration system by leaving the working styles which is depended on lower-skilled work force and move towards wider investments of technology and automation.

For EU citizens, the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)[4] will be operating effectively. It is known that at the end of January 2020, over 3.2 million applicants have been made to the scheme. The UK government states that EU citizens already in the UK will be able to stay under the EUSS' unrestricted rights to work. The UK believes that this will meet labour market demands.

However, the MAC noted that there are almost 170,000 non-EU citizens, who are recently arrived at the UK, in lower-skilled occupations. The government states that people such as the dependants of skilled migrants will be able to remain in the UK in the lower-skilled occupations.

b) Students and Specialist Occupations

Students will also be covered by the points-based system. In order to achieve the required points for to migrate, students have to show that they are able to speak English, demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution and able to financially support themselves during their studies.

Under the UK's current immigration rules, there are a range of other immigration routes for specialist occupations such as innovators, ministers of religion and sportspeople. Starting from January 2021, existing routes in Tier 5 for specialist occupations will be applied same both EU and non-EU citizens.

c) Other Routes

The rules for family reunion, asylum and border crossing checks will be outside of the points-based system. However, they will remain integral to the transformation of the UK's new immigration system programme.

The government states that the UK's 'generous' visitor provisions will mainly continue with more simplified rules and guidance. It is expected that the UK will treat EU citizens as non-visa nationals meaning that they can come to the UK as visitors for six months without need to obtain visa. Yet, there is no certainty on the matter. The UK government added that there will be no change to the arrangements for the Common Travel Area.

d) What is RQF?

The UK's Regulated Qualifications Framework (RFQ) is a system which categorises qualifications in England based on their size and their level of challenge or difficulty. RFQ replaced QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework) in October 2015, yet, kept most of the rules same with minor improvements.

Under RQF, the size goes up from smallest award, a certificate to the largest award, a diploma. All units on the RQF are awarded with a credit number. One credit is almost equivalent to ten learning hours.

The levels of RQF is also goes from the lowest which is least challenging to the highest level of which is a Doctorate Level 8.

Under the new points-based immigration policy, the government putting the threshold down from RQF6 to RQF3 means that the minimum RQF level requirement came down from bachelor's degree to A Levels degree.

e) EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

The European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is a scheme launched in 2019 by the Home Office to process the registration of EU citizens resident in the UK prior to its departure from the EU.

All EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and their families can apply to the EUSS to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. If applicant's application is successful, they will get either settled or pre-settled status. This process will depend on how long the applicant lived in the UK when they applied. Applicants usually get settled status if they started living in the UK by 31 December 2020 and lived in the UK for a continues 5-year period. The applicants who hold settled status can stay in the UK as long as they like, and they will be able to apply for British citizenship if they are eligible. The applicants who do not have 5 years's continuous residence when they apply, they will usually get pre-settled status. Yet, all applicants must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020. Citizens who got pre-settled status can apply to change their status to settled status, once they got 5 years' continuous residence. However, this must be done before citizen's pre-settled status expires. The EUSS is still open for applications, the deadline for application is 30 June 2021. In addition, there is no fee to apply the scheme.

f) Comments and observations of academics to the UK's new points-based immigration policy

The future and what will happen to nurses and other NHS Workers who might not meet the new salary thresholds is a debatable issue on the topic. The general salary of a nurse or other NHS worker is around £23,000 which does not meet the new salary threshold. The MAC suggested that NHS and education jobs should be exempt from the main threshold and instead be paid to national pay scales. However, there is no certainty that the government will accept or refuse this recommendation. Researcher P. William Walsh states that the government will likely to accept this recommendation as if they do not, it might cause a complexity in NHS systems.

The director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, Madeleine Sumption stated that "there is only one way you can get in the country and that is if you meet all those criteria". This shows that the new immigration policy set thresholds to get in the country really high. Sumption also criticise this policy by saying "What the UK points-system does not do is assess the individuals for things like their age and qualifications. The UK system trusts the employer to decide whether the person is qualified to do the job unlike other points-based systems such as Australia's[5]."

g) Ankara Agreement and The New Immigration Policy

During the Brexit transition period, European Union rules will continue to be implemented in the UK until 31st of December 2020. Therefore, rights and freedoms arising from the EU law such as provisions of Ankara Agreement will be continuing to implemented until 31st of December 2020.

[2] In order to successfully fill a position via Tier 2 (General) Visa, the sponsor must satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to establish that there are no settled workers suitable for the position.

[3] A table for the UK's points-based immigration system

[4] Check 7-8 pages for EEUS explanation.

[5] In Australia the point-system gives automatically 30 points out of 65 points if you are aged 25-33 years old.
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