Post Brexit Changes to Immigration Rules

At the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December 2020, the UK will leave the EU single market and the free movement of people between the UK and EU will no longer apply. 

The UK will therefore be free to set its own immigration rules pertaining to entry and residence of citizens from outside the British common travel area.

Important Action Point for Employers: Non-resident EU citizens who are entering the UK from 1st January 2021, will need permission to work. If you foresee the need to employ nationals from the EU after 1st January 2020, you should apply for a sponsor licence as soon as possible – please click here to find out more about the process or contact us for further details.

What are the New Immigration Rules?

The government has considered whether the UK should adopt an ‘Australian-style’ points-based system as the ideal model for selecting migrants with the requisite attributes to enable the UK to flourish as an independent nation outside of the EU.

The Home Office will introduce a new employer-led points-based system under Appendix W ‘Workers’ whereby migrants will score points for the following:

  • A confirmed job offer with an approved Home Office Sponsor at RQF Level 3 (A-level)
  • A salary offer of at least £25,600 per annum (a reduction of the current salary level set under the Tier 2 (General) Skilled Worker category of at least £30,000)
  • A proficient understanding of the English language
  • Being able to ‘trade’ points for salary (minimum salary of £20,480) in exchange for the role being within the shortage occupation or a PhD-level role

The Home Office intend to scrap the cap on the number of people who are able to enter the UK under the skilled ‘worker’ route, as well as remove the resident labour market test, which are very welcome additions to the rules.

How will the New Points-based System Work?

Applicants would need to achieve a total of 70 points with three fixed characteristics and others as ‘tradeable’ points. These are as follows:

Points achieved
Tradeable characteristics
Offer of a job by an approved sponsor 20 No
Job at appropriate skill level 20 No
Speaks English at required level 10 No
Salary of £ £20,480 (minimum) - £23,039 0 Yes
Salary of £23,040-£25,599 10 Yes
Salary of £25,600 or above 20 Yes
Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the Migration Advisory Council) 20 Yes
Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job 10 Yes
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job 20  Yes


Summary of Significant Changes Affecting Foreign Employees from 1st January 2020

  • EU and non-EU citizens will be treated in the same way
  • The resident labour market test will be scrapped
  • The minimum salary requirement of £30,000 per annum has been lowered to £25,600 (for the majority of applicants)
  • The skill level threshold will be reduced from RQF 6 to RQF 3 (approximately A-Level standard)
  • The immigration cap (currently set at 20,700) on skilled labour will be ‘suspended’


Will there be a rise in labour costs due to the new immigration rules?

One of the biggest concerns raised by employers is the rise in labour costs as a result of the new immigration rules. In this respect, the Home Office has specified that employers will still be required to pay sponsored migrants the appropriate salary rate for their role as specified in the Home Office Standard Occupational Codes of Practice. Therefore, where this is higher than the general salary threshold, the higher salary requirement would need to be met.

What are shortage occupations?

The Home Office will commission the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to produce a shortage occupation list covering all occupations within the skilled worker category, which will be kept under review. Where an applicant scores extra points for working in a sector where there is a recognised skills shortage, they could be paid less than £25,600.

Will employers need to consider additional costs due to the new immigration rules?

It is likely that many employers will be worried by the new immigration rules, which will affect both EU citizens and those outside of the EEA, as consideration will need to be made into the significant cost implications of recruiting non-UK workers. The UK government will levy the Immigration Skills Surcharge and Immigration Health Surcharge on the same basis as now.

Will there be a category for low-skilled workers under the new immigration rules?

Perhaps the most contentious change in the immigration rules is the Home Office’s announcement that there will not be an immigration category for the ‘low-skilled’ workers, even on a temporary or transitional basis.

The MAC’s report concluded that there will already be sufficient labour in the UK from the 3.2 million European nationals that have already applied to remain in the UK under the European Settlement Scheme, as well as from non-EU citizens who enter the UK as dependants of skilled workers.

This will, however, cause concern for employers within the care, construction and hospitality sectors that rely heavily on the free-flow of labour from Europe.

Why Choose JMW?

We are a top 100 UK law firm with over 500 employees based in the City of London, Manchester and Liverpool. We are large enough to have the high professional standards that you would expect from an established law firm whilst also retaining the client accessibility more typical of smaller firms.

Our immigration solicitors are not only experts in business immigration law but they also specialise in sponsor licence applications. Extensive experience of sponsor licence applications is essential to advise clients effectively so that they can obtain their licence as quickly as possible and with the least amount of hassle.

Our approach is to form a strategic partnership with you to become your trusted business immigration advisers. We will take into consideration your particular circumstances and advise on appropriate actions to take. Our solicitors have been commended by the Home Office, which means you can trust in the quality of our applications. We will always ensure sponsor licences are kept up to date should there be any developments in immigration law.

To learn more about the UK's post-Brexit sponsor licence rules and how we can help you, download our Guide to Employing Overseas Workers brochure.

Talk to Us

To speak to an expert immigration law solicitor about making a post-Brexit sponsor licence application, contact us today by calling 0203 675 7600, or fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.

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