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Explained: What is UK’s new points-based immigration system?

Patel was quoted in a UK government press release as saying, "We're ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people's priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down."

Written by Mehr Gill , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: February 20, 2020 7:50:45 am
British Lawmaker Priti Patel. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

On Wednesday, UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel launched the new points-based immigration system, which intends to change the way migrants will come to the UK to work, study, visit or join their family. Effective from January 1, 2021, the new immigration system affects the EU citizens, who will now be treated at par with non-EU citizens. Non-EU citizens already follow a points-based system to migrate to the UK.

Patel was quoted in a UK government press release as saying, “We’re ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people’s priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down.”

Explained: What is UK points-based immigration system?

After its exit from the European Union (EU), the UK is currently in a transition period until the end of 2020, during which time the UK and EU are expected to negotiate rules on trade, travel, and business. Until the transition period gets over, the pre-Brexit rules will continue to apply. Before the Brexit, EU citizens had unrestricted rights to work in the UK to stay and work under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The implementation of the points-based system does not change the status of those EU citizens already in the UK as per EUSS and those whose status under EUSS is settled.

The points-based immigration system will take effect from January 1, 2021 and will end free movement between the UK and EU, treating both EU and non-EU citizens equally. Under this system, points will be assigned for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and visas will be awarded to those who will have enough points.

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How will the points-based immigration system work?

Under this system, both EU and non-EU citizens will need to demonstrate that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor, that the job offer is at the required level and that they speak English. Further, as per the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendations, salary thresholds have been established. As of now, the general salary threshold has been lowered to £25,600 from £30,000. This means that if an applicant is earning less than the minimum salary threshold, but no less than £20,480, they may still be eligible if they can demonstrate that they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation, or if they have a PhD relevant to the job.

Further, a total of 70 points are required to be eligible to apply, with some tradeable characteristics of the system. The points will be allotted in the following manner: offer of job by approved sponsor (20), job at appropriate skill level (20), speaks English at required level (10), salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039 (0), salary of £23,040 – £25,599 (10), salary of £25,600 or above (20), job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC) (20), education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job (10) and education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job (20). Out of these characteristics, the first three are not tradeable, which means they are absolutely required to be eligible for visa under the points-based system.

Students will also be covered under the points-based system and will be able to gain points if they can demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, speak English and are able to support themselves during their studies in the UK. Additionally,a small number of some of the most highly-skilled workers may be able to come to the UK without a job offer, but the details of how this work out haven’t been specified yet. As per MAC’s current list of shortage jobs, the following are included: civil engineers, medical practitioners, classical ballet dancers and psychologists.

Even so, there will be no routes for lower-skilled workers, since the government wants the country to not rely on cheap labour from Europe.

What is the need for such a system?

A press release issued by the UK government states that the government has listened to the “clear message” from the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2019 General Elections and that it will “end the reliance on cheap, low-skilled labour coming into the country.”

Further, with the implementation of this visa system, the UK aims to reduce the overall levels of migration, with tighter security and a “better experience” for those coming into the UK, attracting high-skilled workers. “We will deliver a system that works in the interests of the whole of the UK and prioritises the skills a person has to offer, not where they come from,” the policy statement says. The policy statement states that the European free movement rights and the immigration system have failed to meet the needs of the British people.

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