A new points-based immigration system for the UK will be unveiled by government today – a move which ministers say will ‘open up the UK to the brightest and best from around the world’.
The new system – which the government says will ‘end free movement, reassert control of our borders and restore public trust’ – will come into effect in January 2021, and will apply strict criteria to all UK entry applications.
It will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and professions, with visa then granted only to those who score highly enough.
The move has been broadly welcomed by the business community, with the caveat that it must be carefully managed and affordable, with business support available.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Today is a historic moment for the whole country. 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.
“We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential.”
The government says overall levels of migration will be reduced by a system which will be applied equally to EU and non-EU citizens equally.
Partner system the global talent scheme – designed to offer easy UK access for highly-skilled scientists and researches into the UK – will also be extended to EU citizens, meaning they can enter the country even without a job offer.
New visa rules will insist applicants meet set criteria, including the ability to speak English, to work in the UK. They must also have a job offer with a minimum salary threshold of £25,600.
However, there is no route into the UK for low-skilled workers – meaning an estimated 70% of the current EU workforce would fall short.
Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, says ‘careful implementation’ will be vital, and input from the business community must be encouraged.
She said: “Getting a new immigration system right on day one will be critical for economic growth and the UK’s global reputation as it forges a new path outside the EU.
“Firms recognise and accept that freedom of movement is ending, and have sought a system that is both open and controlled, valuing people’s contribution beyond their salary while retaining public confidence.
“Several aspects of the new system will be welcomed by business, particularly abolishing the cap on skilled visas, introducing a new post-study work visa for overseas students, and reducing the minimum salary threshold from £30,000.
“Nonetheless, in some sectors firms will be left wondering how they will recruit the people needed to run their businesses. With already low unemployment, firms in care, construction, hospitality, food and drink could be most affected.
“So careful implementation across all UK nations and regions will be required. A regularly reviewed shortage occupations list, with promises of further flexibility, will be vital for the effectiveness of the new system. Above all, the government must work with employers and employees – especially smaller firms – to ensure they have the time to adapt to new policies and practices.”
And Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Forum of Small Businesses, agrees a points-based system can work as long as it is carefully managed and businesses are supported.
He said: “We see the benefits of a points-based model, so long as it’s one that’s easy to use and affordable for small businesses – almost all of which have no experience of using our current immigration system.
“Against a backdrop of stifling skills shortages, sluggish economic growth and an ageing population, it’s critical that we get this right, particularly as the timeframes are so short.”