The UK’s new Immigration System – what’s the latest?

16 July 2020

We provided an update back in February on the plans for the UK's new immigration system which will take effect from 1 January 2021. The Government has now released further details. To save you reading all 130 pages, Head of Immigration, Clare Hedges summarises the key points added since our last update.

Work visas

  1. Existing Tier 2 General and ICT sponsors will automatically be granted the equivalent sponsor licences under the new system, with the same expiry date. Employers are encouraged to apply for their licence now.
  2. The Immigration Skills Charge will continue to apply, with the same reduced rates for charities and small sponsors.
  3. As under the existing system, salaries can be pro-rated to reflect part time working hours, but the overall minimum salary threshold must still be met.
  4. Migrants who wish to rely on having a relevant PhD in order to earn points towards the work visa requirements can only do so if they are being sponsored for a role that falls within a particular list of SOC codes.
  5. The English language requirement is maintained, but Ireland and Malta will be added to the list of majority English speaking countries.
  6. The Health and Care visa will form part of the work visa route. Details of this will be announced separately.
  7. There will be an unsponsored route for the most highly skilled workers, but this will not open on 1 January 2021. It will be explored with stakeholders over the next year. We already know it will be capped and carefully monitored.
  8. The Graduate route will open in summer 2021. This will not require sponsorship.  Graduates with a Bachelors or Masters degree will be able to stay in the UK for 2 years, those with a PhD for 3 years, to work or look for work at any skill level.
  9. Intra-company Transfers will continue on largely the same basis. In particular they will continue to be subject to a higher minimum salary than other work visas and will only be possible for roles skilled to RQF level 6.  There will be no English language requirement.  But in future it will be possible to switch in the UK to other work visa routes. The cooling off rules will be more flexible, to allow migrants to dip in and out so long as they do not hold leave for more than 5 years in any 6 year period (9 years for high earners).
  10. We will have to wait until the end of the year for the Seasonal Workers pilot for agriculture to be reviewed and a decision made on whether or not to continue this.


  1. There will continue to be separate visas for child and adult students. In future, there may also be a distinction between Higher and Further Education. 
  2. Students will be able to submit visa applications 6 months in advance (rather than three months).
  3. The time limit on postgraduate study will be removed, although academic progression will still be required. 
  4. More students will be able to apply for further leave from within the UK. They will not be required to supply evidence of funds again. 
  5. The “low risk” list will include EU countries, so EU national applicants will benefit from reduced documentary requirements.   

Other continuing routes

  1. The Global Talent route will continue, with input from the new Office for Talent. 
  2. The Start-up and Innovator routes will continue. There is however no mention of the Investor route, or representatives of overseas companies. We hope that as these routes were reformed recently they will continue on this basis.
  3. The Youth Mobility Scheme will continue and more countries may be added.
  4. The Sporting, Creative, GAE and International Agreement routes will all continue. As will visas for Minister of Religion, Religious Workers and Ancestry visas.
  5. The family route will continue, with EU nationals needing to apply and qualify in the same way as non-EU nationals do now.


  1. EU citizens will not require visas to visit the UK. But during 2021, a requirement will be introduced for EU citizens who don’t have pre-settled or settled status to use a passport rather than an ID card to confirm identity at the border.
  2. An Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system will be introduced as part of a phased programme to 2025.

To discuss the changes and how they will affect you or your organisation, please contact a member of our Immigration Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at July 2020.


Clare Hedges

Senior Associate - Head of Immigration

+44 (0)1223 326605

+44 (0)7581 150137