New Points Based Immigration System – Overarching changes
30 October 2020
On 22 October 2020 the Government laid out 500 pages of new Immigration Rules, which will form the basis of our new Points Based Immigration System.
Most of the changes will apply to non-EU nationals from 1 December 2020 and to EU citizens arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021. In this, the first in a series of updates, our Immigration Team focuses on the key changes for employers. For more information on any of the changes or to discuss a potential application, please do get in touch with a member of the team. The new rules mainly affect work visas. There are some overarching changes which apply from 9:00am on 1 December 2020 across different visa routes.
There is some good news for work visa applicants. If you have already been in the UK for 12 months as a Student, Skilled Worker, ICT Worker, Minister of Religion, Sportsperson, Temporary Worker, Start-up or Innovator, then you do not need to provide further evidence of maintenance.
Those who do need to provide evidence will find the rules have relaxed slightly. So long as the funds can be accessed immediately, applicants will be able to rely on monies held in a wider range of accounts (not just cash or cash savings). Electronic bank statements will be accepted without requiring the bank to stamp every page. The bad news is that the maintenance requirement is increasing from £945 to £1,270, albeit the requirement for dependant partners will reduce from £630 to £285. £315 is needed for the first dependant child and £200 for any subsequent children.
Changes are being made to try and ensure that a migrant only has to provide evidence of their English language skills once, instead of providing the same evidence repeatedly to support different applications.
Malta and Ireland are being added to the list of majority English speaking countries. This also means that degrees from those countries will be treated as taught in English. A NARIC assessment will still be required though to confirm that they are equivalent to a UK degree.
There is also a new way of meeting the English language requirement for Students, Skilled Workers, Start-up and Innovator migrants. If you went to school in the UK and achieved a GCSE, A-level or Scottish Higher in English language or literature, that can be used instead of a degree taught in English, or an approved English language test.
New validity requirements are being introduced. Whilst these technical points will mainly be of interest to lawyers, they could catch out applicants who then find they have not made a valid application before their current leave expires and so they have inadvertently become an overstayer.
Sponsored workers must have a Certificate of Sponsorship before they submit their application (so no more creative workarounds where there is a crisis on that front). Where the applicant has been funded by a government or scholarship agency in the last 12 months they must submit their consent to the new application in order for it to be valid.
The government made various concessions for people to remain in the UK without valid leave, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we had been concerned that those concessions were not properly backed up in law and so may be hard to rely on in future. Fortunately the new Rules will allow caseworkers to disregard overstaying between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 and so this should provide comfort to anyone who has been in that position during the height of the pandemic.
However, we note that there is still no protection for migrants who have obtained an ‘exceptional assurance’ because they needed to remain in the UK from 1 September 2020 onwards.
EU nationals who are already in the UK cannot apply under the new system at this time – if they do their application will be rejected, on the basis they should be applying under the EU Settlement Scheme instead.
Applicants from outside the UK can only apply for visas to start on or after 1 January 2021.
This article is from the October 2020 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For more details regarding any of the matters covered in this update, 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 October 2020.