Several days ago the UK Government published ‘The UK’s future immigration system’ briefing paper with an overview of some of the proposals for the future immigration system in the UK.
In this article, I’ll summarise the main points from this report.
Some proposals have already been implemented. Some are just a proposal, which means they may change in future.
The End of Free Movement
Irrespective of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal, the UK is going to end the free movement area soon after the exit date. For EU citizen and their family member, it means that they will eventually lose their hybrid privileged immigration status, which they have been enjoying for many years. They will still be free to visit the UK as tourists. However, they will be required to apply for a visa if they wish to remain in the UK for more than 6 months. In essence, their rights will become similar to that of non-visa national citizens (e.g. Canada, Australia, USA).
Why Is Law Changing?
There are currently two immigration systems in the UK: the UK domestic law and EU law.
The UK domestic immigration law is intended mostly for visa-nationals applying to enter the UK for any period of time or non-visa nationals if they want to remain in the UK for more than 6 months.
Applications from EEA nationals and their family members have been governed by a completely different set of rules, the majority of which could be found in the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016.
In many cases, the EU law was dramatically more favourable to EU citizens living in the UK in comparison to UK law, which applies to all visa national citizens residing in the UK even if they are close relatives of British citizens.
The UK government intends to change the law to create a unified immigration system where all citizens, who are not British citizens (or without Indefinite leave to remain or refugee status or humanitarian protection) will be treated equally, in accordance with UK domestic immigration law.
The idea behind all these changes is to prioritise the people who can and will add significant value to the country.
The UK Government intends to create an immigration system which will apply to EEA workers and non-EEA workers equally.
It is also intended to:
lower the required job classification for a tier 2 visa from RQF level 6 (graduate/post-graduate level) to RQF level 3 (jobs requiring A level qualifications).
abolish the cap on tier 2 visa numbers (currently, it is 20,700 per year)
cancel the ‘Resident Labour Market Test’ which employers currently must complete sponsoring a worker.
Tier 2 Visa Substitute
The UK intends to implement the ‘Vindaloo visas’. This is not a new visa route. Rather, it is a better, shorter and improved version of the current Tier 2 immigration route. For example, UK restaurants providing a takeaway service should be able to sponsor non-EEA national chefs.
Previously, skilled chefs were included on the Shortage Occupation List. They were subject to a minimum salary of £29,570 after deductions. Also, the job required five or more years’ relevant experience at the equivalent level. It was not allowed for visa-national chefs to work fast food or take away service area. This is changed now.
Post-Study Work Immigration Route
The UK Government introduced a new exciting possibility for international students (starting their courses in
2020/21) to remain in the UK for 2 years following the end of their studies. This immigration route will be in force from summer 2021.
Strictly speaking, it is not a new rule as such. The 2-year post-study work route already exited and was closed in 2012.
This ‘reintroduced’ immigration route will be available to all international students who have completed a course at a minimum of undergraduate level with an approved Higher Education Provider. The student will be able to work, look for work at any skill level or subject.
After the two years, the students will be expected to switch onto the skilled work visa. This can be Tier 2, start-up, the innovator route or similar work-related routes. That is provided, of course, they meet the necessary requirements to switch routes.
Sadly, students whose existing Tier 4 student visas expire before the new route is implemented in the summer of 2021 will not be eligible to apply.
Global Talent Immigration Route
The new fast-track Global Talent Immigration route will be an alternative, or, rather, an improved version of the existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa route. This visa type will be aimed at those with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. This will be a three-year visa leading to settlement.
There will be no minimum salary requirement. Unlike Tier 2 migrants, Global Talent Visa applicants do not need to secure a job before arriving in the UK.
Rather remarkably, Global Talent Visa workers, in addition to being able to bring their spouses/partners and children will also be allowed to invite their adult dependants relatives to join them in the UK. All will have full access to the labour market. There won’t be any limit on how many Global Talent Visa applicants can come every year.
Amnesty for ‘Illegal Immigrants’
According to House of Common Handsar records (column 1491 ), Boris Johnson suggested that expulsion of over half a million of people without the correct papers from the country would be wrong, adding that the UK government should look at ‘the economic advantages and disadvantages of going ahead’ with the amnesty policy. This statement may look very promising for over 500,000 people who currently live illegally in the UK.
Low Skilled Immigration Route
This may become a ‘transitional route’ allowing workers of all skill levels, from ‘low risk’ countries to enter the UK for 12 months. The idea behind introducing this route is to help EU workforce reliant sectors (e.g. social care and agriculture) cope with their workload. If it is introduced, there is unlikely to be any cap on numbers of low skilled workers who will be allowed to come to the UK on a temporary basis. If this route is introduced, the UK Government will review it again in 2025.
Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme (ETA)
It is likely that in future all visitors will need to get permission before travelling (including existing non-visa nationals and EEA nationals) through the Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme. This scheme intended to be a simple online system, much quicker and more straightforward than the current entry clearance process. If permission is granted, it will be valid for multiple entries over an extended period.
It is intended for students rules to remain more or less the way they are now. However, there were proposals to allow undergraduate and masters students to remain in the UK for two years. Students will be able to apply to switch into the skilled workers route up to three months before the end of their course in the UK or outside.