Dec 2020 – What the new Points-Based Immigration System has in store for UK work visas

For workbased immigration, mid-October’s statement of changes to the Immigration Rules was in many ways rather anticlimactic. The last two years have been a series of reports and policy statements setting out the government’s plans for a ‘new’ Points-Based Immigration System. The major changes therefore come as no great surprise.

Despite this, the new system, which will go live from 1 December 2020, represents one of the biggest overhauls of sponsored migration since the current Points Based System was created over 12 years ago. With the ending of free movement for EEA nationals on 31 December 2020, the Point Based System will be the only option for foreign nationals wanting to work in the UK. The visa requirements will therefore have a massive impact in sharping the UK’s labour market for years to come.

So long Tier 2 (General), hello Skilled Worker

The headline news is the rebrand of the Tier 2 (General) visa into the ‘Skilled Worker route’. As with the recent changes to the student route, the fundamentals of the visa remain largely the same. There are, however, some potentially beneficial changes which will make the system more workable for businesses and employees.

The first point to note is that this still remains a sponsorship visa. A potential Skilled Worker must still have a job offer which reaches certain skill and salary thresholds for an employer who holds a skilled worker sponsor licence. As the visa does not allow the holder to work for whomever they choose, it is vastly more restrictive than the free movement rights EEA nationals currently enjoy.

The rules for the Skilled Worker route are in a new Appendix Skilled Worker. They are split into validity, suitability, eligibility, financial and criminal record requirements. First off an applicant needs to have 50 mandatory points from sponsorship, appropriate job skill level and English language skills. The applicant then needs 20 points related to their salary, for a total of 70.

Hello, The Intra-Company, good to see you again

There has been a modest revamp for what are now known as the Intra-Company Transfer route and the Intra Company Graduate Trainee route. The new rules are largely in line with the ICT visa process that exists at the moment.

The key different between this set-up and the current Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route is in the length of visa on offer. If the applicant is a ‘high earner’ – i.e. their salary is above £73,900 – then they can get cumulative periods of permission in the ICT route of up to nine years in any ten-year period. If the applicant is not a high earner, they can stay in the ICT route for no more than five years in any six-year period. Other than this stipulation, there is no longer a cooling off period.

Plus, ICT visa holders will be able to switch into the Skilled Worker route once in the UK. As the ICT route still does not lead to settlement, this will allow an applicant to move onto a visa which will allow them to remain permanently in the UK. A good bit of news.

The Government is eliminating a number of annoying and pointless rules which have needlessly restricted sponsored migration. It will certainly make the system simpler, and the job that can be sponsored are broader and more incursive.

However, the new Point-Based Immigration System is an inferior and costly replacement for EU free movement. Employers and workers are going to have to shoulder the exorbitant costs of sponsorship and get used to a system that requires a lengthy visa process to be completed before someone can begin work. What impact this will have on the UK economy and labour market is, as the Government says itself, uncertain. We are all about to take a giant leap into the unknown.

We have tried to cover the frequently asked questions future changes in the area of UK Immigration Rules. If you have any specific questions you would like advice on, then please contact: or of Lewis Silkin LLP.