You will all no doubt be aware that we have left Europe!  And with that has come changing requirements regarding the EU Settlement Scheme for those employees who hold EU passports and were in the UK before 31 December 2020. 

For others that were not in the UK before 31 December 2020 we have new immigration rules which require 

(i) the employer to be a ‘sponsor’ and 

(ii) for the prospective employee to secure enough points in the new points based immigration system.

All of this I am sure you will have read about, but as a bit of a reminder......

Any individual from the EU who was in the the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020 can apply to remain in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The basic rules of this scheme are that on this condition:

  • People who have been in the UK for more then 5 years already will normally be granted "Settled Status" entitling them to permanent residence in the UK.
  • People who have been in the UK for less than 5 years will normally be granted "Pre Settled Status" that will enable them to stay in the UK for the next 5 years and, as long as they are not absent for too long a period over the next 5 years, to then be granted "Settled Status" at the end of that period.  

Anyone that has received settled status can then apply to become a British citizen after a further year.

Applications must be made by 30 June 2021.

Irish nationals are exempt from both the settlement scheme and the new immigration points system.  They continue to have the freedom of movement enjoyed pre-Brexit.

Turning to the points scheme:

This applies to any EU citizen that was not in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020 (and of course anyone from outside the EU as well). 

Those wishing to come to the UK and work now are going to have to achieve a minimum of 80 points under the new scheme.   These points are made up by

  • Receiving an offer of employment from an employer who is a sponsor
  • That the job is at an appropriate skill level
  • That the individual speaks English to a required standard

Now, all three of these are mandatory requirements.  They each come with 20 points each which leaves a further 20 points required from the remaining categories.

These remaining categories include:

  • A salary of £25,600 (or the published official going rate for that job if it is higher);
  • If the job is identified as a shortage occupation on the government list of skill shortages;
  • Or if they have a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job

These categories also come with additional 20 points per category. 

There are other categories as well so please do not rely only on those set out above. The scheme can be quite complex and I have summarised the main categories here for the purposes of brevity.

Now, just to keep us all on our toes….

The ‘new’ news is that on 4 March 2021, the government published a “Statement of Changes” to the immigration rules.  The changes are being made to (primarily) deliver a new Graduate Route whilst also making changes to other routes, as well as changes to the EU Settlement Scheme itself.  

The Statement of Changes also makes changes to Skilled Workers and introduces a Global Talent category.  Most of the changes are implemented on 6 April, although some will also take place in May and July. 

The graduate route

The intention of the new graduate route is to provide:

“a new route for international students who have successfully completed an eligible course as a student at a student sponsor which is a higher education provider with a track record of compliance. It improves the UK’s offer to international students considering study here, by giving those who successfully complete an eligible course a further two years (three years for those being awarded doctorates) in the UK, during which they can work or look for work at any skill level.”

It will be open to new applications from 1 July 2021 and is being used to attract international students to the UK to study.  It will then also allow international students to stay in the UK to work (and look for work) for up to two years after they graduate (or three years for those awarded doctorates).

The Graduate Route is an unsponsored route and time spent under this route does not count towards Settlement. However, if a Graduate visa holder finds suitable employment in the UK they will be able to switch into the Skilled Worker route providing they meet the requirements for that category.

Skilled Worker route

Revisions to the UK-wide shortage occupation list (SOL) are being introduced.  Eight occupations in the health and care sector as well as modern language teachers have been added to the list.

  • The occupations added in the health and care sector are:
  • Health services and public health managers and directors.
  • Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors.
  • Laboratory technicians.
  • Senior care workers.
  • Pharmacists.
  • Health professionals not elsewhere classified.
  • Physiotherapists.
  • Nursing auxiliaries and assistants.

Chefs have been removed from the SOL but will continue to be eligible for the Skilled Worker route due to changes in the skills and salary thresholds. Experienced deckhands on large fishing vessels and "vent chick sexers" have also been added to the list of occupations eligible for the Skilled Worker route.

(Yes, I had to Google what a “vent chick sexer” was too!  Who would have thought?!)

There is also going to be the introduction of a minimum salary threshold (a minimum wage) to safeguard employees from being required to work long hours, to compensate for lower pay rates in meeting the minimum salary floor.  Previously, whilst there was a minimum annual wage, there was no limit in hours and accordingly an employer could therefore ‘buck the system’ by simply requiring employees to work long hours to effectively reduce the effect of having to meet the minimum salary.  The minimum hourly rate of pay will be £10.10 (which equates to the £20,480 minimum possible floor for a 39-hour week).

Global Talent Category

A change is being introduced which will allow individuals who have received specified prizes to bypass normal immigration requirements.  This is effectively a rebrand and amended scheme that was previously known as the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. 

If an individual qualifies under this scheme there is no requirement for them to:

  • Meet the normal minimum salary requirement;
  • Can apply for settlement once they have been in the UK for 3 years
  • Can apply without having to pass the usual requirement to demonstrate a good understanding of English
  • Can move between roles and organisations freely

Changes to the EU Settlement Scheme

The following changes are being made to the EU Settlement Scheme:

  • Conduct of the EU National (or members of their family) after 31 December 2020 can now be used as a reason for refusing an application;
  • Applications can also now be refused if the “applicant’s presence in the UK us not conducive to the public good because of conduct committed after 31 December 2020”
  • There may be some limited circumstances where applications can be made after the deadline of 30 June 2021 if there are reasonable grounds for missing the deadline.

To view the information on the Home Office website, please click here.