Further details released
on UK points based
immigration system

On 13 July, Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled further details on the government’s plans for a new UK points based immigration system to be introduced from 1 January 2021.

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill is currently undergoing further Parliamentary scrutiny before being passed, however the latest update aims to give applicants and employers time to prepare for new immigration routes opening from autumn 2020.

The 130-page document lays out future visa routes and rules for EU and non-EU citizens coming to the UK to work, study and visit. Following the update, Smith Stone Walters will be producing a series of articles to guide employers and applicants through the impending changes.

In the meantime, we would like to highlight the following key principles of the new system outlined in the document, which employers should be aware of.

The Common Travel Area (CTA)

The Common Travel Area (CTA) is an open borders area consisting of the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The further details document confirms there will be no change to journeys from within the CTA to the UK from 2021, meaning people can continue to travel within this area with no routine immigration controls in place.

Irish citizens will continue to benefit from their special immigration status and will be allowed to freely enter, live and work in the UK without requiring permission as they do now. There will also be no immigration controls on the Northern Ireland to Ireland border.


From January 2021, EU and non-EU citizens coming to live in the UK will need to demonstrate their right to be in the country and prove their entitlements via written confirmation of their immigration status, which all successful applicants will receive.

EU and non-EU citizens will be able to use an online service to demonstrate their right to work in the UK. This service, which has been in place since January 2019, enables employers to conduct right to work checks remotely and without the need for physical document checks.

  • Biometric requirements – The update states that the government’s long-term aim is to allow all visitors and migrants to provide their biometric information under a single global immigration system, increasing the use of biometric self-enrolment and digital application processes to reduce the reliance on in-person appointments at Visa Application Centres.
  • Fees – Visa application fees will continue to apply under the new rules as they do now, and will apply to both EU and non-EU citizens alike. Most overseas migrants will also be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge when staying in the UK for more than six months. However, a new discounted rate will be introduced for under 18s, and further details will be published in due course about expemtions for frontline NHS, health and social care workers.
  • Sponsoring skilled workers and students – The document states that the sponsorship system will form ‘an integral part’ of the new system, and key changes have been introduced to ‘streamline and simplify’ the process for users. To reduce the time it takes businesses to bring in a migrant worker, the current cap on Tier 2 (General) visas will be suspended, and there will be no requirement for employers to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) under the new skilled worker route.
  • English language requirements – Applicants will be required to demonstrate they can speak English at the required level for the route they are applying to. This can be evidenced by passing a secure English language test, having an academic degree taught in English, being a national of a majority English-speaking country, or showing they met the required level in a previous successful immigration application.


Under the new rules, skilled workers and postgraduate students coming to the UK will have the right to bring dependents, as they do now. Dependents are classified as spouses, partners and children under the age of 18 at the point of entry.

Dependents will have access to the UK labour market and can work at any skill level, whilst school age dependents will be entitled to a state education, however dependents will still be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

In-country switching

In a move to support employers in retaining talented staff they have invested in, the new system will allow in-country switching for most migrants. This means they will be able to apply to move from one immigration route to another without having to leave the UK in between.

However, those wishing to switch will still need to meet the qualifying criteria and requirements of the route they are switching to, and will need to pay the associated fees for the application.

Migrants in the UK on short-term permissions such as visitors and seasonal workers will be unable to switch to a new route in the UK.

Be Aware, Be Prepared

With the clock ticking down to January 2021, employers should be aware of how their future hiring practices will be impacted by the UK’s new points-based immigration system.

If your business needs assistance with applying for a sponsor licence or advice on how to prepare for the changes, Smith Stone Walters is here to help. Contact our expert immigration consultants today.

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