Spotlight On: New skills
and salary thresholds

Further details released last week on the UK’s new points-based immigration system outlined the new skills and salary thresholds that applicants will need to meet when applying to the new Skilled Worker route.

The existing Tier 2 (General) route will be replaced by the new Skilled Worker route, and there will be no overall cap on the number of people who can apply to this route.

Applicants will need to meet a specific set of requirements under this route for which they will score points. A minimum of 70 points is required to be granted entry. The new Skilled Worker route will be open to all EU and non-EU applicants who have a confirmed job offer at the required level from a UK employer holding a Home Office sponsor licence.

A key difference between the existing Tier 2 (General) route and the new Skilled Worker route is the lowering of the salary and skill thresholds.

This will mean that from January 2021, businesses will be able to recruit more overseas staff for a number of roles which were previously excluded from the scope of the Tier 2 (General) sponsorship eligibility criteria.

What are the new skills and salary thresholds?

Under the new Skilled Worker route, applicants must hold a job offer at or above the minimum skill level of RQF3 or above, which is defined as A-Level or equivalent. This is a decrease in required skill level from the previous requirement of RQF6, or degree level. Applicants will not need to hold a formal qualification, as it is the skill level of the job they will be doing which is important.

Similarly, the minimum salary threshold for Skilled Workers will also be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 per annum.

There will also be different minimum salary rules for workers in certain health or education roles, and for “new entrants” at the start of their career. New entrants will be able to enter the UK on a salary 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation, as long as the salary is at least £20,480.

Tradeable and non-tradeable points

All applicants to the Skilled Worker route must meet the following mandatory criteria which is non-tradeable:

  • The applicant must have a confirmed job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points)
  • The job must be at an appropriate skill level (20 points)
  • The applicant must speak English to an acceptable standard (10 points)

If the job also meets the general salary threshold of £25,600, the applicant will score an additional 20 points, to make up the requisite 70 points.

However, applicants with a job offer paying less than £25,600 may still be able to make up the additional 20 points required by scoring tradeable points in the following situations:

  • The salary is at least £23,040, or at least 90% of the ‘going rate’ for the occupation (10 points)
  • The applicant holds a job offer for a listed health or education job and meets the relevant national pay scale (20 points)
  • The applicant holds a PhD qualification in a subject relevant to the job (10 points)
  • The applicant holds a PhD qualification in a STEM subject relevant to the job (20 points)
  • The job offer held is in a shortage occupation (20 points)
  • The applicant is a new entrant to the labour market (20 points)

In all cases, applicants must hold a job offer with a salary of at least £20,480 as well as accumulating the required 70 points.

What does this mean for employers?

The lowering of the skills and salary thresholds from January 2021 will be a welcome change for employers in many sectors, such as retail, hospitality and construction, who will be able to sponsor workers in roles that were previously excluded due to the higher skills and salary thresholds.

However, for larger employers who have previously only considered recruitment of migrant workers into more senior roles, these changes could mean larger companies may alter their approach in 2021 to allow departments to hire overseas workers for lower level opportunities.

Employers looking to expand their hiring of overseas workers to include lower level roles from 2021 should first consider the associated recruitment costs this could involve. For example, employers sponsoring migrant workers are required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for each foreign worker they employ unless a specific exemption applies. On top of this, sponsors will need to pay a fee for each Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) they assign, and any contributions they agree to pay the employee towards their relocation costs. You can find out more about the costs involved with sponsoring overseas workers here.

Smith Stone Walters would advise employers to take the time to understand their new obligations when hiring skilled migrants from January 2021, and take steps to put the appropriate policies in place for their business now.

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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