New Plan for Immigration:
Priorities for 2021-22

On 24 May 2021, the Home Office published its “New Plan for Immigration” strategy statement, setting out the government’s vision for the UK’s border and immigration system in subsequent years.

The statement outlines proposals to transform the border and immigration system and deliver a fully digital end-to-end customer journey, with the UK knowing more about the people arriving in the country before they start their journey.

Delivering the Plan, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Security is at the very heart of our New Plan for Immigration. Our new fully digital border will provide the ability to count people in and count people out of the country. We will have a far clearer picture of who is here and whether they should be – and will act when they are not. To the question – what’s next for immigration – the answer is wholescale reform of the system.”

The strategy document is split into two sections covering the Home Office’s immediate delivery priorities for 2021-22, followed by the government’s longer-term vision for the UK’s immigration system beyond 2022.

Below is a brief summary of the areas and actions identified by the Home Office as immediate priorities for this year and into 2022.

EU Settlement Scheme

EU citizens who arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020 have until 30 June 2021 to secure their rights by applying for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

Until 30 June 2021, employers and landlords may continue to accept passports and ID cards from EU citizens as evidence of their right to work or rent property. There will also be no legal requirement for employers and landlords to carry our retrospective checks on existing employees or tenants after this date, although they are free to do so.

The New Plan for Immigration states that after the grace period terminates at the end of June, Border Force staff will have the ability to check whether an EU citizen has applied for or been granted status under the EUSS.


The strategy states that the Home Office intends to simplify the Immigration Rules to make them “as user friendly and accessible as possible”.

The rules for the new Graduate and International Sportsperson routes due to be introduced in 2021 have been drafted applying simplification principles, meaning they will follow a consistent structure and be clearer for the applicant to understand.

Other ways the Home Office intends to simplify the application process under these routes include:

  • Simplified questions on application forms
  • Greater flexibility for applicants to show that they meet the English language and financial requirements for the route
  • Using online processes where possible, reducing the need for applicants to visit Visa Application Centres.

The statement also confirms the government’s intentions to simplify the Family, Private Life, Settlement and Returning Residents routes.


The Home Office intends to publish a roadmap this summer which will set out planned improvements to the sponsorship system in 2022 and beyond. The objective is to deliver a “digital, simplified and modern” sponsorship system that encourages compliance and will enable employers to have overseas workers ready to start work faster.

Sponsorship reforms planned for 2021 will support three core objectives:

  • Speeding up end-to-end processing, from applying for a sponsor license to a worker or student being approved for a visa
  • Improving a sponsor’s experience of using the sponsor system, reducing the burden placed on them to maintain their license and providing functionality and transparency
  • Preventing abuse of the system, including effective management of immigration risk

New and reformed immigration routes

As part of the government’s plans to ‘Build Back Better’ and deliver economic growth, key reforms will be made to immigration routes in 2021 to help the UK attract and retain highly skilled people.

Priorities in this area include:

  • Expanding the Global Talent route to introduce a new pathway for individuals with highly prestigious awards or prizes (this came into effect on 5 May 2021)
  • Introducing a new, unsponsored route in Spring 2022 to attract the very high skilled and academically elite.
  • Creating a single, sponsored Global Business Mobility route by Spring 2022 which will bring together, reform and expand a number of existing business routes.
  • Delivering the new Graduate route in July 2021

Delivering a fully digital system

The Home Office has made it clear that the long-term plan is to move to a fully digital immigration system. This will be achieved using a phased approach, gradually replacing physical documents and expanding the use of digital immigration statuses with the aim of having a fully digital system in place by the end of 2024.

Immediate priorities included in the Plan are:

  • Improving the online immigration status service and providing enhanced support to those who require assistance using the service (mainly EEA citizens and BNOs at present).
  • Introducing system-to-system services which will allow Government departments and public bodies to check immigration statuses direct with the Home Office instead of the individual having to prove their rights to access public services
  • Ending the use of EEA ID cards to cross the border and encouraging the use of eGates. Most EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will require a passport to travel to the UK from 1 October 2021. Those that have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme will continue to be able to use their national ID cards to enter the UK until at least 31 December 2025.
  • Laying the groundwork for wider reforms including the future introduction of Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETAs)

Stay informed

The New Plan for Immigration includes a multitude of reforms set to be introduced in subsequent years. These changes will impact both EU and non-EU citizens seeking to enter the UK, and their employers.

Ensure you stay up to date and aware of upcoming changes by signing up to Smith Stone Walters’ free Immigration News service. We will deliver a round-up of the latest immigration news straight to your inbox each week. To join our mailing list, please sign up here.

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