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Education briefing - Government publishes further details on its post-Brexit immigration regime

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings


On 19 February 2020, the Government published a policy statement setting out details of the immigration system which it intended would apply in the UK from 1 January 2021 – see our briefing of 20 February 2020. On 13 July 2020, the Government followed this up by publishing a 130 page document – “The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System - Further Details”. This document (the further details document) builds on the policy statement “by providing more detail to applicants, employers and educational institutions on the draft requirements and conditions underpinning the key immigration routes in the Points-Based System”.

As a reminder, these new arrangements – which the Government says aim “to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy” - will take effect from 1 January 2021 (once freedom of movement with the European Union (EU) has ended) and will apply to EU and non-EU citizens. The further details document uses the terms EU and non-EU so we will also use those in this briefing but the extension of the immigration regime to EU citizens also includes those EEA states outside the EU (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland who have also enjoyed freedom of movement. There will be no change to the ability of Irish citizens to enter and live in the UK.

EU nationals already in the UK, or arriving by the end of the implementation period (which expires at 11pm on 31 December 2020), are of course able to apply to stay and work or study in UK without restriction if they make a successful application under the Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021. As at 30 June 2020, according to Government figures, 3.71 million applications had been made under the scheme, of which 3.46 million had been determined. Of these, 57% (1,978,700) had been granted settled status and 41% (1,423,300) granted pre-settled status

Much of the content of the further details document (which contains sections on the principles of the points-based system, coming to study, coming to work, coming to visit and other immigration routes) will be familiar from the policy statement and the previous recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). However, of interest to institutions, will be the fact that the position in relation to students has been clarified, including a greater ability for non-UK and Irish students to remain in the UK after their studies have finished than is currently the case under the regime applying to non-EU students.

In this briefing we concentrate on the sections dealing with work and study.

Coming to work

This section contains details on the Skilled Worker; Skilled Work: Health and Care Visa; Global Talent and Start-up and Innovator routes.

Skilled Worker

Much of the information on the Skilled Worker route (which will replace Tier 2 (General)) repeats the contents of the policy statement.

Those who are covered by the new regime who come to the UK for work from 1 January 2021 (or those currently in the UK under Tier 2 (General) who need to change employer, change jobs (to another SOC code), or extend their stay from this date) will need to obtain 70 points.

50 of these points are mandatory:

• the offer of a job by a licensed sponsor– 20 points

• the job is at the appropriate skill level (at least RQF level 3 or equivalent) – 20 points

• speaking English to an acceptable standard – 10 points

The remaining 20 points are “tradeable” through a combination of points for their salary, a job in a shortage occupation or a relevant PhD.

The easiest way to obtain the remaining 20 points is to be paid a salary of £25,600 or the “going rate” for the particular job. The “going rate” is based on Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) data for eligible occupations and is set out at Annex E. Education institutions will be familiar with the fact that the “going rate” for a number of roles in the sector is higher than £25,600.

Salary alone will also result in the necessary 20 points if it is at least £20,480 and the appointment is to one of the health/education job listed at Annex C of the further details document, provided it meets the relevant national pay scale.

If the 20 points cannot be achieved from salary alone then all is not lost as long as it is at least £23,040 or 90% of the “going rate” for the profession (whichever is higher) as this will obtain 10 points and the remainder can be met from 1 of the “other” tradeable points:

• education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job – 10 points

• education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job – 20 points

• job in a shortage occupation – 20 points

• applicant is a new entrant to the labour market – 20 points

Finally, as long as the salary is at least £20,480 or 80% of the “going rate” for the profession (whichever is higher), the 70 points can be met by any of the 3 “other” 20 points above.

The further details document sets out some worked examples of a number of different ways the 20 tradeable points can be obtained.

It is worth noting that where an individual will be paid at the lower new entrant rate in any occupation (which will be 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers) then they can obtain the 20 points in that way but only if the new entrant rate is at least £20,480.

The new entrant rate will apply (as now) to those who are under the age of 26 on the date of their application or those switching from the Student or Graduate route to the Skilled Worker route. But will also be extended to cover those who are working towards recognised professional qualifications or moving directly into postdoctoral positions.

Whilst the Government says that postdoctoral positions are easily identified, it will use the following tests to identify those “working towards recognised professional qualifications”:

• the job offer will need to be in a regulated profession or protected job title

• “working towards professional qualifications” should mean working towards full registration or chartered status with the relevant professional body

• the definition will also include those who have switched from the Graduate route into the Skilled Worker route

Skilled Work: Health and Care Visa

This will apply to those who have a confirmed job offer, in one of the defined health professions (listed in Appendix D to the further details document), for a skilled role within the NHS, the social care sector or for NHS commissioned service providers.

Those eligible will benefit from a fast-track entry, with reduced application fees and dedicated support regarding the application process, and will also be exempt from having to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. They will need to meet the requirements of the Skilled Worker route, including the relevant skill and salary thresholds.

The visa will be available to applicants from 4 August 2020 and extended to EU citizens from 1 January 2021.

Global Talent

On 20 February 2020 the Global Talent route for highly skilled individuals replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and is available for non-EU citizens who are internationally recognised at the highest level and as leaders in their particular field, or who have demonstrated promise and are likely to become leaders in their particular area. From 1 January 2021 this route will also be available to EU citizens.

The Government has previously announced it will set up a cross-departmental unit called the Office for Talent, which is says will make it easier for leading global scientists, researchers and innovators to come and live and work in the UK.

Start-up and Innovator

These routes were launched in March 2019 (replacing the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) routes) for non-EU citizens looking to set up a business in the UK. These will also from 1 January 2021 be available for EU citizens.

Highly skilled workers

The Government says that it will create a broader unsponsored route within the Points-Based System to run alongside the employer-led system, which will allow a smaller number of the most highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer. The Governments says it will be exploring proposals for this additional route with stakeholders over the coming year but it will not open on 1 January 2021 and the intention is that it will be capped and carefully monitored during the implementation phase. Further details will be shared in due course.

Coming to study

Student Route

The further details document confirms that there will be no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK to study, and refers to the Government’s intention (as set out in its International Education Strategy published in March 2019) to increase the number of international students in higher education.

The new Points-Based Student route (which will apply from 1 January 2021 to EU as well as non-EU citizens) will replace the current Tier 4 system, which the Government describes as “working well”.

The core tenets of the Tier 4 route will remain: sponsorship at a licensed provider, demonstration of English language ability and the ability of the student to support themselves in the UK. However, the further details document says that the current route will be improved, “making it more streamlined for sponsoring institutions and their students, creating clearer pathways for students, and ensuring we remain competitive in a changing global market, particularly since the pace of change has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

As with the Skilled Worker route 70 points will be needed – though these are all mandatory and none are tradeable. For the Student route these are:

• Study (50 points) with requirements in relation to:

 Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies

 Course requirement

 Approved Qualification

 Level of Study

 Place of Study

• Financial requirement (10 points)

• English language requirement (10 points)

As now there will also be a Child Student route where the points are:

• Study (50 points) with requirements in relation to:

 Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies

 Course requirement

 Study at an independent school

 Aged between 4 and 17 when applying

 Parental consent

• Financial requirement (including any additional funds for care arrangements) (20 points)

Other changes will include:

• extending the period of time in which a student can apply for permission to come to the UK before the start of their course, from three to six months

• removing the study time limit for students studying at a postgraduate level - although students will still be expected to be progressing academically in their studies when making a further application in the UK

• students who meet eligibility requirements will be able to make an in-country application for further leave regardless of their sponsor or level of study

• students will not be routinely requested to submit documentary evidence of funds when making further applications to remain in the UK

• removing the requirement for students who are on a recognised Foundation Programme as a doctor or dentist in training, or who are employed as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer to demonstrate funds

Institutions will be required to monitor the academic engagement of their students and need to keep records of a student’s engagement (replacing the current attendance monitoring duty). Higher Education Providers with a track record will be able to self-assess academic and English language ability and will need to record details of how any self-assessment of English language was made when offering a place of study to a student.

Higher Education Providers with a track record of compliance will be able to make an offer of study to students at degree level and above and carry out their own assessment of those students’ academic ability.

Student applicants from countries considered to be low risk will benefit from reduced documentary requirements and EU countries will be added to this list, which will be kept under regular review.

Interestingly the Government says that it will consider splitting the adult student route into separate Higher Education and Further Education routes to accentuate the pathways.

Graduate Route

The further details document confirms recent clarification that the Graduate route will (from summer 2021) give sponsored students the opportunity to stay in the UK to work or look for work after they graduate. Those who have completed an undergraduate or master's degree will be able to stay for two years, whilst PhD students will be able to stay for three years. During this time graduates will be able to work, or look for work, at any skill level during and also to switch into work routes if they are able to meet the requirements -m this would enable them to stay for a longer period of time.

The Graduate route will be open to students, who have valid leave as a Tier 4 (General) Student or under the new Student route at the time of application and who have successfully completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a UK Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance during that grant of leave. Applicants will need to have completed the entirety of their degree in the UK except for permitted study abroad programmes or when distance learning has been necessary due to Covid-19.

The current Doctorate Extension Scheme, which allows international students who have completed a PhD in the UK to remain and work in the UK for 12 months after completing their studies, will be closed at the point the new Graduate route is introduced.

Other immigration routes

The further details document also contains details in relation to Visitors; Intra-Company Transfers and Intra-Company Graduate Trainees; Youth Mobility Scheme; Sporting routes; Creative route; Charity; Ministers of Religion and Religious Workers; Government Authorised Exchange; International Agreement and UK Ancestry.

The most relevant parts for education institutions in these are in relation to:

• the visitor route - the Government says that it will continue to engage with stakeholders to further understand how the visitor rules can be improved and simplified – at the moment no future changes are set out though the intention is that EU citizens will not be required to obtain a visa to visit the UK

• the short-term study route – the intention remains to permit study of up to six months under the standard visit route and to keep the six to 11-month short-term English language study route open

• the Government Authorised Exchange route - the Government says that it will be giving consideration to consolidating the current 60 approved GAE schemes which cover a wide range of sectors.