Applications have opened for people applying for visas to come and work in the UK from 1 January.
From 1 January 2021, free movement will end and the UK will introduce a points-based immigration system. European Union (EU) citizens will be treated the same way as those from the rest of the world. Provided applicants meet the criteria, workers from overseas, including the European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals, are now able to apply online for (among other new entry routes), the skilled worker visa, the intra-company transfer visa and the global talent visa.
Why has immigration to the UK changed?
When the UK was an EU member, people from EU countries had an automatic right to work in the UK. Taking control of immigration was one of the key themes of the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum.
How will points be awarded?
Under a points-based immigration system, anyone coming to the UK for work must meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points. Visas are then awarded to those who gain enough points. To qualify for a visa, migrant workers who want to move to the UK will have to qualify for 70 points.
Having a job offer from an approved employer for a skilled job will earn 40 points.
Being able to speak English will give another 10 points.
The applicant can achieve the remaining 20 points if they are due to be paid at least £25,600 a year.
They can also gain extra points for having better qualifications (10 points for a relevant PhD, or 20 points for a PhD in science, technology, engineering or math) or an offer of a job in which the UK has a shortage (20 points), even if it doesn’t pay as much money.
Certain jobs in health or education still merit 20 points even if the salary is less than £25,600. The applicant must be paid at least £20,480, and in line with set amounts for particular jobs in the UK’s four nations.
How do you apply to work in the UK?
Applications may be started online, but some people will need to visit a visa application center in order to prove their identity and show necessary documents. These include a certificate of sponsorship from a proposed UK employer, and proof of knowledge of English.
How much will it cost?
The overall cost and administration associated with sponsoring visa applicants has not significantly changed. The application fee will depend on how many years the job seeker plans to work in the UK, and whether their job is on a list of skills that the UK has shortages.
If their skills are not on that list then the standard fee will be between £610 and £1,408 per person.
Jobseekers will also have to pay a health surcharge of £624 per person per year when they apply and if they don’t get a visa the cash will be refunded. And they will need to show that they have the means to support themselves in the UK, which usually involves having at least £1,270 available.
Health and care visa
There is a fast-track entry system for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Most care workers will not be covered by the scheme though. Those eligible for this visa will pay reduced fees and be supported through the application process.
Successful applicants will be exempt from the immigration health surcharge. Applicants via this route will still have to meet the relevant skill level and salary thresholds.
Can anyone come to the UK to study?
There will be no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK to study. The new student visa application system allows them to apply six months before they are due to start a course if they are applying from outside the UK.
A new graduate visa will be launched in summer 2021, to allow students who have completed a degree to stay in the UK for two years. This will rise to three years for those who have done a PhD.
Does EEA citizens and their families already living in the UK require to go through the new system
Citizen of EU countries who were living in the UK before the end of 2020 can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.
They have until 30 June 2021 to apply for settled status. There are also different schemes for some workers – for example, there is a Global Talent, Innovator and Start-Up visa. The government says this is designed to attract “those who have an exceptional talent or show exceptional promise in the fields of engineering, science, tech or culture”.