New UK points-based immigration system

Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced the launch of a new points-based immigration system, in a bid to ‘move away’ from relying on ‘cheap labour’ from Europe.

The new system, which takes effect from 1 January 2021, will end free movement, as has been the case under membership of the European Union, which the government has said will help reassert control of our borders and restore public trust. It means that overall levels of migration will be reduced, with tighter security and a better experience for those coming to the UK.

The change will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and visas will only be awarded to those who gain enough points. The points will be allocated based on a set of certain criteria, including having a job offer, the skill level of that job, the salary of that job, whether the applicant speaks English and relevant qualifications.

The Home Office maintains that the new single global system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally, giving top priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents, including scientists, engineers and academics.

In line with the government’s manifesto commitment there will be no specific route for low-skilled workers. It is estimated 70 per cent of the existing EU workforce would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route.

Patel said: “Today is a historic moment for the whole country. We’re ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people’s priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down. We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential.”

The Labour Party has said that the ‘hostile environment’ will make it hard to attract workers, while the CBI, who welcomed some of the proposals, warned that some firms would be ‘left wondering how they will recruit the people needed to run their businesses’.

James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Reform of our immigration system provides an opportunity to try and tackle skills gaps and workforce challenges in specific sectors such as construction and social care. Councils know their local communities and local economies best. Involving councils in the development of a new system would mean they can assess demand for skills locally, ensure it takes account of the varied needs of employers and help the Government achieve its ambition to level up all parts of the country.

“Salary thresholds should be variable across sector and region, to reflect the needs of different employers, alongside a reformed and devolved skills and employment system to tackle the existing national skills shortages. As a country we face significant skills challenges. The social care system faces one of the most serious challenges and any reforms need to ensure the social care workforce can be maintained.”

Tom Hadley, director of Policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said: “Skills and staff shortages are one of the biggest challenges facing the UK economy. Roles in sectors as diverse as social care, hospitality and construction are already hard to fill which is why we need an evidence-based immigration policy that reflects the needs of employers.
 
“Jobs the government considers ‘low-skilled’ are vital to wellbeing and business growth. The announcement threatens shut out the people we need to provide services the public rely on. This would increase the likelihood of illegal working and exploitation. In the US, more than half of farmworkers and 15 per cent of construction workers are unauthorised. Nobody wants the UK to be in this position due to the lack of an official low-skilled immigration route where vulnerable workers will suffer. We need access to workers that can help us look after the elderly, build homes and keep the economy strong. Employers ask that there is a temporary visa route for businesses to recruit the essential skills they need at all pay and skill levels.”