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An End to Free Movement: an Overview

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Significant changes will be made to the way employers in the UK recruit citizens from around the world following the introduction of a new points-based immigration system from 1st January 2021, which will mean an end to free movement.

The key aim of the new scheme is to attract highly skilled and educated workers to the UK and to encourage this EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally.

In order to qualify, applicants will need to gain at least 70 points.  50 of these points must be achieved by meeting compulsory requirements, to include having a job offer which is of an acceptable skill level (A level equivalent or above - 20 points) and made by an approved sponsor (20 points), as well as a good level of English language skills (10 points).  The job offer must also have a salary of no less than the minimum threshold of £25,600 (compulsory but offering no points) although this requirement is tradeable with other characteristics provided salary does not fall below £20,480. 

Other ways of achieving points are available to make up the remaining points required, such as having a job offer in a shortage occupation, possessing a PhD in a subject relevant to the job offer, possessing a PhD in science, technology, engineering or maths which is relevant to the job offer, or having a salary offer between £23,040 and £25,599.

Top priority will be given to those who are highly skilled.  As such, the Global Talent Route is set to be extended from 1st January 2021, with those citizens who are without a job offer but who are highly skilled and endorsed by a relevant and competent body being able to enter the UK.  The Policy Statement issued by the Home Office states that "we will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route. We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust."  This may mean that employers in sectors such as food, construction and care may find it more difficult to recruit those from outside the UK from January 2021.

The above system will not apply to EU citizens who are already living in the UK by 31st December 2020.  Instead, they and their family members can apply under a separate scheme called the "EU Settlement Scheme."  Applications under this scheme are open until 30th June 2021 with the options of obtaining either settled or pre-settled status.

Contact our employment law solicitors

Employers do not have long to adjust to the new scheme, especially if they need to apply to become a sponsor, and should therefore start planning ahead as soon as possible.  If you require any assistance or advice, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Employment Team on 01205 351 114 or 01522 814 638.

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