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UK Government sets out post-Brexit immigration policy

Posted: 19/02/2020

The UK Government has today set out its globally focused post-Brexit immigration policy.

Key points:

  • freedom of movement will end on 31 December 2020
  • from 1 January 2021 all new EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally. This means, for example, EU nationals who want to work in the UK will need to meet the requirements of Tier 2 and those who wish to study will need to meet the requirements of Tier 4
  • the Government aims to reduce overall levels of immigration
  • there is no provision for low-skilled migrants to come to the UK
  • priority will be given to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents including:
    • scientists
    • engineers
    • academics
    • other highly-skilled workers

The proposed new system will apply to different routes as follows:

Skilled workers (Tier 2)

The Government has accepted the following recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC):

  • lower the skill level from RQF level 6 (Graduate level) to RQF Level 3 (A-level)
  • lower the minimum salary requirement
  • remove the Resident Labour Market requirement
  • suspend (not remove) the Tier 2 cap
  • commission the MAC to produce a shortage occupation list and to keep the list under review.

How does the current system compare to the new proposed PBS?

Tier 2 General



Job offer from Tier 2 sponsor



Skill level

RQF Level 6

RQF Level 3

English language




£20,800 new entrant

£30,000 experienced

£17,920 new entrant

£25,600 experienced

Resident Labour Market test

Mandatory (some exemptions)

Not required

Tier 2 General cap

20,700 per year

Cap suspended



Not mentioned

Points needed

70 points non-tradeable

70 points – 20 of which will be tradeable dependent on  salary/shortage occupation/PhD

Highly skilled workers

In addition to the Global Talent visa, a new route will be created for highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer. This route will take longer to design and implement but the Government envisage that the route will be:

  • unsponsored
  • capped
  • points will be allocated for:
    • qualifications
    • age
    • relevant work experience.

Lower skilled workers

There will be no provision for low skilled workers. The Government’s rationale behind this is that both EU nationals who are already in the UK and have applied under the EU settlement scheme, and those who arrive as dependants in the UK, have full access to the UK labour market and can meet demands in lower skilled roles. This is in contrast with the proposal set out in the previous immigration White Paper which set out a time-limited route for temporary short-term workers.

To address the needs of the Agricultural sector, the pilot scheme for seasonal workers has already been quadrupled from 2,500 to 10,000 places.

Students (Tier 4)

Students will be covered by the points-based system (PBS) and, as they do now, must demonstrate that they:

  • have an offer from an approved educational institution
  • meet the English language requirement
  • meet the maintenance requirement

By way of reminder, the Graduate visa route will open from summer 2021 and eligible students who graduate in the summer of 2021 or after will be able to apply for the Graduate visa. This will allow them to stay and work, or look for work, in the UK at any skill level for a maximum period of two years.


Visitors can continue to come to the UK for up to six months. EU nationals will be able to visit the UK without needing to apply for a visa in advance and will be able to use the e-gates.

Other immigration routes

There are several other routes already available to non-EU citizens, such as the innovator route and the Tier 5 temporary work route. The Government states it will broadly open these to EU citizens from January 2021. However, they have not yet indicated that the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme for 18-30 year olds will be extended to European nationals.  

Points to note:

  • key routes will open from autumn 2020, allowing applications to be submitted ahead of the new system taking effect from January 2021
  • employers, landlords and public service providers will continue to be able to rely on EEA passports/national ID cards until 30 June 2021
  • EU nationals who are resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, have until 30 June 2021 to apply under the EUSS if they want to remain in the UK. Click here for further details
  • businesses who recruit EU and non-EU national workers may need to apply for a sponsor licence and consider the costs associated with the sponsorship
  • education providers who teach EU national students may also need to apply for a sponsor licence and consider how they will manage their sponsorship duties
  • organisations which rely on lower skills workers or those workers that will not meet the minimum salary thresholds will need to consider alternative options to fulfil their skills and labour shortages.

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