01/01/2021: New Year, New Points Based System

As a result of the UK’s decision at the end of January this year to leave the European Union, free movement will come to an end as of the 31st of December 2020. From that point on, EEA citizens who are not already here or who do not have a family member in the UK prior to the aforementioned date will be required to apply for permission (unless they wish to enter as a visitor for a period of less than 6 months) to come and stay in the UK. EU citizens already living in the UK by 31 December 2020, will be able to apply via the EU Settlement Scheme so as to continue living in the UK; they will need to do this by the 30th of June 2021; their families will also be able to do the same, even if they are still living outside of the UK at the end of this year (they must however, still apply under the EUSS before the June deadline, and if not may need to ask permission for leave by way of the more protracted and expensive UK family route).

NB Irish citizens’ status will continue to be protected as part of Common Travel Area arrangements

As non-Europeans currently do so, EU applicants will now be required to satisfy relevant suitability and eligibility requirements, including UK criminality checks, in order to study, work in the UK or live here as the family member of an eligible sponsor.
Applications to work will need to be submitted under a new “points based system “that treats EU and non-EU citizens equally, prioritising individuals’ skills and talent over where a person comes from”. It is predicted that the vast majority of applications within the new points based system will be made under the ‘Skilled Worker’ route. Meeting the requirements for this entails that you have a job offer from a Home Office-licensed sponsor at the required skill level; that you will be paid the relevant minimum salary threshold by your sponsor (normally £26,500 or the going rate for their particular job, whichever is higher) and that you can speak English at the intermediate level – B1 CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for languages). Most applicants who are EEA nationals and applying under the points based system will be able to complete their application, including identity verification, using a smartphone app. Some applicants may need to attend a Visa Application Centre depending on the route they are applying for and whether they have a biometric passport or are unable to use the app.
Applicants will need to pay an application fee and pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (currently £624.00 per annum unless you are under 18/student and pay £470.00; or exempt), which will enable you to access the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
Other routes under the new points based system will include:

  • Skilled Work: Health and Care visa – will require an to be qualified within an eligible health occupation and have a job offer from the NHS; be able to speak English and meet the requirements of the Skilled Worker route; fast-track entry, with reduced application fees ; exempt from having to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
  • Global Talent: allows the most highly skilled to come to the UK without a job offer – leaders of tomorrow in science, humanities, engineering, the arts (including film, fashion design and architecture) and digital technology
  • Alternative work visa routes and specialist occupations including : Start-up and Innovator visas; ministers of religion, sportspeople and creatives

Student visas – These were referred to as ‘Tier 4’ under the old rules are now outside of the points based system. Those wishing to enter the UK to study will need to demonstrate that you have been offered a place on a course by a Home Office-licensed Student sponsor; evidence the fact that you can speak, read, write and understand English at the appropriate level for your studies; be able to maintain yourself, and any dependants, financially (there is a separate Child Student visa for child students aged between 4 to 17 years old who wish to study at an independent school).
Graduate visa – If you successfully complete a degree at undergraduate level or above in the UK, you will be able to apply for a Graduate visa to stay and work, or look for work, for a maximum period of 2 years (3 years for PhD students) after completing your studies. The Graduate visa will open in summer 2021 to international students who were sponsored by a Home Office-licensed Student sponsor which has a track record of compliance with the UK Government’s immigration requirements.
For those Europeans who wish to apply outside of the routes outlined above, based upon a relationship with a family member they will also have to demonstrate a workable knowledge of English (unless exempt), albeit at a lower level than that of skilled worker/student applicants. Additionally they will need to meet the financial requirement, this being dependent upon individuals circumstances, as well as prove their relationship to the person they wish to come to the UK to join. Applicants will also be required to pay a Home office application fee as well as pay the Health Surcharge and provide bio-metrics at a designated VAC (Visa Application Centre) in their country of residence.
New visa routes will start opening later this year and will continue into 2021.

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