Indian businesses and students welcome new UK points-based immigration system
LONDON: Thousands more highly skilled Indians could potentially work in Britain as the UK launches a new points-based immigration system starting next year.
The new streamlined visa system, inspired by Australia’s points-based immigration system, will take effect from January 1, 2021, and will
replace the Tier 1 and Tier 2 schemes. The cap on the numbers of skilled workers is being scrapped and a small number of highly skilled workers will be allowed to enter without a job offer.
The new single global system for workers will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally, replacing the “free movement” that has existed between the UK and the EU, allowing an unlimited number of EU citizens to live and work in the UK and vice versa, without the need for any visa. Freedom of movement ends when the transition period ends on December 31, 2020.
Skilled migrants will now require 70 points to be eligible to apply to enter the UK to work. The new route will open in Autumn 2020.
A job offer with an employer, a minimum salary of £25,600 a year, the ability to speak English and an A-level qualification or equivalent will be mandatory under the new skilled worker route. Under the current Tier 2 system, skilled workers need a degree and a £30,000 minimum salary.
Points will be assigned for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions with the aim being to attract those from across the globe with the highest skills.
There will be no resident labour market test, skilled workers can be accompanied by dependents and they will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residency).
The salary threshold has been lowered to £25,600 in line with recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).
Those who don’t meet the salary threshold will be able to ‘trade’ characteristics such as having a job offer in a shortage occupation or having a PhD relevant to the job, against a lower salary, provided they will earn above £20,480.
The Home Office said, in its policy statement, that it was a “firm and fair points-based system” designed to “attract the high-skilled workers” the UK needs. “We intend to create a high wage, high-skill, high productivity economy,” it said.
Significantly, there will be no general low-skilled or temporary work route.
The Home Office said it estimated 70 per cent of the existing EU workforce in Britain would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route.
“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,” home secretary Priti Patel said, launching the scheme on Wednesday.
There will be no route for self-employed people either, although they may be able to obtain an innovator visa, or enter under the global talent scheme, which allows high skilled scientists, academics and researchers to work in the UK without a job offer.
Indian business bodies welcomed the move, saying it would greatly benefit skilled Indians, but expressed concerns about whether it might create labour shortages in some sectors.
Life peer Baroness Prashar CBE, chair of FICCI UK, said: “The majority of Indian businesses in the UK require skilled manpower. The new point-based immigration system coupled with the lower salary threshold is a positive move. This has been a long-standing demand of FICCI members.”
“With the focus on attracting highly skilled individuals, this should be good news for ambitious and well-qualified Indians and for businesses in the UK keen to hire top talent,” said Kevin McCole, managing director of the UK India Business Council. “Following the UK Government’s announcement last September that foreign students will be able to work in the UK after graduation, this is a further boost to India-UK people to people links.”
“The lower salary threshold means skilled Indians are easily the biggest winner,” said Pratik Dattani, managing director, EPG. “The major flaw is that the policy change will exacerbate Britain’s chronic labour shortages in vocational skills, which have relied so heavily on Eastern Europeans.”
“We welcome the Home Office’s proposed new system, which rightly recognises that immigration to the UK should be based on skills, salaries and knowledge of the English language,” said Jim Bligh, chair of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)’s India Business Forum. “For business, it’s essential that the system retains flexibility for employers, particularly those bringing in highly-skilled workers on short-term assignments.”
Students will also be covered by the points-based system. They will achieve the required points if they can demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, speak English and are able to support themselves during their studies.
“As per our members, the immigration rules are the biggest challenge a student from India faces when
in the UK,” said Amit Tiwari, president of INSA (Indian National Student Association) UK. “This new proposal helps in levelling the field as a lot of Indian students want to put experience to their qualifications. The lowering of the salary threshold is a welcome move.”