UK points-based immigration system policy update

On 19 February, the government published the first details about its proposed new Immigration system planned to be operational on 1 January 2021.

The government’s new system is designed to attract “highly skilled workers”, rather than the low skilled workers.

Under the new system, employers will have to hold a ‘sponsor licence’ to employ all foreign (i.e. non-British) workers, not just non-EU employees as they do now.

In order to qualify for a work visa under the new system an applicant must be doing a job at a skill level equivalent to at least Regulated Qualifications Framework (‘RQF’) level 3 (equivalent to A-Level).

Sponsored workers will need to be paid a minimum salary of £26,500 to qualify. It will be mandatory for applicants to prove their proficiency in English prior to getting a visa.

Employers will need to pay an Immigration Skills Charge of £1000 per year of the visa, and an Immigration Health Surcharge of £400 per year of the visa.

In 2017, the National Farmers Union’s ‘Supply of Seasonal Labour to British Horticulture Farms’ survey found that the overwhelming majority of seasonal workers in agriculture – around 99% – came from the EU. The government launched the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme in September 2018 as a way of alleviating worker shortages during peak production periods. Defra has confirmed that the pilot will be expanded in 2020 to allow farmers in the edible horticulture sector to access a pool of 10,000 workers from outside the EU – increased from 2,500 last year- to help them pick and gather the 2020 harvest.