Brexit: UK points-based immigration system

07 December 2020

It is important for employers to be aware that as of 1 January 2021, the UK will introduce a points-based immigration system, signalling the end of free movement. This will introduce new job, salary and language requirements that will impact the process of hiring from the EU.

This change will affect both EU and non-EU citizens and means that anyone coming to the UK in order to work, with the exception of Irish citizens, will need to ensure that they apply for permission in advance.

In order to hire from the EU from 1 January 2021 onwards, businesses will need to register as licensed sponsors to enable them to hire eligible people from outside the UK. There are, however, some immigration routes – one example provided is Global Talent – that are ‘unsponsored’. This means that there is no requirement for a business to have a licence to hire employees with an unsponsored visa.

A podcast episode has been prepared by the Home Office, in partnership with Intelligence Squared, on the topic of preparing for the points-based immigration system. It includes input from a panel of independent experts from the world of business and immigration, and they explain what the new immigration system is and the steps that businesses can take to prepare.

Becoming a sponsor

Prior to applying to become a sponsor, businesses should:

  • Ensure that the people they wish to hire will meet the requirements for coming to the UK for work
  • Check that they are eligible

In order to apply, businesses will be required to:

  • Choose the type of skilled worker licence they want to apply for
  • Implement appropriate systems to act as a sponsor
  • Apply online and pay the fee

Those coming to work in the UK, will need to meet particular criteria:

  • They will need to have a job offer from an approved sponsor
  • The job offer must be at the required skill and salary level
  • They must speak English at the required level

Businesses need to apply to be licensed sponsors and will receive a decision within eight weeks of application. Being a sponsor will allow businesses to recruit skilled workers globally for four years. Businesses are being urged to get prepared and advised to apply now.

Who sponsors can hire

Licensed sponsors have the option of hiring eligible employees from anywhere in the world.

In order to hire someone from outside the UK (with the exception of Irish citizens), the job being advertised must meet minimum skill and salary thresholds:

  • The minimum skill level will be set at RQF3 (equivalent to A level)
  • The minimum salary threshold will be whichever is higher out of £25,600 or the ‘going rate’ for that job – it may be the case that some employees are paid less than £25,600 if, for example, their job is in a shortage occupation
  • Anyone applying from outside the UK must meet English language requirements

Where the above requirements are met, and a business is a licensed sponsor, they will be able to sponsor the application of an individual coming to the UK to work.


Information provided in this news article may be subject to change. Please make note of the date of publication to ensure that you are viewing up to date information.