New Skilled Worker and Intra-Company Visa Routes
Free movement between the UK and EU will end on 31st December 2020 and from 1st January 2021, both EU and non-EU citizens will require a visa to work, study, or join family in the UK. EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals living in the UK before 1st January 2021 can continue to apply to the EU settlement Scheme up until 30th June 2021.
EU citizens will be able to visit the UK for up to 6 months without applying for a visa and can participate in a wide range of activities including tourism, visiting family and friends, short term study or attending events and conferences.
Further changes to the Immigration Rules will be welcomed by students and employers as the ‘Post-Study Work’ visa will be reintroduced in September 2021. The Graduate route permits graduates to stay in the UK for up to 2 years after the successful completion of a course at undergraduate level or above, and will enable them to switch into the Skilled Worker route once they’ve found a suitable skilled role.
Skilled Worker Route
The new Skilled Worker route will replace the existing Tier 2 (General) visa route on 1st December 2020. Several changes will come into effect and most notably, the new points-based system will allow tradable points for the first time. This means if you do not meet the annual salary requirement of £26,500 but will earn no less than £20,480, you may still qualify for a Skilled Worker visa depending on the type of role and your qualifications. You may be able trade points if:
- You have a job offer for a recognised shortage occupation
- You have a PhD in a subject relevant to the role
- You have a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the role
- You are a new entrant who is under the age of 26 or a recent graduate (the salary requirement will be 30% lower than experienced workers in any occupation, provided you still meet the lower limit of £20,480)
With the loss of free movement for EU nationals, further significant changes are being made to the new Skilled Worker route. These include:
- Relaxation of the switching rules enabling migrants to switch between visa categories in the UK where they were previously required to leave the UK to apply.
- Removal of the Resident Labour Market Test.
- Suspension of the cap on the number of skilled migrant workers who can come to the UK.
- The skill level of jobs that qualify for sponsorship has been lowered from RQF level 6 (Degree Level) to RQF level 3 (A-Level).
- The new entrant salary can now be relied on for 4 years where previously it was 3 years and 1 month.
- The removal of the 6-year maximum stay in the UK. There is now no limit on the time that can be spent on a skilled worker visa.
Despite the removal of the maximum stay, this visa route does still lead to settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK after five continuous years residence. Furthermore, the salary threshold to qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain will drop from £38,500 per annum to £25,600 per annum and the ‘going rate’ for the role. For shortage occupations the salary threshold for Indefinite Leave to remain will drop to £20,480 and the ‘going rate’ for the role.
Intra-Company Transfer Route
Although the Intra-Company transfer category has not had as radical an overhaul as the Skilled Worker route, there are still some significant changes. Individuals can now switch from this category to the Skilled Worker category in the UK.
The ‘high earner’ annual salary threshold has been lowered to £73,900 from £120,000, and the ‘cooling-off’ period has been amended allow migrants to remain in the UK for 9 years in any 10-year period if the individual is a high earner, and 5 years in any 6-year period in all other cases except for Intra-Company Graduate Trainee’s.
There are no tradable points in the Intra-Company Transfer category and the minimum required skill level for roles will remain at RQF level 6.
Unlike the Skilled Worker visa this category does not lead to settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK.