November 2, 2020

U.K. Releases Statement of Changes to Immigration Rules

The U.K. Home Office has issued a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, laying the foundation for the new points-based system which will be in place by January 1, 2021. It will apply to all applicants including EU, EEA and Swiss citizens (except Irish nationals) arriving after December 31, 2020. The new Skilled Worker Route incorporates a points-based system on such criteria as sponsorship, job and skill/education levels, salary and English language proficiency.

What has changed?

The Statement of Changes builds on the previous measures outlined by the U.K. Government in their February and July communications. Details of the precise changes are laid out in the Government’s Explanatory Memorandum to the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules (HC 813), and below is a summary of some of the key changes to note:

New Visitor Rules Will Now:

    • Permit study of up to six months under the standard visit route. All study must be undertaken at an accredited institution, except recreational courses undertaken for leisure that last no longer than 30 days.
    • Allow drivers on international routes to collect as well as deliver goods and passengers in and out of the U.K.
    • Remove the requirement for volunteering to be incidental to the main reason for the visit.

A New Short-term Study Route:

    • Allows students coming to the U.K. to study English language courses for a period of between 6 and 11 months and replaces the current route. The study must be at an accredited institution. Students who wish to come to the U.K. to study for 6 months or less may now do so under the Visitor route.

Skilled Worker Route:

A new points-based route has been defined for those who wish to come to the U.K. for the purpose of working in an eligible skilled occupation offered by a Home Office-approved sponsor. The new route can lead to settlement and replaces the Tier 2 (General) rules.

There are several differences in eligibility between the Skilled Worker route and the Tier 2 (General) route it is replacing. The main ones are:

    • The minimum skill threshold will be lowered from graduate occupations to occupations skilled to RQF levels 3-5, or roughly equivalent to A-levels or Scottish Highers. Applicants will not need to hold a formal qualification. The required skill level of the job determines the eligibility threshold.
    • The salary threshold will be reduced to £25,600 a year from £30,000. Under the Tier 2 (General) route, sponsors must pay their skilled workers a salary which is either equal to or exceeding both this threshold and the “going rate” for the occupation, whichever is higher. Sponsored workers may be paid less than the above amounts, however this will be dependent on the tradeable points they are awarded.
    • Applicants under the new route will need to be awarded 70 points in total to be eligible. All applicants must qualify for 50 mandatory points for:
      • Sponsorship (20 points)
      • A job at the appropriate skill level (20 points)
      • English language skills at a B1 (intermediate) level (10 points).

      The remaining 20 tradeable points can be obtained through meeting the minimum salary requirements, or by having a slightly lower salary but either holding superior qualifications, such as a PhD, or filling a role in a shortage, health or education occupation.

Processing times under the new rules will be greatly improved due to the suspension of the Tier 2 (General) cap reducing the end-to-end process for sponsoring skilled workers by up to four weeks. Importantly, the Resident Labor Market Test will no longer be required, removing a further four weeks from the process.

The changes also include the removal of the 12-month “cooling off period” and six-year maximum length of stay. The Skilled Worker route has no restrictions around when applications can be made or the length of stay. For those on the Skilled Worker route who wish to apply for settlement, sponsors must be paying them a salary equal to or higher than £25,600 per year and the going rate for the occupation. The £35,800 salary threshold will no longer exist.

The Tier 2 (General) route will be replaced by the Skilled Worker route as of December 1, 2020. All Skilled Worker applications, including dependents, submitted on or after December 1 will be assessed in line with the new Skilled Worker route rules, even those accompanied by a Certificate of Sponsorship issued under the Tier 2 (General) rules and policy. Sponsors with certificates issued before December 1, 2020 will need to provide additional information via a “sponsor note” to be considered under the new Skilled Worker route application.

Intra-Company Transfer Route

    • Changes are being made to the “cooling off” period requirement for intra-company transfers, allowing applicants to hold them for up to five years in any six-year rolling period, or up to nine years in any 10-year period for high earners (classified as those earning a single salary threshold of £73,900 or above). High earners will also be exempt from the requirement to work for the overseas business for 12 months prior to entering the U.K.
    • Switching into the Intra-Company Transfer route in-country will now be easier, however all applicants other than high earners will still need to be an existing employee with a period of overseas experience prior to applying.
    • The current Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer route will close on December 1, 2020. Those currently with entry clearance or permission to stay in the U.K. under the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route can extend their stay for further leave, or settlement, under the new Intra-Company rules. Any reference to the previous Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route in the Immigration Rules will either be deleted or amended to reflect the new ones. Equally, any reference to Intra-Company routes in the new rules will also refer to people who currently hold leave as Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Migrants.
    • All Intra-Company applications, including dependent applications, made from December 1 will be reviewed in line with the new Intra-Company rules, even where they are accompanied by a Certificate of Sponsorship issued under the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) rules and policy in place on November 30, 2020.

Global Talent rules:

    • There have been some changes to the criteria for senior appointments and to the definitions of qualifying academic and research roles. The new rules note that T2 Minister of Religion, T2 Sportsperson, U.K. Ancestry, Tier 5 and Start-up and Innovator routes have been revised and simplified, although no specific policy changes have been made. The government is also further revising and providing greater consistency in the way applicants prove English language proficiency, financial literacy, and awareness of life in the U.K.

Who is affected?

All immigration applicants entering the U.K. from January 2021, including EU, EEA and Swiss citizens (except Irish nationals). Those EU, EEA and Swiss citizens arriving on or before December 31 do not need to apply through the points-based system, and can still apply to the EU Settlement scheme on arrival to the U.K.

What you need to do

For further information on changes to the UK Statement of changes to Immigration, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team. 


Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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