31 December 2020 marked the end of free movement between the UK and the European Union. From 01 January 2021, EU citizens wishing to enter the UK are treated the same as non-EU citizens and must therefore apply for a visa through the “new” Points-Based System (“PBS”) or alternative routes in the UK Immigration Rules. Immigration lawyers and existing skilled migrants will be aware that the PBS is in fact not “new” as there has been such a system in place for over a decade. The “new” PBS is, rather, an extension of the old PBS. The PBS is intended to attract applicants who will contribute to the UK’s economy. The structure of the new system is, in summary, as follows.
Applicants must reach a total of 70 points. The latter can be gained from various categories. The three mandatory categories, which provide a total of 50 points, are:
- a job offer from a sponsoring employer;
- a job at the appropriate skills level; and
- knowledge of the English language.
Interestingly, the cap on the number of skilled workers allowed, and the “Resident Labour Market Test”, both of which applied under the old system, have been removed, presumably to simplify and shorten the process. Further details on the three mandatory categories are below.
Employers wanting to register as sponsors can do so on the Home Office’s Sponsorship Management System. Fees are applicable depending on the size of the employer’s business.
The skills level of the job must be at a minimum of RQF3 (A-level equivalent). It is worth noting that the Home Office has lowered the requirement from that in the previous PBS, which was RQF6.
Knowledge of the English language
This requirement can be met by the applicant obtaining a Common European Framework of Reference (“CEFR”) level B1 qualification, being a national of a prescribed English-speaking country, or having a relevant qualification, e.g. undergraduate degree from the UK.
The remaining 20 points can be gained from a combination of categories, such as a minimum salary of £25,600, with extra points for a higher salary, a job in a shortage occupation, or a relevant or STEM PhD.
The new system allows for points to be “traded”. For example, if the salary threshold is not met but the applicant has a STEM PhD, the 70 points mark can still be met.
The points requirements are summarised in the table below:
|Offer of job by approved sponsor||Mandatory||20|
|Job at appropriate skill level||Mandatory||20|
|Speaks English at required level||Mandatory||10|
|Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)||Tradeable||0|
|Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)||Tradeable||10|
|Salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)||Tradeable||20|
|Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee||Tradeable||20|
|Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job||Tradeable||10|
|Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job||Tradeable||20|
The Home Office has acknowledged that the previous PBS was “long, complex and repetitive”, and it has clearly tried to make the new PBS different. However, the Home Office has already announced that it might, in the future, add to the list of qualifications allowed or other points categories. It is important for the new PBS to not replicate the problems of the old system, otherwise it will again regress into what – in relation to the old PBS – Jackson LJ in Pokhriyal v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1568 described as “a degree of complexity which even the Byzantine emperors would have envied”.
If you are immigration applicant needing help with a points-based system application, or are an employer looking for help with applying for or administering a Sponsorship Licence, contact one of our immigration barristers. We are Milton Keynes based immigration lawyers specialising in every area of immigration law. We help clients across the UK and internationally.