Immigration update: New rules released on the Skilled Worker category

23 October 2020

The new Immigration Rules for the Skilled Worker category were released yesterday. 

As set out in our previous alerts, webinars and our FAQs on the new immigration system, the Home Office has been releasing various policy statements throughout 2020 and many of the broad details of the new Skilled Worker category have already been announced. The Immigration Rules released yesterday confirm our existing understanding of the Skilled Worker category, which will replace Tier 2 and apply to all EU and non-EU citizens being sponsored to work in the UK. In particular, as a reminder, the key features of the Skilled Worker category are as follows:

  • Salary. The basic salary threshold will reduce from £30,000 to £25,600. Applicants must be paid at least the basic salary threshold or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher. The salary thresholds will be reduced for new entrants, including those who are switching from being a student or are under 26 years old.
  • Skill level. The required skill level for a sponsored role will reduce from Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 to level 3, meaning that many more roles will qualify for sponsorship.
  • Points criteria. Applicants need to achieve the required 70 points and can normally do so on the basis of the salary payable for the role. Alternatively, the points can be obtained at a lower salary rate, if for example the role is classed as a shortage occupation.
  • Advertising. The resident labour market test advertisement process will be abolished.
  • Quota. The monthly quota/cap which applied to some Tier 2 applications will be suspended.
  • Intra Company Transfers (ICTs). Tier 2 (ICT) visa holders can switch from within the UK into the Skilled Worker category and then be on a track to indefinite leave to remain after 5 years as a Skilled Worker. If you have anyone in that situation, please contact us for assistance.
  • Sponsor licence. Existing Tier 2 sponsors will be able to continue to use their existing sponsor licence for Skilled Worker applications.

For EU citizens resident in the UK by 11pm on 31 December 2020, they will be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline of 30 June 2021 and will not require sponsorship under the Skilled Worker category. 

Other changes

Whilst the Immigration Rules released yesterday largely reflect our prior understanding of the Skilled Worker category, there are some key new features we wish to bring to your attention:

  • ICT high earners. Under the new ICT category, where the salary will be over £73,900 this will mean the person can qualify as a high earner and stay in the UK for up to 9 years. This is a change from Tier 2 (ICT) where the high earner threshold was £120,000.
  • Transitioning from Tier 2 (General) to Skilled Worker (or applying for indefinite leave to remain) and still relying on allowances. Allowances can be included in salary calculations for applicants who are applying before 1 December 2026 and were last granted permission as a Tier 2 (General) sponsored worker, provided they are still working for the same sponsor as in their previous permission, and the allowances are guaranteed for the duration of the applicant’s permission.
  • Cooling off. The 12 month “cooling off period”, which prevented certain Tier 2 visa holders from returning to the UK after the end of their visas, is being removed.  Instead, there will be simplified rules that ICT visa holders cannot have held an ICT visa for longer than 5 years in any 6 year period, or 9 years in any 10 year period if they are a high earner.          
  • Allowances can count towards the ICT threshold. The ICT salary threshold will remain as under Tier 2 (ICT) at £41,500 or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher. The role must also be at the higher Tier 2 RQF level 6. However, unlike under the Skilled Worker category, for ICT applications certain allowances can still count towards the salary threshold.

Timing

The Skilled Worker category will apply to anyone being sponsored to work in the UK. From 1 December 2020 it will be possible to submit Skilled Worker visa applications for EU citizens starting work on or after 1 January 2021 and for non-EU citizens starting after 1 December.

Over the coming weeks and months we will continue to keep you updated of developments on the new immigration system. We will also be releasing content relevant to your business sector, identifying the particular issues you may face.

If you have any queries in relation to the above change or any other immigration matter, please contact a member of the immigration team.

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