The end of the most dreadful year of this decade, 2020, brings with it the end of the freedom of movement between UK and EU citizens. From 1 January 2021, EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens wanting to enter the UK will be treated the same as non-EU citizens. They will have to apply for a visa through the novel Points-Based Immigration System.
With the new system, applicants will have to reach 70 points to have their application allowed. Points can be gained from various factors ranging from a job offer from an employer sponsor to the knowledge of English, financial thresholds regarding salary or funding, and job shortages in employment sectors.
Skilled workers, the biggest category under the new rules, will have to have a job offer to come to the UK, their job must have a minimum skill level of an A-level equivalent, and they need to speak English. This will give applicants the mandatory 50 points.
The rest of 20 points will be able to be gained form a combination of characteristics such as a minimum salary, 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’, in cases where, for example, the salary threshold is not met but the applicant has a STEM PhD so that the 70 points mark will still be met.
Interestingly, we see that the new PBS is thus designed to give priority to highly-skilled scientists, engineers, or academics. There is a clear shift from the reliance on cheap labour from Europe, and the Government is encouraging businesses to invest in technology, automation, and staff retention instead.
For entrepreneurs and businessmen, they will have to apply for the Start-up or Innovator visas. ‘Innovators’ will have to provide proof they have at least £50,000 funding.
For EU students, they will incur the same conditions that international students currently incur higher fees, an offer to study, and ability to speak English. They will need to prove they are able to support themselves and pay for the higher fees, as Students Finance will not be available for new EU students.
Tourists will be allowed to visit for up to six months without needing a visa, but they will have to ask for permission to travel in advance of their trip.
The new system shows us that Brexit really means Brexit, with no more benefits for EU citizens that are not already in the UK and a drastic change. Citizens already in the UK, however, will still be able to benefit from everything they have so far, like free health, benefits, or a student loan.
It will be interesting to see the how the new system applies, and the complexities that will arise from it. It will be especially interesting to see if we will have a recurring theme of complications and complexities similar to the ones in the old system, where cases disputing minuscule factual disagreements were plenty.
For further details on the new Points-Based System, go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-points-based-immigration-system-further-details-statement/uk-points-based-immigration-system-further-details-statement.