Immigration & Employment law for employers

Immigration – New Guidance on The Points-Based System

Although not much detail has been provided so far on the new immigration system, the government has now released a guidance note which provides some clarity. Ed Marchant outlines some of the key takeaways.



Despite an overhaul of the UK’s immigration policy being a cornerstone of Boris’ Brexit strategy, details on a new system have so far been few and far between. However, the government has now released a new guidance note (9 April 2020) which provides some clarity: “The UK’s points-based immigration system: an introduction for employers”. This should be read alongside the existing policy statement.

The following are some of what I see as the key takeaways from these guidance notes, but if you or your business are likely to be significantly impacted by the new system, I suggest reading them in full or discussing with me for further clarification:

  • The new Points-Based-System (“PBS”) is due to take effect, as expected, from 1 January 2021;
  • All citizens will be treated equally under the PBS, whether from inside or outside the EU.
  • EU citizens will continue to be able to apply to stay in the UK in the meantime by taking advantage of the EU Settlement Scheme, and should do so if eligible.
  • To be eligible for a visa under the PBS, non-UK nationals will need to ‘score’ 70 points made up of a mixture of tradeable and non-tradeable characteristics. I have inserted a full copy of the characteristics table at the bottom of this article.
  • In summary, the three non-tradeable elements are:
    • a job offer from an employer with a Sponsor Licence (20 points); and
    • the role in question meeting a minimum skill level, which is loosely at the equivalent of A-level or above (20 points); and
    • the ability to speak English (10 points). The government has not yet identified the level of English-speaking ability required.
  • As the name suggests, these three elements are non-negotiable; every application must meet these criteria. As such, any eligible application will meet at least 50 of the 70 required points.
  • The remaining 20 points must be met through a combination of the following ‘tradeable’ characteristics. Any job must also have a minimum salary of £20,480, though this does not accrue any points towards the application.
    • Salary: £23,040 – £25,599 (10 points); any salary above £25,600 (20 points).
    • A job in the shortage occupation list, e.g. nurse, engineer, architect or programmer (20 points).
    • A PHD relevant to the job (10 points)
    • A PHD in a STEM subject relevant to the job (20 points).
  • It is important to note that despite reducing the salary threshold for 20 points to £25,600, the Home Office has retained job-specific salary thresholds which may well be higher (e.g. for a ‘Production Manager, £34,600). To get the requisite points the migrant will need to meet whichever threshold is higher.
  • Based on this, any job with a salary over £25,600 (or over the job-specific salary requirement) or on the shortage occupation list will be eligible for a visa under the PBS so long as the applicant also meets the non-tradeable criteria. A shortfall in salary can be made-up by a relevant PHD.
  • There is no longer a need for a resident labour market test.
  • The PBS scheme will not be affected by Coronavirus-related visa updates, most notably the automatic visa extension of one year for any NHS workers (and family members) whose visa was due to expire before 1 October 2020.
  • Some schemes for workers will continue to sit outside of the PBS, for example under a Global Talent route or yet-to-be-announced initiatives for scientists, graduates, NHS workers and those in the agricultural sector.
  • Further information on the scheme will be released over the coming months. As a first step, if any employer wishes to recruit workers from outside the UK from 2021 onwards, I suggest that they apply for a Sponsor Licence (if they do not already have one) as soon as possible using the existing guidelines.
    Characteristics Tradeable Points
    Offer of job by approved sponsor No 20
    Job at appropriate skill level No 20
    Speaks English at required level No 10
    Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 Yes 0
    Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 Yes 10
    Salary of £25,600 or above Yes 20
    Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee Yes 20
    Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job Yes 10
    Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job Yes 20




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