Category: Other

Points-based immigration: How will the Tories’ new system impact your business?

By Richard Kleiner

28 Feb 2020

Last week (19 February 2020), Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced the government’s plan to move to a “points-based” immigration system, bringing an end to the EU Bloc’s free movement rules in the UK. 

According to the Home Office, the aim of this new policy is to “shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation.”

Implementation of this system will begin on 1 January 2021, so it is important that you are aware of what these changes will imply for you and your business.  

What is the new system?

In summary, anyone seeking a UK working visa will now have to meet the minimum criteria of 70 points to qualify. However, there are three mandatory characteristics, which potential migrants must meet to be considered. This totals 50 out of the necessary 70 points.
The full table of characteristics, as released by The Home Office, is as below. 

Characteristics Tradeable (Can be substituted) 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 (minimum) – £23,039 Yes 0
Salary of £23,040 – £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 subject relevant to the job Yes 10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job Yes 20


Other routes    

The Home Office note that family reunion, asylum, border crossing checks and visitors will not be impacted by the new system. There are plans to fast track NHS workers, to ensure that the Health Service does not suffer a staffing shortage. 

Self-employed freelancers will not have a dedicated route. For now, they will be able to continue to enter the UK under the innovator route, which will be updated to a proposed unsponsored route in due course.

However, the points system will apply for Mode 4 commitments (referring to the temporary entry and stay of business people, in respect of free trade agreements). The Home Office states that individuals will have to meet the necessary points for the specific route to qualify. 

What will the implications be for your business? 

The implications will depend on the type of business you own, your sector and who you generally employ. However, there are two distinct categories: higher skilled and lower skilled. 

Higher Skilled Workers 

The Home Office will extend the Global Talent route to EU Citizens. This allows the most highly skilled workers, e.g. those with a PhD in their relevant field, to obtain a visa without a job, subject to achieving the mandatory three characteristics and an endorsement from a relevant body. 

It is much easier for skilled workers to reach the required 70 points; if applicants meet the mandatory three characteristics (50 points), an additional 20 points can be earned by gaining a salary of £25,600 and above, qualifying them for a working visa.

Lower Skilled Workers

Businesses that rely on lower skilled workers will be impacted the most by this change as the system “will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route.” 

The system has already received criticism and Shadow Immigration Minister, Bell Ribeiro Addy, predicts that this will be disastrous for the social care sector, as it will deny visas for ‘lower-skilled’ workers that usually fill these roles, and? they will not be covered by the NHS fast track. 

In addition to social care, this will likely cause major staffing issues for industries such as hospitality, farming and construction. 


The UK is replacing free movement to a points-based system, which works in favour of highly skilled workers, skilled workers and students, and will use specialist work routes for innovators and global talent. 

Industries that rely on lower-skilled work may face a staff shortage and the Home Office says that these employers should focus on “staff retention, productivity, and wider investment in technology and automation”.

Although it is difficult to prepare for such a change, it is important that you are aware of these updates, so that you can adequately plan for your business.

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