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Post-EU work visa regime begins its passage through Parliament: but is it really an ‘Australian-style’ points-based system?

Whilst the government, unsurprisingly, remains focused on tackling Covid-19, the Brexit immigration bill has nevertheless passed its first reading in the House of Commons, meaning that it is on its way to becoming law. The new rules, which affect EU and international workers chances of getting a job in the UK, are due to be in place for January 2021.

Lower skills entry threshold

At the heart of the government’s plans is the intention to make it a bit easier to recruit higher skilled foreign workers but a lot harder to recruit lower skilled workers. There will be no more visas for the lower skilled (defined as those with sub A-Level qualifications) and instead certain industries (but not others) will be allowed quotas to bring in seasonal workers. This allows farmers to recruit fruit pickers, for example, but not care homes to recruit care workers. The government says businesses must do more to train and recruit workers from the UK and invest in technology rather than relying on foreign workers. No, we’re not sure what the logic behind this is, either.

Lower salary threshold too

In return the skills level required to recruit skilled workers has been reduced (down from a degree requirement to A-Levels). The salary threshold has also been reduced to £25,600, although this will be reduced further to £20,480 for workers on the Shortage Occupational List or those with PHDs in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). If you have a PhD outside of this list, the salary threshold will be £23,040. Otherwise, it’s the full £25,600 required. Visa applicants (including those from EU countries not already here by the end of this year) will still need a job offer from an employer with a sponsorship licence.

Less Aussie and not really about points any more

During the general election campaign much was made of the idea of having an ‘Australian-style’ point-based system. As details have emerged, it has become clear this is in fact much less generous than the Australian system. In addition, it is more about discounting salary levels for in-demand workers than a real points-based system, which creates a degree of flexibility.

What does this mean for businesses?

Many businesses in Yorkshire and beyond have successfully recruited skilled workers from the EU without having to deal with any red tape thanks to free movement rules enshrined in the EU constitution. This ends on January 1 next year meaning EU workers will be subject to the same rules as other foreign workers. If you want to continue to recruit workers from the EU and further afield then now is the time to start sorting out your sponsorship licence as this is a bit of an involved process and can take some time to complete.