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Proposed changes to the immigration system under a majority conservative government

There are three key changes a majority Conservative government will make after Brexit:

  1. Introduce a points-based system (Australian style)

A single new system will allocate points to migrants on a range of criteria. It will allocate people into three separate categories:

  • ‘Exceptional talent / contribution’ – these will be highly educated migrants who have received world-leading awards or otherwise demonstrated exceptional talent, sponsored entrepreneurs setting up a new business or investors. These migrants will not require a job offer in the UK and will receive fast-track entry.
  • ‘Skilled workers’ – workers who meet the criteria of the points-based system and have a confirmed job offer. Special types – such as a proposed NHS Visa – will also receive fast-track entry and reduced visa fees.
  • ‘Sector-specific rules-based’ – made up of specific temporary schemes such as for low-skilled labour, youth mobility or short term visits (e.g., touring). These will be revised on an ongoing basis based on expert advice from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). These visas will be time-limited and will not lead to settlement in the UK.

The new system intends to reduce total net migration, while meeting the needs of the economy and improve the UK’s productivity.

Once Brexit is done and free movement has ended, they will introduce an electronic travel authorisation (ETAs) which will screen all prospective migrants on the basis of previous criminality, and bar those with serious convictions from coming to the UK.

2. There will be a new role for the MAC

  • The role of the MAC will continue to be advisory and the Home Secretary will have full discretion over decisions related to the future immigration system.
  • The MAC will be required to monitor the needs of the labour market on an ongoing basis to ensure that the Home Secretary has the information needed to make decisions rapidly.
  • The MAC will be required to publish an annual report advising the Government on how to deliver on its objectives.

3. Introduce a digital immigration status

  • The fundamental principle of the new immigration system is that the government will be in control.
  • Beyond 2022, all migrants will have a full digital status, making it easier for legal migrants to prove their status, as well as allowing for improved enforcement.
  • All visas will be time-limited, with usual indefinite leave to remain rules applying for those who are identified as ‘exceptional’ or ‘high-skilled’. In-country switching between visas will be allowed, but overstaying a visa will count against an individual in their new application.
  • All migrants will pay the health surcharge for every year of their visa, unless and until they have gained settled status – usually not before they have been here for five years.
  • Ensure equal treatment of EEA and non-EEA migrants’ regarding access to benefits, making sure people pay in before they can take out.

The new government have indicated they will:

  • Begin work to set up a formal exchange programme with the Australian and Canadian governments to allow experts to come to the UK and share best practice with officials during the development of the system.
  • Appoint an expert implementation group to ensure roll-out of the new immigration system from January 2021.
  • Work with stakeholders and businesses to develop the details of how the points framework will be set and updated.
  • Commission the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to examine this model to ensure:
      • The system is clear and easy for applicants and employers to understand;
      • The system is flexible so it can be adjusted according to changing economic or social circumstances;
      • The government can reassess the model annually;
      • Ultimate decision making powers will apply will continue to reside with the Home Secretary.

If you would like to know more about how these changes could affect you, please contact Imelda Reddington who would be pleased to assist.