The UK government has published guidance documents on the new points-based immigration system.

The Points-Based System includes several different immigration routes for both EU and non-EU nationals to work in the UK. In this guide, we focus on the two employer-led routes (Skilled Worker and Intra-Company Transfer) and outline the actions which employers should be taking now to assess the extent to which their business will be impacted by the changes and to prepare for the new regime.

What are the key implications of the new immigration system?

  • At 11pm on 31 December 2020, free movement rights ended for UK nationals travelling to the EU and vice versa.
  • EU citizens and relevant family members who arrived in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 are eligible for pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. They must apply by 30 June 2021.
  • EU citizens with pre-settled or settled status can continue to live and work in the UK without restriction.
  • A new points-based immigration system is being phased into the UK.
  • The new system does not give EU citizens preferential treatment over non-EU citizens.
  • Whilst there has been a softening of the current Tier 2 criteria, skills and salary thresholds will still apply.
  • There is no immigration category for ‘low skilled’ workers save for in the agricultural sector.
  • Employers should take steps now to assess the extent to which their business will be affected by the changes and formulate a work-force strategy which will deliver the skills and people required.

Immigration routes covered by the new points based system’

The Points-Based System includes several immigration routes allowing work in the UK. It caters for the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers with a job offer, students, graduates, global leaders in their field and innovators. The table below provides a high-level summary of some of the routes to work.

Who for? Effective date
Skilled Worker Skilled workers with a job offer from a licensed sponsor 1 December 2020 for non-EU nationals (1 January 2021 for EU nationals)
Intra-Company Transfers International assignees – established employees and graduate trainees 1 December 2020 for non-EU nationals (1 January 2021 for EU nationals)
Graduate International students who wish to remain in the UK after
graduation to work or look for work
Summer 2021
Highly Skilled Highly skilled individuals with focus expected to be on STEM skills TBC – government to consult with stakeholders over
next 12 months
Global Talent Global leaders and ‘leaders of tomorrow’ in science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology 20 February 2020 – replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional
Talent) route
Start-up and Innovator Entrepreneurs who intend to set up an innovative, viable and
scalable business
March 2019 - replaced the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route
Youth Mobility Scheme Individuals aged between 18 and 30 who wish to work and travel
in the UK for up to two years
Open to citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea and Taiwan. Some EU countries expected to be added.
Sporting Internationally recognised sports people Ongoing
Creative Artists, musicians and entertainers Ongoing

Skilled Worker Visa route

An employer identifies an overseas worker to fill a genuine vacancy:


  • Sponsor licence required
  • Existing Tier 2 General sponsors will be automatically granted a Skilled Worker licence
  • Resident Labour Market Test abolished
  • Immigration Skills Charge will apply on top of application fees
  • Skills threshold lowered from RQF6 to RQF3 (A-level or equivalent)
  • Employer must pay ‘going rate’ for the particular role
  • Lower ‘going rate’ for those under 26 and/or new entrants to the labour market
  • English language requirement

Non-tradeable points: 

Characteristic Points
Employed by approved sponsor 20
Skilled job 20
English language 10
All 50 points must be scored


Tradeable points:

Option Description Salary Requirement 1 (Minimum annual salary based on a 39-hour week) Salary Requirement 2 (Percentage of Going Rate salary) Points where both salary requirements are met
A Applicant where none of the below apply £25,600 100% 20
B PhD in relevant subject £23,040 90% 20
C PhD in STEM subject £23,480 80% 20
D Job is in a shortage occupation £23,480 80% 20
E Applicant is a new entrant £20,480 70% 20
F Listed health or education professional £20,480 100% 20


Intra company transfers route

An existing employee of overseas group company is assigned to UK group company:


  • Sponsor licence required
  • Existing Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer sponsors will automatically be granted an Intra-Company Transfer licence
  • No lowering of current salary or skills thresholds
  • No route to settlement but can switch to Skilled Worker visa whilst in the UK
  • “Cooling-off” rules to be adjusted so as to provide assignees with more flexibility to return for further shortterm assignments
Ownership ICT Graduate Trainee
Linked by common ownership 12 months company experience 3 months company experience
  £41,500 minimum salary £23,000 minimum salary


Key considerations:

  • No cooling off period but must not hold leave under ICT for over 5 years in any 6 year period unless high earner
  • No route to settlement but can switch to Skilled Worker visa whilst in the UK

Preparing for the new UK immigration system: audit, assess, action

Employers need to assess how their organisation will be impacted by the end of free movement and the introduction of a new immigration system. Employers should take steps to formulate a strategy to support and sustain their existing workforce and deliver the skills and people they need in the future.

Existing workforce (2020) Future workforce (2021 onwards)
Identify impacted employees
• EU nationals in the UK
• UK nationals in the EU
• Employees in UK/EU with family member status
• Assignees, business travellers and employees with
cross-border responsibilities
Audit job types across business with reference to new Skilled Worker criteria:
• Job type
• Skills required
• Salary range
• Location
• Turnover
• Source of labour
• Nationality of incumbent workers
Support impacted employees
• Reassure and educate
• Assist with applications as appropriate
• Reminders as submission deadline approaches
Brief leadership on changes and potential impact on recruitment strategies, costs
and timings
Track applications submitted/approved Recruitment plan: assess whether forthcoming recruitment/assignment of EU
nationals can be brought forward (pre-31 December 2020)
Review right to work policy and procedures and update
on-boarding process
Sponsor licence considerations
• Do you need a sponsor licence?
• Is your existing licence fit for purpose?
• Audit sponsor compliance
• Current and anticipated immigration costs
Develop tailored plans for international commuters,
business visitors and other cross-border employees
Consider alternative sources of labour and workforce planning strategies
Train staff on the new system:
• Recruitment
• HR
• Hiring managers
Update documents and policies:
• Offer letters
• Employment contracts
• Assignment letters
• Global mobility policies

How can we help you prepare?

We can help you prepare for the changes ahead and work closely with you to create a workforce strategy that is tailored to your sector and your specific business requirements:

  1. Draft presentations, webinars and Q&A documents to explain the situation to your existing workforce
  2. Deal with pre-settled and settled status applications
  3. Audit your existing workforce and assess roles against new regime criteria
  4. Analyse whether you need a sponsor licence and full support with licence application
  5. Licence health-checks for existing sponsors
  6. Work with you to develop a workforce planning strategy
  7. Deliver in-house training on the new immigration regime
  8. Develop new right to work processes and update your right to work and global mobility policies

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