Connecticut, US

Jul 13 2020

Government Publishes New Paper on Points-Based System

United Kingdom

At a Glance

  • The UK government has published further details outlining its plans for the new immigration system to take effect from the beginning of 2021, when free movement from the European Union comes to an end.
  • This document builds on the Policy Statement released in February 2020 by providing more detail to applicants, employers and educational institutions on the draft requirements and conditions underpinning the key immigration routes in the Points-Based System.

The situation

The UK government has published a paper that sets out detailed plans for immigration routes that will be phased in from August 2020 and operational from January 2021, when free movement from the European Union comes to an end. The system will apply to both EU/European Economic Area (EEA) and third-country applicants.

A closer look

Change Impact

Skilled Worker route. The UK government will introduce a new route to replace the existing Tier 2 General route, whereby applicants will require a confirmed job offer skilled to at least Level 3 of the Regulated Qualifications Framework and to meet the English language requirement. The individual must also obtain further ‘tradeable’ points for their salary, a job in a shortage occupation or a PhD in a related field.

  • The annual quota under the current Tier 2 General route will be suspended and there will be no requirement on employers to carry out Resident Labour Market Testing.

  • Existing Tier 2 General migrants who need to make a new application will do so under the Skilled Worker route once the Tier 2 General route closes.

  • Companies seeking to sponsor migrants under the Skilled Worker route which do not already hold a Tier 2 General sponsor licence are encouraged to apply for one now.

  • Those who already hold a Tier 2 General sponsor licence will not need to reapply in order to sponsor people under the Skilled Worker route.

New entrants under the Skilled Worker route and Tier 2 ICT. New entrants will be permitted to apply on a lower salary than their more experienced counterparts, which cannot be less than GBP 20,480. This includes those switching from a student visa or those under the age of 26.

This will potentially make it easier for new entrants to secure employment in the UK with a reduction in the minimum salary requirement. A third option to come under the new entrant rules will be introduced for individuals working towards a recognised professional qualification or moving directly into postdoctoral positions.

Skilled Work: Health and Care Visa. This is part of the Skilled Worker route and will ensure individuals in eligible health occupations with a job offer have a potential route to enter the United Kingdom.

The current system does not provide a specific visa category for Health and Care workers.

Intra-Company Transfer (‘ICT’) visa.  Intracompany transferees will be permitted to switch into the Skilled Worker route, if eligible.

  • From 2021, an overseas intra-company transferee must not have held an ICT visa for more than five years in any six-year period, except where they qualify to be granted up to nine years on the basis of their salary.

  • The route will not lead to settlement.

Employers will benefit from a relaxation of the cooling-off period provisions, which will allow more flexibility and short-term assignments.

Youth Mobility Scheme (‘YMS’) visa. The requirements of the visa will remain the same. The United Kingdom will continue to operate a reciprocal scheme with the existing eight countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea and Taiwan).

The paper confirms the UK government’s intention to conclude further YMS arrangements with other countries and territories in the future.

Border arrangements. The government will introduce Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETAs) for visitors and passengers transiting through the United Kingdom who do not currently need a visa for short stays or who do not already have an immigration status prior to travelling. 

From 2021, EU citizens (other than those with protected rights under the Withdrawal Agreement) will have to use a passport rather than a national identification card to cross the border.

Student Route.

  • There will be no limit on the number of international students who can enter the United Kingdom.

  • Students will require a total of 70 points to be granted leave and these points, unlike the proposed Skilled Worker route, are non-tradable.

  • Students will be able to apply for permission to enter the United Kingdom up to six months before the start of their course.

This new route will build on the current Tier 4 system but will be improved to make it more streamlined for sponsoring institutions and their students.

Graduate route. The Graduate route will be launched in the third quarter 2021 to provide international students with the opportunity to stay in the United Kingdom to work after they graduate.

Students who have completed a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree will be able to stay in the United Kingdom for two years, three years for PhD graduates. They will be able to work at any skill level and switch into a range of visa routes from within the United Kingdom, subject to eligibility.

Unsponsored route. A broader unsponsored route within the Points-Based System will be introduced to run alongside the employer-led system.

This will allow a smaller number of the most highly skilled workers to enter without a job offer. This route is expected to open in 2022.



A key manifesto promise of the Conservative government in the 2019 general election was to launch a new system for skilled immigration from 2021.

In February 2020, the UK government published a Policy Statement on the points-based system.

Looking ahead

  • More detailed guidance forthcoming. The draft requirements for the main work and study visa categories will be written into the immigration rules, which will be published later in 2020, along with more detailed guidance for applicants.
  • EU citizens’ plans. For all other routes (including the family visa route), EU citizens and their family members (who do not qualify under the EU Settlement Scheme) will be required to apply on the same basis as non-EU citizens.


See Fragomen's guide on the points-based system and Fragomen's Brexit website for other FAQs, guides and information.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].