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New immigration system: what you need to know

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New immigration system: what you need to know

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The UK has introduced a points-based immigration system.

The UK’s points-based system treats EU and non-EU citizens equally and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy. Irish citizens can continue to freely enter, live and work in the UK.

Free movement with the European Union (EU) ended on 31 December 2020 and there are new arrangements for EU citizens.

Visa application process

New immigration routes have opened for applications to work, live and study in the UK.

You can apply and pay for your visa online.

When you apply, you’ll be asked to provide your biometric information. The process for this is:

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens

For most visas you’ll provide a digital photo of your face using a smartphone app. You will not have to give your fingerprints.

For some routes you’ll need to go to an overseas visa application centre to have your photo taken.

Non-EU citizens

You’ll continue to submit your fingerprints and a photo at an overseas visa application centre.

Skilled workers

The points-based system includes a route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor.

The job you’re offered will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level). You’ll also need to be able to speak English and be paid the relevant salary threshold by your sponsor. This will either be the general salary threshold of £25,600 or the going rate for your job, whichever is higher.

If you earn less than this - but no less than £20,480 - you may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against your salary. For example, if you have a job offer in a shortage occupation or have a PhD relevant to the job.

There is no general route for employers to recruit at or near the minimum wage.

If you’re not already a licensed sponsor and you think you’ll want to sponsor migrants through the skilled worker route, you should apply now.

Global talent scheme

The global talent scheme has been opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. It allows highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer.

International students and graduates

Student visa routes have been opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. You can apply for a visa to study in the UK if you:

  • have been offered a place on a course
  • can speak, read, write and understand English
  • have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course

A new graduate immigration route will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. You’ll be able to work, or look for work, in the UK at any skill level for up to 2 years, or 3 years if you are a PhD graduate.

Visiting the UK

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and other non-visa nationals do not require a visa to enter the UK when visiting the UK for up to 6 months. All migrants looking to enter the UK for other reasons (such as work or study) will need to apply for entry clearance in advance.

EU citizens who were living in the UK by 31 December 2020

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and you were resident in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, you should not apply for a visa under the points-based immigration system. You and your family should instead apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. Applications are free and the deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.

Crossing the UK border

Citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United States of America, Singapore and South Korea - with a biometric chip in their passports - can continue to use ePassport gates to pass through the border on arrival. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens can also use ePassport gates (this will be kept under review).

Until at least January 2026 we’ll continue to recognise identity cards used for travel by EU citizens and their EU family members who are both resident in the UK before the end of the transition period and hold status under the EU Settlement Scheme. We will also recognise ICAO compliant identity cards from this group beyond 2026.

For newly arriving migrants, we intend to phase out the use of insecure identity documents and will set out further details on this shortly.

Proving immigration status in the UK

EU citizens

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens can use an online service to view their immigration status and to prove their status to others.

Employers, landlords and public service providers can continue to accept EU citizens’ passports and identity cards as evidence of their immigration status until 30 June 2021.

Guidance for employers is available on carrying out right to work checks on EU citizens and their family members in the UK.

Non-EU citizens

Non-EU citizens can continue to use a physical document to prove their immigration status.

Those with a valid, current Biometric Residence Permit, Biometric Residence Card or status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme can also prove their right to work to an employer using an online service. Guidance for employers is available advising how to carry out a physical document check or online

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