As we have previously posted the new system is not very different from the old, with in essence an element of rebadging and some tinkering around the edges.
The main points for employers holding a Home Office Sponsorship Licence are that the Tier 2 General visa for skilled migrants is now replaced by the Skilled Worker visa.
This is to all intents and purposes the same as previously apart from the fact that the skills requirement has been reduced from RQF6 (degree level positions) to RQF3 (A-Level positions), and the salary is set at a minimum of £25,600, subject to some further available salary level reductions or "points trading" for PHD holders, jobs on the shortage occupation list and new entrants to the labour market etc.
The prior annual cap of 20,700 on unrestricted certificates / visas under the old Tier 2 General route has also been removed.
A further major difference for the Skilled Worker visa is that the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), whereby vacancies had to be advertised for 28 days to ensure a settled worked could not do or did not want the job has been scrapped. This was universally hated by employers not only from the highly prescriptive nature in which the job had to be advertised, but also in the scenario that followed i.e. employers would only carry out a RLMT if they had identified a non-European Economic National who they wanted to employ and the Home Office would then be looking for any possible "fix" in terms of drafting the advertisement to fit the migrant in question.
Another welcome change is that the 12 month "cooling off period" after exhausting the maximum duration of the General visa has also now been removed. Under the old system (generally) the maximum stay was six years, with the option to apply for settlement / "indefinite leave to remain" (ILR) becoming available after five years. However, such settlement was contingent on residency requirements, meaning some individuals who were frequently out of the UK during the grant of the visa were unable to apply for ILR and so would have to leave these shores and then be embargoed from applying for a new Tier 2 visa again for a year. The position now is that the Skilled Worker visa can be extended as many times as wanted, which is a welcome development. Also, those migrants who are able to apply for ILR will find that the minimum salary required to do so is now £25,600, rather than the £35,800 needed previously which often acted as a bar to passing that last settlement hurdle.
The final headline change is that several applications to apply for, or "switch" into, the Skilled Worker visa can now be made "in country". This will come as an enormous benefit and relief to migrants under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa, who if wishing to continue working in the UK after the end of that visa would previously have had to leave the UK in order to apply to return under a Tier 2 General, with the dreaded RLMT again applying.
The underlying purpose of the new Skilled Worker visa is obviously to facilitate the employment of those European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who, if not already resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, will (generally) no longer be able to come and work under previous free movement rights. In summary, from 1 January 2021, EEA nationals will now fall into "the rest of the World" pot for the purposes of visa entry into the UK. In this regard the lowering of the skills requirement will of course assist, but the required remuneration level may not, particularly in the retail sector.
There is the further requirement that in order to employ newly arriving EEA nationals under the Skilled Worker visa employers will need to be in possession of a Home Office sponsorship licence. Given that recent Home Office statistics show that only around 2% of businesses have secured such a licence it would clearly appear that this issue may not, to date, have had the necessary government promotion or wider general business consideration that it maybe should have done. If you need any assistance applying for a sponsorship licence please get in touch.
If you need any assistance with the issues raised please do not hesitate to contact John Dorney.