News article

Brexit: New points-based immigration system from January 2021

15 July 2020


Employers should be aware of the new points-based immigration system coming into effect on 1 January 2021 that may impact on the recruitment of migrant workers

This page will be updated with the latest information about the new points-based immigration system as it becomes available.

On 13 July 2020, the government set out further details on the UK’s points-based system. These new arrangements will take effect from 1 January 2021, once freedom of movement with the European Union (EU) has ended.

It will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy. Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.

The UK is introducing a new points-based immigration system from 1 January 2021 once freedom of movement with the European Union (EU) has ended. The new system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.

Visa application process

New immigration routes will open later this year for applications to work, live and study in the UK from 1 January 2021.

Applicants will be able to apply and pay for their visa online.

When they apply, applicants be asked to provide their biometric information. The process for this is:

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens
For most visas applicants can provide a digital photo of their face using a smartphone app. Applicants will not have to give their fingerprints.

For a small number of low volume routes (to be confirmed later this year) applicants will need to go to an overseas visa application centre to have their photo taken.

Non-EU citizens
Applicants will continue to submit their fingerprints and a photo at an overseas visa application centre.

Skilled workers

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

From January 2021, the job offered will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level). Workers will also need to be able to speak English and be paid the relevant salary threshold by their sponsor. This will either be the general salary threshold of £25,600 or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher.

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

Details of how the points system will work are in the further details document.

There will not be a 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 from January 2021, you should apply now.

Global talent scheme

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

International students and graduates

Student visa routes will be opened up to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. Applicants will be able to apply for a visa to study in the UK if they:

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

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

Identifying whether a job meets the required skill level

All jobs have a corresponding Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code. You can use the ONS Occupation Coding Tool to identify the relevant SOC code for your job.

Current skill levels for SOC codes are set out in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules.

The Immigration Rules will be updated in order to expand the list of occupations that will be eligible for the Skilled Work route. This will be based on the advice already published by the Migration Advisory Committee. More information will be published in due course.

Characteristics Tradeable Points
Offer of job by approved sponsor No 20
Job at appropriate skill level No 20
Speaks English at required level No 10
Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 Yes 0
Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 Yes 10
Salary of £25,600 or above Yes 20
Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee Yes 20
Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job Yes 10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job Yes 20


A total of 70 points is needed to be able to apply to work in the UK.

Becoming an approved sponsor

Employers not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider applying now if they think they will want to sponsor skilled migrants, including from the EU, from early 2021. See UK visa sponsorship for employers.

You need to apply to be a sponsor if you want to recruit workers from outside the resident labour market from 1 January 2021. Until then current immigration rules will apply.

The standard processing time for an application is usually eight weeks and will start when your application is received.

You do not need to be a sponsor to employ someone from the resident labour market with an existing right to work in the UK. This includes EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status, and non-EU citizens with indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

See more information on becoming an approved sponsor.

Visiting the UK

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and other non-visa nationals will 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 living in the UK by 31 December 2020

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen living in the UK before 31 December 2020, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.

Proving immigration status in the UK

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

Employers, landlords and public service providers will 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 check.


First published 19 February 2020