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UK launches 'historic' points-based visa system

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British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday announced the launch of UK's new points-based visa system, aimed at attracting the 'brightest and the...

London: British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday announced the launch of UK's new points-based visa system, aimed at attracting the "brightest and the best" from the world, including from India, and cutting down numbers of cheap, low-skilled workers coming to the country.

The new system will come into force from January 1, 2021 at the end of the transition period after the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) last month, which will formally end free movement of people within the economic bloc for the UK as a non-member.

The new post-Brexit system, which will apply equally to the EU and non-EU countries like India, is based on assigning points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and professions, with visas only awarded to those who gain enough points. "Today is a historic moment for the whole country.

We're ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people's priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down," said Patel, the senior-most Indian-origin Cabinet minister.

"We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country's full potential," Patel, in charge of the UK's visa and immigration system, said.

The UK Home Office said the new system is a direct response to the 2016 referendum in favour of Brexit, which was seen as a vote to end the country's reliance on cheap migrant labour and reduce overall levels of migration with tighter security.

"The new single global system will treat the EU and non-EU citizens equally. It will give top priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents, including scientists, engineers and academics," the Home Office said.

The Global Talent Scheme, a fast-track visa to be in operation from Friday, will also apply to the EU citizens from next year to allow highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer.

The government said the points threshold for the new system will be carefully set to attract the talent the UK needs.

Skilled workers will need to meet a number of relevant criteria, including specific skills and the ability to speak English, to be able to work in the UK.

All applicants will be required to have a job offer and, in line with the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendations, the minimum salary threshold will be set at 25,600 pounds - lower than the previous 30,000 pounds level for Tier 2 work visas. The new points-based system will also expand the skills threshold for skilled workers.

What is the points-based immigration system?

After its exit from the European Union (EU), the UK is currently in a transition period until the end of 2020, during which time the UK and EU are expected to negotiate rules on trade, travel, and business. Until the transition period gets over, the pre-Brexit rules will continue to apply.

Before the Brexit, EU citizens had unrestricted rights to work in the UK to stay and work under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The implementation of the points-based system does not change the status of those EU citizens already in the UK as per EUSS and those whose status under EUSS is settled.

The points-based immigration system will take effect from January 1, 2021 and will end free movement between the UK and EU, treating both EU and non-EU citizens equally.

Under this system, points will be assigned for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and visas will be awarded to those who will have enough points.

Under this system, both EU and non-EU citizens will need to demonstrate that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor, that the job offer is at the required level and that they speak English. Further, as per the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendations, salary thresholds have been established.

As of now, the general salary threshold has been lowered to £25,600 from £30,000. This means that if an applicant is earning less than the minimum salary threshold, but no less than £20,480, they may still be eligible if they can demonstrate that they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation, or if they have a PhD relevant to the job.

Further, a total of 70 points are required to be eligible to apply, with some tradeable characteristics of the system.

The points will be allotted in the following manner: offer of job by approved sponsor (20), job at appropriate skill level (20), speaks English at required level (10), salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039 (0), salary of £23,040 – £25,599 (10), salary of £25,600 or above (20), job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC) (20), education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job (10) and education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job (20).

Out of these characteristics, the first three are not tradeable, which means they are absolutely required to be eligible for visa under the points-based system.

Students will also be covered under the points-based system and will be able to gain points if they can demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, speak English and are able to support themselves during their studies in the UK.

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