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A recruiter’s guide to UK’s post-Brexit points-based immigration system

With the UK facing a shortage of skilled labour, coupled with the exodus of many European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) workers from the country post-Brexit, the government introduced a new points-based immigration system for foreign workers to meet the job markets’ needs.

As a global health insurance brokerage and employee benefits specialist, Pacific Prime UK is an expert in helping countries attract and retain talented staff to meet their business requirements. This employers’ guide to the UK immigration system aims to do just that and will cover what the new rules are and what these changes mean for recruiters.

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What are the new UK immigration rules?

Prior to Brexit, EU/EEA nationals were free to travel to and from the UK and take up employment without the need for a work visa. This automatic free movement for EU nationals (and UK nationals in EU/EEA member countries) ended and a new points-based immigration system was introduced on January 1st, 2021.

Essentially, these changes mean that all EU and non-EU nationals will be treated equally when entering the UK and will face the same immigration rules. As such, employers who once hired EU/EEA workers with relative ease will now be faced with more paperwork and formalities to do so. What’s more, the changes also mean that only skilled workers will be granted a visa.

Note: These changes do not apply to Irish citizens due to the Common Travel Area.

Here’s the criteria for skilled workers with a job offer:

Skilled worker with a job offer

The UK’s points-based immigration in 2021 stipulates that prospective migrants will need to earn a minimum of 70 points to be eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa. There is a two-stage process to earn these points:

Note: For those without a job offer, the Highly Skilled Worker Visa is being consulted on and is not expected to be introduced until at least 2022.

Stage 1:

An applicant must meet all the criteria in Stage 1, earning them a maximum of 50 points. All of these criteria are mandatory:

  • A job offer from a Home Office approved sponsor (20 points)
  • A job offer at the required skilled level of RQF 3 or above, which is equivalent to A-Levels (20 points)
  • Speaking English at the required level (10 points)

Stage 2:

In Stage 2, the applicant must earn a minimum of 20 points to make them eligible. They simply have to earn the required points from any of the criteria below:

  • Salary of £20,480 (minimum) – £23,039 (0 points)
  • Salary of £23,040 – £25,599 (10 points)
  • Salary of £25,600 or above (20 points)
  • Job in a shortage occupation, as designated by the MAC (20 points)
  • PhD in a subject relevant to the job (10 points)
  • PhD in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subject relevant to the job (20 points)

How can UK recruiters hire skilled workers from abroad?

Human resources is the backbone of any successful organisation, and it’s no surprise that recruiters want to hire the brightest and the best – no matter where they come from. Unfortunately, this involves navigating the new UK points-based immigration system for employers. Before you begin, consider reviewing the data on your current workforce.

Do you have EU and/or non-EU nationals at present? Make sure your existing EU employees and their qualifying family members have registered under the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible, if they wish to. What’s more, don’t forget to look into other visas that enable you to hire foreign staff, including Global Talent Route, Graduate Visa, and Intra-company transfer.

Here’s what you need to do if you wish to hire under the UK’s points-based immigration system:

Step 1: Understand the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code categorises the skill level of and provides an appropriate salary guide for the role. You’ll need to get your head around SOC codes and ensure that the role you wish to fill meets the prescribed conditions and matches the relevant SOC code, should you wish to hire skilled workers from abroad.

Note: If the SOC code selected is incorrect or ineligible for sponsorship, you could face delays in the application process and the candidate’s individual visa application could be denied.

Step 2: Factor the costs involved in hiring skilled workers from abroad

Hiring skilled workers from abroad doesn’t come cheap. From January 1st, 2021, the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) requires you to sponsor both EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA workers (see the rates below). What’s more, you should also factor in the cost of hiring a human resource (HR) professional to look into and meet the requirements.

ISC rates:

  • Medium and large-sized employers: GBP £1,000 per skilled worker for the first 12 months, with an additional GBP £500 charge for each subsequent six-month period.
  • Small employers and charities: Discounted rates will continue to apply, as they do now.

Note: The longest you can sponsor a worker is 5 years.

Step 3: Apply to become a licensed sponsor from the UK Home Office

Finally, it’s time for you to apply to become a licensed sponsor. As the process can take approximately 8 weeks, it’s recommended to do this as soon as possible. For existing sponsors, you’ll automatically get a new skilled worker license, with an expiry date consistent with your current license, and receive an appropriate allocation of certificate of sponsorship.

Why should UK recruiters offer employee benefits to skilled workers?

Clearly, businesses will go to great lengths to hire talented staff from abroad. But it’s equally important to ensure that staff stay at the organisation, reaping immense benefits for themselves and the organisation. One way to do so is via employee benefits such as employee wellness programs and corporate health insurance plans in the UK.

Not only will employees feel like they’re being valued, which will increase motivation, but they’ll also be healthier and take fewer sick days. All in all, this increases productivity and business outcomes. As employees will also be less likely to leave the organisation, turnover costs will also decrease.

Further reading: 5 creative employee benefits to attract talent

Get in touch with Pacific Prime UK today for all your employee benefits needs!

If you’re looking to implement or optimise your employee benefits offerings, look no further than Pacific Prime UK. We can help organisations of all sizes and industries tailor their benefit offerings to their business needs and budgetary requirements, using state-of-the-art technology to simplify the entire plan administration process.

Whatever employee benefits solutions you’re on the lookout for, you’re more than welcome to arrange a free consultation with us today!

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime UK
Suphanida aims to demystify the world of insurance by creating informative and engaging content. As a wordsmith, she spends the majority of her day writing and editing website content, blog posts, in-depth guides, and more.

Outside of work, Suphanida enjoys travelling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.
Suphanida