Immigration Law Updates and the BNO Visa

In July 2020, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced further details of the UK points-based immigration system scheduled to be in place on 1 January 2021. The new visa scheme will replace existing freedom of movement for EU nationals wishing to live and work in the UK and will change immigration law processes for all applicants. July also saw the government announcement that Hong Kong holders of British National Overseas passports would be able to live, work and settle in the UK.

Visas for health and care workers

The immigration scheme announcement, made by Ms Patel, gave details of a fast-track health and care visa which would be open to those with a confirmed job offer filling one of numerous “skilled” roles for the NHS, for NHS service providers or elsewhere within the care sector.

However, critics suggest it will be unable to help employers who need to fill roles classed as “unskilled”, such as home carers, care-home workers, cleaners and porters. Many of these roles are currently filled by EU workers and once freedom of movement ends this could spell difficulty for the care sector.

On behalf of the government, an official spokesman said it was hoped that care sector employers and contractors would invest in training and employment development so that British workers, as well as non-British citizens already in the UK, would want to work in the industry.

Student visas

The latest guidance, titled “The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System- Further Details”, also included details of visas for international students wishing to study in the UK. Ms Patel said in her announcement that the student visa process would be refined and will include a new route for graduates, due for launch in the summer of 2021.

The government hopes to help the UK retain the brightest and best international students who have studied in the UK and the new immigration system will allow students who have completed their study to stay in the UK for two years (three years for PHD graduates) working at any skill level, before they are required to switch to a work-based visa route if they find suitable employment.

The points-based student visa route, similar to other visa application routes, will require 70 points and is based on criteria similar to the Tier 4 route which includes proof of study (50 points), financial support (10 points) and an English language requirement (10 points).

The points-based system for workers

Under the new immigration system, any EU and non-EU citizens wishing to enter the UK after 31 December 2020 will need to accumulate a minimum of 70 points: having an eligible job offer at an appropriate skill level and speaking English earns 50 points.

Extra points, known as tradeable points (20 required) are awarded under various categories including:

  • Salary
  • Qualifications
  • Shortage occupations
  • New entrants to the labour market

Points can be gained for having a relevant PhD qualification or if the remuneration for the role is above the general salary threshold of £25,600 (the minimum salary requirement will be £20,480 for a listed health/education job which meets the relevant national pay scale).

Workers fulfilling jobs in shortage and listed occupations as advised by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), such as nursing and civil engineering, will also be eligible for extra points. The MAC also designates which roles achieve the tradeable points for new entrants to the labour market (for example, when an international student switches from a student or graduate route to a skilled worker route).

Home Office approved sponsors

Employers who wish to hire non-British workers will need to consider how they will be able to sponsor a skilled migrant and how the sponsorship will be managed within their business. Once a business/organisation is confirmed as eligible, employers will need to apply for a sponsor licence.

Making sure a sponsorship application is correct and that the employer understands the duties under the licence is crucial and the Wellers Immigration Service can assist in these matters.

BNO visas for Hong Kong residents

Also in July, the government announced the UK’s offer to allow Hong Kong residents the chance to settle in the UK under their British National Overseas (BNO) passport. The move came following a new security law put in place by China which, the PM said, violated the freedoms of Hong Kong residents.

There are around 350,000 BNO passport holders in Hong Kong and another 2.6 million people who would be eligible. Under the scheme, BNO passport holders and their dependants would be able to apply for a visa which will give them the right to live, work and study in the UK for five years and then apply for settled status. After one year of settlement, they would be able to apply for citizenship.

While salary threshold requirements for the visas have been relaxed, entrants to the UK will still be subject to full immigration checks and it is crucial that applications are completed correctly. Our Immigration Services team is experienced in handling immigration and legal services for Chinese clients and we can help you and your family if you wish to apply for a visa.

Talk to us

If you have an immigration issue please contact or call 020 8290 7982 to arrange an initial consultation.