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Thinking of immigrating to the UK?

All you need to know about the new laws

By Zeenat Moosa

, |

Thinking of immigrating to the UK?

All you need to know about the new laws

By Zeenat Moosa

, |

Escalating crime, load shedding and a dwindling rand are forcing South Africans, almost en masse, to seek greener pastures in foreign lands.

Australia and New Zealand remain the top favourites, purely because they offer similar climates and lifestyle choices, but these are followed closely by the United Kingdom – with its strong pound sterling and first-world benefits.

The UK’s new immigration laws

The UK has introduced a raft of new immigration regulations just in time for their official departure from the European Union at the end of December 2020. EU citizens are likely to be the most affected by the new rules, but, if you were planning on immigrating to the UK any time soon, now is a good time to get familiar with the new rules and know how they may affect you.

From 1 January 2021, the new immigration regime will take the form of a points-based system similar to that in Australia. Anyone wanting to live and work in the UK – whether from the EU or not – will need 70 points to be eligible for a work visa.

The system is designed to cut the number of low-skilled migrants entering Britain, and will exclude anyone who has been sentenced to more than a year in jail.

Points will be awarded for key requirements like being able to speak English, having a job offer from an approved employer, and meeting a minimum salary threshold.

How will the new regulations work?

Under the new rules, if you want to come and work in the UK you will need to apply for and have a job offer from a Home Office-approved employer, and the job must pay £20,480 or more each year.

Extra points are awarded to applicants who have a higher salary offer, those who want to work in a field where there is a skills shortage, or those who have a PhD in a relevant subject.

The £20,480 salary floor is absolute and applies regardless of whether you work part- or full time, and you must earn at least that each year, no matter what.

A new Health and Care Visa will also be introduced to help fast-track entry for skilled workers in the health sector including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, biological scientists and biochemists, psychologists, opticians, podiatrists, and radiographers.

If you are applying via this route, you will still need to meet the basic salary requirement of £20,480 per year, but you won’t need to achieve other points.

How much will it cost?

Once you have met the requirements for a skilled worker, you will need to pay a £610 application fee if applying for a visa from outside the UK. This jumps to £1,220 if you want to stay for more than three years, but falls to £464 or £928 if you want to stay three years, and are working in a field in which there is a skills shortage.

You must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is £624 per year, to use the NHS.

Meanwhile, employers must also pay a so-called immigration skills charge of £1,000 per worker per year, but this amount is discounted to £364 per year for charities and SMEs.

If you are applying via the new Health and Care Visa route, you will receive a discount on the £610 standard visa application fee, and you and your immediate family members will be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

What about students?

Students must also get 70 points, but they earn their points in a different way. Points are earned depending on which course they choose to study, and at which university. Additional points are given for their level of financial security, and knowledge of English.

A Graduate Route will be launched in summer 2021 allowing students to stay in the UK for two years after the end of their degree, to look for work. This will be three years for PhD graduates.

Are there any exceptions?

A small number of the most highly skilled workers, such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals, will be able to enter the UK without a job offer if they are endorsed by a relevant and competent body. They will instead be awarded points for factors such as academic qualifications, age, and relevant work experience.

Final note

While the new system is incredibly complicated, the good news is that there will be no limit on the number of immigrants allowed to enter the UK each year. It is also important to note that the new system only affects those wanting to come and work in the UK. Dependent family members, including spouses, partners and children of a British passport holder, can come and work in the UK without meeting the salary test.

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