The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) have now published their report on “A Points-Based System and Salary Thresholds for Immigration”.
In June 2019 the May Government commissioned the MAC to review the mechanisms for calculating future salary thresholds for employer sponsorship of workers from outside the Resident Labour Market. It also asked the MAC to advise where salary thresholds should be set in the post-Brexit immigration system. In September 2019 the Johnson Government issued a supplementary instruction to the MAC, requesting it to consider the characteristics and attributes that should be prioritised in an “Australian-style” Points Based System (PBS).
The Government intends to introduce the new immigration system in January 2021 following the Brexit transition phase. This report will inform Government thinking in the development of new schemes and qualifying criteria. The report supplements the recommendations already made by the MAC in their 2018 report on EEA-workers in the UK Labour Market.
The report runs to 272 pages. The key recommendations can be summarised as follows:
Individuals with a job offer
- The MAC recommend retaining the existing framework for Tier 2 (General) but expanding it to include NQF3+ or medium-skill level roles
- They advise a reduction in the minimum salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600 (based on the 2019 salary figures) for Tier 2 (General) sponsored migrants
- The definition of “new entrants” would be expanded to include those who are working towards recognised professional qualifications and those who are moving directly into postdoctoral positions
- The MAC rejects the idea of adopting lower salary thresholds for sponsored workers outside the London area.
Individuals without a job offer
The committee sees the current Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route as the template for the new “Australian-style” PBS. However they conclude that the category is too narrow to attract the overseas talent that the country will need post-Brexit and they recommend modifying the category.
The proposed modifications include:
- Having an overall annual cap for the category
- Monthly draws from a pool of overseas nationals who have “expressed an interest” in coming to the UK (presumably through a formal points based submission process)
- Selection should be points based, with the highest scoring applicants being invited to apply for a visa under this category
- There should be a minimum number of points
- Focus should be on particular characteristics at the Government’s preference, such as age, UK qualifications, subject matter knowledge and experience (STEM) etc.
- Characteristics should be meaningfully assessed – for example both the level and quality of qualifications should be considered when allocating points for qualifications
- Regular reviews of the category should be undertaken.
Individuals seeking settlement
The primary recommendation in relation to settlement is to discontinue proposed increases to the settlement income threshold whilst a detailed review of the paths to settlement, how they are working and possible changes to the criteria, are undertaken.
The committee sees the current Points Based System as a sensible template for the new immigration regime. Their recommendations are based on the understanding that the Government will abolish the Tier 2 (General) cap and the Resident Labour Market Test. It is important to note that the MAC’s role is purely advisory. It will be for ministers to decide the structure and content of the new immigration regulatory landscape. With only eleven months to go before the end of the transition phase, there is much work to be done.