The UK is due to leave the EU at the end of this year on 31 December 2020 to be exact. Many people are concerned about the changes to UK visas after Brexit. UK government officials on many occasions boasted about the new and fair UK immigration system post-Brexit and on many occasions referred to an Australian type point-based approach. Many of those promises have failed to materialise, even though there were a number of positive developments and announcements made over the past few months.
In this article, we plan to outline the main changes that have so far been announced by the UK Government to the Immigration Rules after Brexit. We wish to explore in details what UK visas will be available after Brexit. We will keep updating this article with new information once it is officially published.
What Visa Provisions Will Stay the Same After Brexit?
Most of the post Brexit immigration categories for visas will remain unchanged. For ease of reference, we will list the main ones below:
- Tier 1 (Investor) – Following the introduction of numerous changes in March 2019, the Home Office so far did not announce any plans to rework the category any further. We, therefore, expect it to remain unchanged.
- Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) – this category no longer exists for new applications, it is only possible to apply for an ILR at the end of the relevant qualifying period, please refer to our article on Global Talent visa for more information. The category has been renamed into a Global Talent visa route, however, most of the provisions from Tier 1 (ET) remain unchanged.
- Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT) – We are not yet aware of any plans to discontinue those two categories of visas. It was announced that a new “skilled worker” route will be introduced, however, it is unclear whether it will completely replace Tier 2 or exist alongside it. We will find out more later in the year. For now, applications for Tier 2 visas are accepted as normal including Tier 2 (General) ILR applications.
- Tier 4 (General) student – We do not expect any changes to Tier 4 student visa route post Brexit.
- Tier 5 visas – We do not expect any changes to Tier 5 visas post-Brexit in 2021. There have been no announcements by the government or the Home Office to indicate otherwise.
- Innovator and Start-Up visas – Those categories were introduced in March 2019 following the closure of Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route. The categories were introduced with a view of Brexit, so we do not really expect any further changes to follow. I would not be surprised if the routes are relaxed a little, since at the moment they are overly restrictive.
- Sponsor Licences – Any employer who wants to sponsor a worker post-Brexit, both EU and non-EU nationals, will need to be an “approved” employer, meaning that they must hold a valid sponsor licence.
- Family Routes – We do not expect any upcoming changes to the family routes under UK Immigration Rules, those include applications for UK spouse visas under Appendix FM, Parent of a British/settled child applications, children of British/settled parents etc.
- UK Ancestry Route – Again, we do not expect any changes.
- EU Rules – Free Movement will end next year post-Brexit, so European Regulations will no longer be in force. Settlement scheme will still operate next year as it does now, anyone eligible must apply prior to June 2021.
Will EU Citizens Require UK Visa After Brexit?
Important – The categories above will be open to EU nationals as well as non-EU nationals who wish to come and live in the UK after Brexit. The government has confirmed that there will be no separate provisions for UK visas for EU nationals, they will be on par with non-EU applicants and will need to qualify under the most appropriate route. The only exemption available for EU nationals is the ability to travel visa-free for tourist/visit purposes for up to 6 months.
We feel that out of all the changes announced to UK visas after Brexit so far, the most extreme will be the fact that EU nationals will need to apply for one of the visas on par with everyone else. EU nations will also be liable to pay hugely extortionate application visa fees if they wish to live or settle in the UK.
To provide an example, currently, an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application for non-EU nationals costs £2,389 plus optional add-ons such as expedited processing of £800. The fees are paid per applicant, so the family of four will be required to pay application fees in the region of £10,000, ouch! EU nationals, on the other hand, at the current time can apply for a settled status/ILR for no fee at all. Applications for a Permanent Residence historically cost no more than £65 per applicant. A huge difference indeed!
New Immigration Categories and Routes for Visas after Brexit
Now that we know that most UK visas will mostly remain unchanged after Brexit, with a few routes below being introduced. So, what are the new routes and visas that will come into effect following UK Brexit later this year? We will now consider them one by one:
1. Global Talent visa route – As mentioned above, Global Talent visa route completely replaced Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) earlier this year. Global Talent visa route has been introduced to support the government’s vision of post-Brexit Britain. However, it is probably unfair to call it a “new” route, since most of the provisions and requirements were kept from its predecessor, Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent). We discuss the Global Talent visa route in-depth in our article here.
2. Skilled Migrant Worker visa route – This is a flagship route for workers who wish to be employed in the UK after the UK leaves the EU. The route will apply to both EU nationals and non-EU nationals. It is unclear whether Skilled Worker route will supersede the Tier 2 route, we expect that more information to follow in the coming weeks and months.
As with Global Talent visa route above, it is probably unfair to present the Skilled Migrant Worker visa route as a completely new route. Rather, it is an evolution of a Tier 2 route with a number of changes/simplifications.
To be sponsored under a Skilled Worker visa, the migrant will need to have an offer in place from an “approved sponsor” (i.e. a company with a sponsor licence), the vacancy must be at an appropriate skill level and the salary must be above the relevant threshold. Those familiar with a Tier 2 (General) visa probably had a moment of deja vu.
Three main novelties are that there is no longer a requirement on employers to conduct a Residence Labour Market Test (“RLMT”), it will be possible to sponsor employees for lower-skilled occupations at RQF level 3 as opposed to a minimum of RQF level 6 under current Tier 2 provisions. Finally, the salary threshold has been reduced to £25,600 per annum for the majority of applicants, from existing £30,000 for “experienced” Tier 2 workers.
3. Post Study Work Visa – UK Graduate Immigration Route. This is an exciting reincarnation of a long-forgotten post-study work visa route which was closed in 2012. The route will allow Tier 4 international students to remain in the UK for 2 years in order to find employment following graduation. The route will be available to students graduating from summer 2021 onwards and is a completely new UK visa that will be available after Brexit. While we do not have all the details of the new route yet, it is, nonetheless, a very exciting prospect for most students who will now have 2 years to find employment in the UK, as opposed to a couple of months they a being raced with nowadays.
Overall, there is a lot to get excited about, the UK government seem to have finally abandoned their approach to bringing immigration under tens of thousands and Immigration Rules are being relaxed accordingly. We expect that more positive changes will follow next year. The main drawback is, of course, an end to the free movement for EU nationals. It is, therefore, advisable for any EU nationals who plan to come to the UK next year or who are already residing in the UK, to consider preparing and submitting a settled/pre-settled status application to protect their rights of residence under very generous provisions that exist now.
Immigration Lawyers at Edmans & Co
Our team at Edmans & Co is, as always, keeping a very close eye on the developments and expected changes. For many, there is a lot of uncertainty, but the closer we get to 2021, the better is our outlook on what the law will look like. Our London immigration lawyers can assist both individuals and businesses in preparing for the changes that will be introduced after Brexit.
- You can book a consultation with one of our highly experienced legal team to discuss your options to come or remain in the UK following Brexit. We always try to find the best solutions for each client and advice what UK visa you can apply for after Brexit, quite often even ones you may have never thought about.
- Contact our lawyers to discuss your business and employment needs following Brexit. UK companies will need to obtain a sponsor licence to become an approved sponsor if they wish to sponsor EU and/or non-EU nationals after Brexit. Now is as good a time as any to prepare and submit this application.
- For EU nationals who wish to remain or come and live in the UK following Brexit, now is a good opportunity to consider protecting their status before UK leaves the EU, as otherwise, EU nationals will fall under the very strict provisions of UK Immigration Rules potentially as soon as next year.
Our consultation fee is standard £100 + VAT. Use the contact us form on our website or contact our office to book a consultation now and allow an expert to provide you with comprehensive immigration advice based on your specific circumstances.
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