United Kingdom Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday announced the launch of the UK's new points-based visa system, aimed at attracting skilled migrants from across the world, including from India, and cutting down on the number of low-skilled workers coming to the country.
“We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country's full potential,” Patel, in charge of the UK's visa and immigration system, said.
The new system will come into force from January 1, 2021, the end of the transition period following Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) last month.
The new post-Brexit system, which will apply equally to the EU and non-EU countries like India, is based on assigning points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and professions, with visas only awarded to those who gain enough points.
"Today is a historic moment for the whole country. We're ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people's priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down," said Patel, the senior-most Indian-origin Cabinet minister in the UK government.
The UK Home Office said the new system is a direct response to the 2016 referendum in favour of Brexit, which was seen as a vote to end the country's reliance on cheap migrant labour and reduce overall levels of migration with tighter security.
"The new single global system will treat the EU and non-EU citizens equally. It will give top priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents, including scientists, engineers and academics”, the Home Office said.
The Global Talent Scheme, a fast-track visa to be in operation from Friday, will also apply to the EU citizens from next year to allow highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer.
All other visa applicants will be required to have a job offer and, in line with the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendations, the minimum salary threshold will be set at GBP 25,600 pounds - lower than the previous GBP 30,000 pounds level for Tier 2 work visas.
The new points-based system will also expand the skills threshold for skilled workers.
Those looking to live and work in the UK will need to be qualified up to A-level or equivalent, rather than degree-level under the current system. This will provide greater flexibility and ensure UK business has access to a wide pool of skilled workers, the Home Office said.
In contrast, there will be no specific route for low-skilled workers, which was one of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s campaign promises ahead of the election last year.
It is estimated 70 per cent of the existing EU workforce would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route, which will help to bring overall numbers down in future, the Home Office said.
Student visa routes will also be points-based and be opened up to EU citizens from next year.
Those wishing to study in the UK will need to demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, that they can support themselves financially and that they speak English.