Immigration points-based system and ELT: more detail and English UK's response
21 February 2020

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Immigration points-based system and ELT: more detail and English UK's response

The Government's new points-based immigration system was announced this week, with further detail given to English UK in a stakeholder conference call with Home Office officials.

"We are disappointed that the Government has not acknowledged our industry's need for trained summer staff, earning below the suggested threshold, to be able to enter the UK. We will monitor this situation and consider applying for the Migration Advisory Committee's shortage occupation list. We are also concerned about the removal of ID card travel, particularly for junior groups, and are awaiting further information during the next month about exactly when this will happen," said Jodie Gray, English UK's interim chief executive.

She added: "However, there is some welcome news for UK ELT. It is good that short-term study visas remain broadly as they are now, including the 11-month visa for English students. Our Home Office briefing also suggested that they may be looking to simplify some of the regulations around the short-term study visas and that they are considering in-country applications once more, something on which we have campaigned for some time.

"It's also good that the Government remains committed to raising student numbers to the target of 600,000 in the International Education Strategy.

"We will continue to work for the best interests of our members by all means possible."


Points-based system: what ELT centres need to know

General migration

  • Free movement is ending and all students, tourists and workers coming from anywhere outside the UK and Ireland for more than six months will need visas from 1 January 2021. The UK will launch a points-based system on that date which is designed to deny access to UK employment for most lower-skilled workers earning below a certain threshold.
  • The new system does not have a temporary work route but it is possible that the youth mobility scheme may be extended beyond the current eight countries as part of trade negotiations. The points-based system will continue to develop after January 2021.
  • EU migrants will be non-visa nationals.
  • There are plans for the system to go live for applications from autumn 2020. EU applicants will get electronic visas and can enter through e-gates but a "mixed economy" will remain for migrants from the rest of the world.
  • ID card travel will be phased out and proposals on how this will be done will be published shortly.

Student migration

  • All EU/EEA and non-EU students will need a tier four visa if they wish to study for longer than one of the short-term study visa routes (see below). They will achieve the required points if they can demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, speak English and are able to support themselves during their studies in the UK. EU and EEA Tier 4 applicants will not need to provide fingerprints, will be able to upload their photo online, and will continue to be able to enter via e-gates.
  • The 11-month short-term study (STS)  visa will stay as it is now, say Home Office officials.
  • The six-month STS visa will also stay but the Home Office says it is currently thinking about whether it should remain separate from the visitor route
  • English language and genuine student requirements remain the same, although the Home Office is investigating whether it can "refine and improve" the genuine student requirements.
  • In-country visa switching: the Home Office is looking at a possible relaxation of the rules on non-work routes to give more flexibility
  • The Home Office says the intention remains to increase student numbers and the target of 600,000 in the International Education Strategy remains.

Staff migration

  • The salary threshold will drop to £25,600, and 30% lower for new entrants. Pro-rata salaries will not be accepted and there are no regional variations.
  • Required skills levels for migrant workers drop from RQF6 (graduate) to RQF3 (roughly A-level or equivalent)
  • The Migration Advisory Committee will continue to keep a Shortage Occupations List. English UK will continue to monitor the situation around ELT centre staff and make representations as necessary.

Points-based system: what ELT centres need to do now

  • Centres who want to hire international staff will need to become Tier 2 sponsors: the Home Office suggests starting that process quickly
  • Centres may also need to become Tier 4 sponsors: again, it's a good idea to start the application process now
  • Keep EU-based agents and partners informed about changes to immigration rules for the UK. After 1 January 2021 all students will need a short-term study or T4 visa and ID card travel is being phased out.
  • Consider ways in which you can get summer staff once free movement ends, perhaps by subsidising training on condition of employment.
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