Priti Patel unveils new post Brexit points-based immigration system

13 July 2020, 15:12

Priti Patel has unveiled the new post-Brexit immigration system
Priti Patel has unveiled the new post-Brexit immigration system. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Home Secretary has unveiled plans for a new points-based immigration system in the UK.

The new system will be implemented from January 1 2021, immediately ending freedom of movement within the EU one day after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

Priti Patel said employers would be encouraged to invest in workers from within the UK under the new system.

Under the new system, anyone wanting to live and work in the UK will have to gain at least 70 points.

Points would be awarded for meeting criteria such as having a job offer, holding a PhD relevant to the job, speaking English or earning more than £22,000 a year.

Those with job offers in "shortage occupations" such as nursing and civil engineering would also be able to earn extra points.

The new rules also state that people seeking to come to the UK can be refused where they:

- Have a conviction with a custodial sentence length of at least 12 months

- Have committed an offence which caused serious harm

- Are a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law or "their character, conduct or associations means their presence is not conducive to the public good."

Speaking in the House of Commons, Home Office minister Kevin Foster said: "Under our new system, the UK will be open to the best talent from around the world.

"But it is right that employers should always be looking to recruit from the domestic workforce first and ensure that they offer good conditions and career development opportunities which make this possible.

"Especially as we look to support those who have suffered the economic effects of Covid-19."

Priti Patel has also announced a "new operational approach" to dealing with small boat crossings
Priti Patel has also announced a "new operational approach" to dealing with small boat crossings. Picture: PA

The Home Officer minister also said employers should focus on improving the skills of their workforce rather than relying on immigrant labour.

Kevin Foster said while the proposed points-based immigration system would still allow businesses to attract the "brightest and the best from around the world" the onus would be on businesses to upskill UK resident workers.

During Home Office questions, Tory MP Lee Anderson (Ashfield) asked for assurances the Government would implement a "firm but fair" immigration system while ensuring "British jobs for British workers."

Responding for the Government, Mr Foster said: "The points-based system will support our wider economic strategy by encouraging investment in the domestic UK workforce while ensuring that businesses can still attract the brightest and the best from the around the world."

He added: "We want employers to focus on training and investing in our domestic workforce, driving productivity and improving opportunities for resident workers with immigration policy being a part of, not an alternative to our strategy for the UK labour market."

The Home Office has said employers should rely "less on migrant labour"
The Home Office has said employers should rely "less on migrant labour". Picture: PA

On Monday, in a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons, Ms Patel said: "At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.

"But we are also making necessary changes, so it is simpler for employers to attract the best and brightest from around the world to come to the UK to complement the skills we already have.

"It will be simpler for businesses to access the talent they need as we have removed the Resident Labour Market Test, lowered the skills and salary threshold, and removed the cap on skilled workers.

"We will be introducing a new-fast track health and care visa. This will make it easier and quicker for talented global health professionals to work in our brilliant NHS and in eligible occupations in the social care sector. The visa fee will be reduced and health professionals applying can expect a decision on whether they can work in the UK within just three weeks, following biometric enrolment. We will exempt frontline workers in the health and social care sector and wider health workers from the requirement to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge."

Patel: wage won't be the determining factor in new immigration laws

However the bill has been criticised as "rushed" and "without detail".

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he had serious concerns that the new rules could damage the capital's economic recovery, causing difficulties for sectors including social care.

"Undermining these sectors will make it even harder to look after our elderly relatives and resolve the ongoing pressures within our NHS and social care system," he said.

"Instead of recognising the hugely positive impact that immigration has had on London and the UK's economy and communities, the Government is pulling up the drawbridge to much of the talent we continue to need as a city and a country."

Labour said it would scrutinise the proposals "very carefully", saying the government had "rushed through immigration legislation with very little detail in the middle of a global pandemic".

Priti Patel defends Immigration Bill as "levelling the playing field"

The bill was also criticised in the House of Commons, with one Labour MP saying barring migrant workers from accessing publicly-funded domestic abuse services is a "fundamentally racist policy".

Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle said that the Government should amend the Domestic Abuse Bill to enable victims who have no recourse to public funds to access support services.

Mr Coyle said: "As things stand the Government is discriminating against people who have no recourse to public funds restrictions imposed on them and their British-born children who are denied access to support."

Responding in the Commons, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "We are offering support to migrants who suffer domestic abuse through our destitute domestic violence (DDV) concession scheme."

She added: "Support that is provided by local authorities too (means) that, of course, people, individuals, can access both safe accommodation and get support through various means and that is incredibly important."

And Labour MP Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) said that it was an "added insult" for migrant health and social care workers that it is taking so long to exempt them from the health surcharge.

Ms Ali said: "The fact that migrant workers in the NHS and care sector have had to pay the surcharge in the first place is an insult to their sacrifices and the fact that the Government is taking so long to implement the promise that the Prime Minister made is an added insult.

"Can I ask (Home Office minister Kevin Foster) how many people have actually now got the exemption and how many are left to receive it?"

Mr Foster responded: "Refund payments have already started and we are imminent to implement the new health and care visa which will see those under it exempt. So work is continuing and to be clear, the health surcharge is about creating resources for the NHS and has supported the NHS.

"But we've announced this policy and we're driving it forward."