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Current Events: UK unveils new points-based immigration system

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

Article by Annabelle Wilmott

The United Kingdom is to dramatically overhaul its immigration system. On February 19, 2020, the Home Office released a policy statement outlining the government’s plans for a new points-based immigration system. Set to take effect in 2021, the new system will reduce “reliance on cheap, low-skilled labor,” and seeks to attract “the greatest talents”: “scientists, engineers, academics, and other high-skilled workers.”

Migrants will need seventy points to qualify for a visa. To gain the necessary points, applicants must have an offer by an approved sponsor (20 points), a job at the appropriate skill level (20 points), demonstrate that they “can speak English” (10 points), and, in most instances, make more than £25,600 a year (20 points). While the first three qualifications are essential, the salary threshold will be relaxed for people in “specific shortage occupations” or those with a Ph.D. in their field.

The new rules will fulfill Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election promise to end freedom of movement and close its borders to low-skilled EU workers. EU citizens who have been able to move to the UK without any restrictions will now have to meet the same eligibility requirements as everyone else.

The system is projected to result in labor shortages in industries that are reliant on low-paid EU labor, including the social care industry, construction, and farming. Moreover, some have speculated that the plan will have its harshest impact on women. As women are four times more likely to leave their jobs to take on the burden of unpaid responsibilities, such as taking care of children or the elderly, the resulting labor shortages could have an unintended consequence of pressuring women in the country to take up more unpaid work.

Not surprisingly, big businesses are pushing back on the plan. Thus far, however, it does not appear that the government is yielding. The Home Office explicitly stated that it would “not implement a route for lower-skilled workers.” Rather, employers will have to adapt by prioritizing “staff retention, productivity, and wide investment in technology and automation” in place of reliance on immigration.



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