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A guide to the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system

From 1st January 2021, the United Kingdom will no longer be covered by EU freedom of movement legislation and will introduce a new points-based immigration system, which the UK government has described as ‘simple, effective and flexible’.

Secretary of State, Priti Patel, has backed the UK’s new immigration system, highlighting that it will help Britain take back control of its borders whilst securing highly qualified individuals from across the globe.

As of today, immigrants wishing to live, work or study in the UK can apply for the UK government’s new ‘skilled worker visa’ but must ensure that they meet the relevant criteria to gain the sufficient number of points required

There are concerns; however, that international businesses looking to set up regional offices in the UK could be discouraged from doing so as a result of the new visa system. Some international business owners have highlighted that Priti Patel’s comments “to bring skilled workers into the UK” contradicts Rishi Sunak’s remarks that the UK should “protect itself from overseas state actors looking to disrupt UK business.”

The new rules emulate Australia’s existing immigration system, in what the Conservative party believes to be a fairer process by prioritising skilled workers.

British passport and map of Europe

What is covered in the UK’s new points-based immigration system?

Under the UK’s new visa system, migrants will be assessed and awarded points on a variety of skills and attributes. To be eligible for a skilled worker visa, which must be extended after five years, migrants must reach a total of 70 points:

20 points awarded for:

  • Jobs offered by an approved sponsor
  • Jobs at a high skill level
  • PhD in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering and maths)
  • Salaries of GBP 25,600+
  • Jobs that are at a shortage in the UK

10 points awarded for:

  • Speaking fluent English
  • Salaries between GBP 23,040 to GBP 25,599

Migrants looking to move to the UK will be categorised into four tiers; temporary workers, students, skilled workers and high-value workers. Regardless of tier, all migrants must pay an application fee between GBP 610 to GBP 1,408, a healthcare charge of GBP 624 and have at least GBP 1,270 available to support themselves.

In addition to the skilled worker visa, migrants can also enter the UK via a global talent visa for those who possess an ‘exceptional talent’ or show potential to develop within a particular field such as science, humanities, medicine, technology and culture. The UK Home Office has confirmed that once migrants have completed the necessary steps, a decision will be made within three weeks.

Changes to UK residents travelling to the EU post-Brexit

With the end of the Brexit transition period fast approaching, many UK residents are concerned that a visa will be required when travelling to the EU.

Whilst the rules currently remain unclear, it is likely that any significant changes will not come into force until 2022 when European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) has been finalised. This system will allow UK travellers to enter the EU with a valid British passport by applying online.

Currently, a valid British passport when travelling to the EU covers travel up until the passport’s date of expiry. Post-Brexit, however, the definition of what constitutes a valid passport is set to change.

When UK residents travel to the EU from 1st January 2021, passports must have more than six months validity remaining and be issued within the last nine years. The maximum length of stay without a visa will be 90 days within any six-month period. Visitors who exceed their 90-day stay will often be given three days grace but could then be faced with either a fine or a yearlong ban from the Schengen area.

closeup of australian visa in passport

Changes to Australia’s immigration system

Whilst the UK’s new points-based immigration system is very similar to that of Australia’s, recent developments have now changed the way the Australian Government grants an Australian partner visa. At present, the partner of an Australian resident who applies for citizenship offshore, must not be in Australia when their visa is granted.

This rule caused significant disruption when the coronavirus pandemic struck due to travel and quarantine restrictions. Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has since confirmed that partner visas will be granted onshore, sparing the need for an unnecessary trip abroad. The substantial change will also cover prospective marriage, child and adoption visas and looks to benefit an estimated 4,000 applicants. Mr Tudge labelled the amendment as ‘common sense’ within the coronavirus pandemic, preventing the need for potentially unsafe travel arrangements.

Australian Dollars

Brexit hopes cause GBP/AUD to edge higher

As Brexit trade negotiations enter their final days, the British pound to Australian dollar (GBP/AUD) exchange rate has recovered from last week’s losses. At the time of writing the British pound to Australian dollar (GBP/AUD) exchange rate is trending higher at AUD 1.82 in light of optimistic Brexit comments.

Indications that the UK could reach a Brexit trade deal with the EU has taken precedence over yesterday’s comments made during the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) December policy meeting. The RBA were optimistic regarding their outlook of the Australian economy, but this appeared to provide little momentum for the Australian dollar (AUD).

The Australian currency, however, has the potential to surge against its key counterparts if its Q3 growth rates released tomorrow prove better than the 2.6% forecast by economists. In the meantime, the British pound to Australian dollar (GBP/AUD) exchange rate will remain sensitive to this week’s Brexit updates, with signs of a no-deal undoubtedly casting a shadow on the currency pairing.