How will employers fare under the new immigration system? Jonathan Beech in Personnel Today

Dec 1, 2020

Written by Adam McCulloch.  Published 30 November 2020

The UK’s new immigration system comes into force at 9am on 1 December 2020. Brought in under Brexit, will the system make it easier or harder for employers to have access to skilled personnel?


Personnel Today asked Jonathan Beech, Migrate UK’s Managing Director, for his reflections on the new system and what its advantages and disadvantages will be.

Read the whole article here


At first glance, the points-based system appears a more attractive proposition to employers, certainly in relation to skill and salary levels and cutting red tape.

From 1 December, employers will be able to sponsor workers who are taking on A-level vacancies as opposed to just degree level jobs. This opens up over 140 more job codes and include those below manager level. The salary thresholds are also dropping but it is important that employers check the immigration rules every time they plan to fill a vacancy as a migrant worker must also be paid at least the going rate for the job. The going rate will further depend on whether the proposed employee is a student, under the age of 26 at the time of making the visa application, or is taking on a shortage occupation or PhD level role. The salary goalposts are expected to move regularly so this will need to be bookmarked.

On the red tape front; the much-derided resident labour market test (RLMT) is being removed. Therefore, there is no obligation for employers to show carefully worded job ads for 28 days with a skilled worker application, thus shortening the time to onboard a sponsored worker.

new immigration system

Jonathan Beech Managing Director

However, the spectre may still remain in light of employers needing to show they have a genuine vacancy. Employers may wish to keep details of the recruitment campaigns they have initiated should the Home Office come knocking. There is some cheer with the news that the cooling-off rules (where some migrants could not return to work for 12 months after being sponsored) is being abolished for skilled workers and heavily revised for intra-company transfers.

Furthermore, more immigration categories are able to “switch” into others. This is particularly enticing for intra company transfers moving to the skilled worker category (which leads to settlement). Good for the worker, but a worry for the employer as it will be more difficult for them to hold onto staff.

Guidance for employers has been revised; however, on first acquaintance, the 200-plus page document has just been split into sections. Compliance is being given more prominence under the new system and it will be important for employers to understand their obligations as sponsors. There is little (if any) leeway for mistakes to be made which could result in the loss of a sponsor licence, a fine or even imprisonment.

The opening up of the system could well be seen as a free-for-all for employers and a strange tactic for the Home Office to use where there has been a history of trying to reduce numbers and protect settled workers.

Of course, there is a big sharp sting in the tail: cost. For a medium / large organisation to sponsor a worker for five years, the fees will be close to £10,000. For small organisations it is around £7,000. Factor in family members and possible settlement applications and they could rocket. Thankfully, applying for a sponsor licence is not so expensive and will be valid for four years. It will therefore be a case of pay-as-you-go for each employee. It is recommended to apply for a licence should you believe you’ll have any medium/high skill level vacancies in the next 12 months. Overseas job candidates have been looking at potential suitors on the publicly available register of sponsors and many will only consider those.

Those without could be missing out on valuable talent.

For more insights from Jonathan Beech, this article provides important advice about the new immigration system for HR professionals – Settled status: are your EU workers ready or at risk?


Migrate UK understands the difficulty in remaining compliant with ever-changing regulations, some of which are rarely publicised. Call us for free initial advice about the new immigration system: 01235 841 568 or email

new immigration system

Migrate UK immigration lawyers