TIGA Summary: the UK’s New Immigration System

 

TIGA, the trade association representing the video games industry, has produced the following review of the UK’s new post-Brexit immigration system.  The UK and EU have recently agreed a range of provisions as part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement announced on 24 December 2020.  The biggest changes include the UK being able to establish its own immigration system, the ending of free movement between the EU and UK, on 31 December 2020 and an agreement to allow for visa free travel for most short-term visits (90 days in any 180-day period)[1].

Below, TIGA has broken down what these changes will mean for the UK video games industry and how businesses will have to adjust.

New Immigration Rules

From 1 December 2020, applications for the new Skilled Worker visa programme opened.  The new immigration system then became effective on 1 January 2021. The new global system awards points for skills, having a job offer and speaking English.  A total of 70 points are required to apply to work in the UK and points are awarded as follows[2]:

Characteristics Mandatory or Tradeable Points
Offer of job by approved sponsor Mandatory 20
Job at appropriate skill level Mandatory 20
Speaks English at required level Mandatory 10
Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher) Tradeable 0
Salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher) Tradeable 10
Salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher) Tradeable 20
Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee Tradeable 20
Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job Tradeable 10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job Tradeable 20

The Government’s policy is designed to encourage employers to focus on training and investing in the UK workforce, driving productivity and improving opportunities for individuals, especially those impacted by coronavirus.

Applications for Skilled Worker visas are made online where people will need to prove their identity and provide documents. If the application is successful, the visa will last for up to 5 years before it needs to be extended.

The application fee ranges from £610 to £1,408 and applicants must also have enough money to pay the healthcare surcharge (£624 per year) and support themselves when they arrive in the UK (usually at least £1,270).[3] Application fees for Skilled Worker visas are lower for those jobs on the SOL (£464 for those staying up to three years).

Alternative visas

Alongside the Skilled Worker visa, several other routes have opened. These include:

  • Global Talent Visa for people who can show they have exceptional talent or exceptional promise in the fields of science, engineering, humanities, medicine, digital technology or arts and culture. Highly skilled individuals in these fields who can achieve the required level of points will be able to enter the UK without a job offer if they are endorsed by a recognised UK body, as approved by the Home Office .[4] Applicants who hold a qualifying prize can fast-track the endorsement application and instead make a single visa application. A full list of eligible prizes is available here.
  • Graduate Visa for students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021. This will enable international students to remain in the UK and work at any skill level for two years after they have completed their studies.
  • Intra-company Transfer Visa, which is for established workers who are being transferred by the business they work for to do a skilled role in the UK. The route requires applicants to be in roles skilled to Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) 6 (graduate level equivalent) and subject to a different minimum salary threshold from the main Skilled Worker route.
  • Start-up Visa for a person seeking to establish a business in the UK based on an innovative, viable and scalable business idea.
  • Innovator Visa for those with industry experience and at least £50,000 funding.
  • Creative route for applicants in the creative industry who are entering the UK for short-term contracts or engagements for up to 12 months.

More information on the UK’s new immigration system can be found here.

Business Travel

Travel for work and business to the EU, EEA and Switzerland has changed for UK nationals.  There are certain visa or work permit requirements that now apply to all sectors of the economy.[5]

Business meetings

If you are traveling to the EU, EEA, or Switzerland for fewer than 90 days in a 180-day period, for a business meeting, you will not need a visa.  Some EU and EEA countries may also decide to allow for other activities in their countries without a visa. If you are travelling for more than 90 days in a 180-day period, then a visa or work permit might be required.  For further guidance see the Gov.uk website.

Exceptions to the business meetings rules

There are a range of activities for which travel, for any length of time, might require you to have a visa, work permit or other documentation.  This will vary from country to country.  These activities include

  • Transferring to a subsidiary or branch of the same company in a different country (intra-corporate transfer).
  • Carrying out a contract to supply a service to a client in another country in which your employer has no presence (contractual service supplier).
  • Carrying out services in another country as a self-employed person (independent professional).
  • Moving temporarily to invest for yourself or on behalf of a company.

Rules will vary from country to country and are liable to change over time.  If you are travelling for business purposes, the UK Government advises that you check the rules on the website of the relevant Member State to confirm what actions you need to take.  For a list of all the relevant Government information for each country, follow this link.

Becoming a licensed sponsor

Under the new immigration system, it is often the case that you will need a sponsor licence to employ someone to work for you, paid or unpaid, from outside the UK. This includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.

For certain groups, there are exemptions where businesses will not need to be a licensed sponsor.  This includes:

  • Irish citizens
  • Those with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK

More information is available on the requirements for sponsorship here.

To get a sponsor license you will first need to check your business is eligible.  Then you will need to decide what type of worker you want to sponsor and then pick the type of licence you wish to apply for.  Businesses will also need to decide who will manage the sponsorship process.

You can then apply online and pay the requisite fees.

Once you have applied, and you have been successful in that application, your business will be given a licence rating.  You will then be able to issue certificates of sponsorship to roles that are suitable.  Licenses will be valid for four years and are revokable if you fail to meet your responsibilities as a sponsor.

Immigration skills charge

Under certain circumstances, your business might have to pay an additional charge when you award a certificate of sponsorship to someone applying for a Skilled Worker or Intra-company Transfer visa. This is called the ‘immigration skills charge’.

You must pay the immigration skills charge if the person applying is doing so from:

  • Outside the UK to work in the UK for 6 months or more
  • Inside the UK for any length of time

Your business will not need to pay the immigration skills charge if you are sponsoring someone:

  • on an Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa
  • who is on a visa to study in the UK, and switches to a Skilled Worker or Intra-company Transfer visa – if they then extend their stay on the new visa, you will not have to pay the charge

Or if the applicant has one of the following occupation codes:

  • chemical scientists (2111)
  • biological scientists and biochemists (2112)
  • physical scientists (2113)
  • social and humanities scientists (2114)
  • natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified (2119)
  • research and development managers (2150)
  • higher education teaching professionals (2311)
  • clergy (2444)
  • sports players (3441)
  • sports coaches, instructors, or officials (3442)

You also might not have to pay the charge if you’re sponsoring a worker who was assigned a certificate before 6 April 2017. Additionally, you will not need to pay the charge for any of the worker’s dependants, for example their partner or child.

If your business has assigned a certificate of sponsorship to an individual who then moves to a new job, with a different occupation code but within your organisation, you will need to assign them a new certificate which they will need to use to apply for a new visa.  The immigration skills charge will need to be paid again if the end date on the new visa is later than the end date on the existing visa.

The charge is paid when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to the worker and the amount you need to pay is based on:

  • the size of the organisation
  • how long the worker will work for you, using the start and end dates on their sponsorship certificate
Period Small or charitable sponsors Medium or large sponsors
First 12 months £364 £1,000
Each additional 6 months £182 £500

Further information on the immigration skills charge is available here.

 

[1] Trade and Cooperation Agreement¸ Prime Minister’s Office, 24 December 2020, link, pg. 260

[2] An introduction for employers, UK Visas and Immigration, 4 January 2021, link

[3] Gov.UK, Skilled Worker visa, link

[4] Recognised bodies include Tech Nation for digital technology and Arts Council England for arts and culture. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-points-based-immigration-system-employer-information/the-uks-points-based-immigration-system-an-introduction-for-employers#skilled-worker-route

[5] Visit Europe from 1 January 2021, HM Government, link