It appears the UK Government is having a ‘spring-clean’ of its Points Based System for economic migration (PBS), amid a backdrop of criticism for its perceived slow response to the Ukraine refugee crisis.
Several of the current PBS routes are being scrapped and replaced, and brand-new routes are added. This is being presented as a key aspect of the Government’s Plan for Growth changes.
Aspects of the Ukraine crisis, and associated concerns about security, have hastened recent changes, but they have been planned for some time. Statement of Changes HC1118, published on 15 March 2022, introduces three new immigration routes for spring 2022. These are:
- The Global Business Mobility route
- Scale-up route and
- High Potential Individual (HPI) route.
Several new appendices concerning family and private life are also being introduced, whilst further revisions to the existing Immigration Rules are being made.
The three routes are briefly outlined below:
Global Business Mobility route
The new route introduces the concept of the Secondment Worker, for “overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is being seconded to the UK as part of a high value contract or investment by their employer overseas”.
In addition, the Global Mobility Route replaces some parts of the current PBS system.
High Potential Individual (HPI) route
Following the Government's aim of attracting and retaining talent to the UK, the new HPI route allows those who graduated from the top 50 non-UK universities to come to the UK for up to two years, unsponsored. Their qualification must be awarded within five years immediately preceding the visa application and be equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. If the applicant has achieved an award equivalent to a UK PhD, the maximum time they may come to the UK unsponsored increases to three years.
An eligible university must be ranked in the top-50 of at least two of the following ranking systems:
- The Times Higher Education World University rankings
- The Academic Ranking of World Universities
- The Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings
The underlying emphasis is to sharpen the focus on those who can bring the greatest economic and competitive benefits to the UK by making the immigration routes more attractive. It also deals with some redundant hang-overs from the earlier versions of the system: for example, once the Resident Labour Market Test was withdrawn from the Skilled Worker category (formerly Tier 2 (General), the Intra Company route no longer offered any significant advantage besides an exemption from the English language requirement and was being used far less frequently.
The UK Government is trying to simplify the immigration system without compromising either the country's security or the protection of the settled labour market. These changes will not remove all the problems with the current arrangements, where under-resourcing remains a challenge and process can be slow.