What's changing in immigration to the UK

Expat news
  • London, UK
    elenaburn / Shutterstock.com
Published on 2021-10-25 at 10:00 by Mikki Beru
Everything has changed since January 1, 2021, when Brexit came into effect. While some have simply given up their plans of relocating to the UK, others were cooled off by the new administrative procedure. Yet, others are still keen on moving to the UK. So how do you go about it from now on? 

The new British policy sums up in two words: “selective immigration”. While foreigners can still immigrate to the United Kingdom, they need to have specific knowledge and qualifications. In practice, there are brand new procedures for anyone who would like to settle in the country.

Visa requirements

There is no longer any distinction made between European and non-European nationals. While Europeans used to have some privileges when the UK was a member of the EU, they now get the same treatment as non-Europeans. Therefore, anyone moving to the UK needs a visa depending on their situation. There are currently four main types of visas.

Skilled worker visa

UK visas are now point-based. Candidates have to obtain 70 points in total. For the British government, these points are the most reliable instrument to control immigration since they are based solely on the candidate's skills. Newcomers must, above all, have the necessary qualities and meet a specific demand.

The visa fees are another novelty. They include application fees and an "Immigration Health Surcharge". By making these social contributions, expats will have access to healthcare services through the NHS (National Hospital Service), whether they are employed or self-employed. In practice, these contributions will cost around £ 624 per year per adult and £ 470 for children and students. However, this only covers health expenses incurred in public establishments will be covered. Meanwhile, foreign health professionals are exempt from contributions.

In practice, the expatriate candidate must meet three mandatory conditions:

  • formal employment offer matching the level of competence set by the Home office.
  • earn a salary of at least £ 25,600 (depending on specific conditions relating to the job)
  • speak English (minimum intermediate level - B1).


Each of these conditions helps the candidate earn points -- 20 for the employment offer, 20 if the job matches the candidate's skills, 10 for English proficiency. So in total, the candidate needs 50 mandatory points. The rest depends on other so-called complementary criteria. For example, you can earn 10 to 20 points with a salary of over £ 25,600. Working in a critical sector like healthcare or education is worth 20 points. You also get to earn 20 points if you are joining the labour market for the first time.

Health and care visa

The NHS was already under pressure before Covid-19, and today it is still facing a labour shortage. Considering the urgent need for foreign health professionals, the UK government is speeding up the process for applicants who meet the admission criteria. They have to be eligible for a visa in the health sector, receive a job offer from the NHS, and have a minimum B1 level in the English language (as for skilled workers). The British government is also committed to decreasing visa application fees so that applicants can immigrate with their families.

Global Talent Visa

This visa is meant for qualified foreign professionals who do not have a job offer from a company located in the UK. It is intended for people who wish to boost their career in research, engineering, arts, sciences, new technologies, etc. It is quite similar to the “Start-up and Innovator” visa.

Studying in the UK

The Brexit had a significant impact on international academic exchange programs, but it is still possible to study in the UK.

All applicants must obtain a student visa under the following conditions: registration has to be approved by an educational institution that the Home Office has accredited; fluency in English (reading, writing, speaking); financial security (students must be able to meet their needs and support their higher studies). Another condition is a moral contract -- which implies that the student agrees to study seriously in the UK.

A different visa application procedure has been set up for children and adolescents (4-17 years old). Graduates also benefit from their visa (Graduate visa) upon obtaining an undergraduate degree (Bachelor's degree following 3 or 4 years of study). This visa allows candidates to work in the UK for two years, extended to 3 years for doctoral students. Again, candidates have to be sponsored by the Home Office.

Many expatriates are appalled by such cumbersome and sluggish procedures, including administrative complications, the cost, etc. Still, some have not given up the idea of living and working in the UK despite the Brexit. It is clear that the government has joined a global race and intends to attract and retain the best foreign talent.