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The long-awaited Immigration White Paper is here

The long-awaited Immigration White Paper, which the Home Secretary has described as the ‘biggest shake-up’ in immigration policy in 40 years, has finally been published on the run up to Christmas, after an 18-month delay.

The paper sets out the vision for the UK’s future immigration system, to come into effect when free movement ends at the end of the proposed transitional period (31 December 2020).

Summary of proposals

Key features of the new immigration system

  • the new system will not differentiate between EU and non-EU migrants – in principle a single system will apply to all, however certain flexibilities may apply to some nationals in accordance with trade agreements and/or on a risk analysis basis;
  • it is due to be implemented in a phased way between now and the end of the transition period, with some changes expected to commence from Autumn 2020 to allow migrants time to apply;
  • the rhetoric of the ‘tens of thousands’ net migration target has been replaced by reference to ensuring ‘sustainable levels’ of net migration.

Skilled and highly-skilled workers

  • skilled (RQF levels 3-5) and highly-skilled (RQF levels 6-8) workers, including EU nationals will be brought into a route akin to Tier 2. This route will continue to require sponsorship by employers as well as being subject to current minimum salary levels of £30,000 (minimum salary to be reviewed as part of a future consultation);
  • the annual cap of 20,700 for highly-skilled migrants will be removed; and
  • the resident labour market test (RLMT) will be removed.

Short-term and low-skilled workers

  • a time-limited transitional measure allowing for short-term and low-skilled workers from certain ‘low-risk’ nationalities, including EU nationals, to come the UK for up to 12 months is being introduced; and
  • migrants in this category will not be able to switch into a different immigration route, bring dependants or apply for settlement and will be subject to a 12-month cooling-off period once they leave the UK at the end of their 12-month stay.


  • EU nationals will not be required to obtain prior permission to enter the UK for short-term tourism and business travel (subject to the EU agreeing reciprocal arrangements);
  • EU nationals will be subject to the current visitor rules allowing entry of up to six months, including undertaking permitted paid engagements (PPE).


  • master’s degree and bachelor’s students at institutions with degree-awarding powers will be allowed six-month post-study leave to find skilled employment, with those who have completed a PhD getting a year; and
  • students studying at bachelor’s degree level or above will be allowed to switch to the skilled employment route up to three months before they finish their studies in the UK and up to two years after graduation if applying from outside of the UK.

Family migration

  • changes are expected to ‘strengthen’ the English language requirement as well as to ‘refresh’ the Life in the UK test to reflect better modern British values.

Thank you to Sophie Barrett-Brown from Laura Devine Solicitors for allowing us to re-publish this blog article. 

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