The Immigration Act that will end freedom of movement

The Immigration Bill has received Royal Assent ending freedom of movement on 31st December, and replaces it with a new points-based system

All bills require the approval of the Monarch before they become law, a process known as Royal Assent.

The Home Office said the Immigration Bill, which met significant resistance in the Lords during its passage, would ‘restore faith’ in the immigration system.

Britain will move to a points-based immigration system from 1st January 2021, reversing decades of free movement which has been enjoyed while a member of the European Union. The Queen signed the legislation, known as the Immigration and Social Co-ordination (EU withdrawal) Act 2020, following months of the Bill passing through Parliament.  Free movement will end at 11pm on 31st December 2020.  It means the UK will be free to decide who enters the country, with the government saying decisions will be based on the skills that individuals have to offer rather than where they are from.

From 1st January 2021, those seeking work in the UK will need to apply for permission in advance.

Visas will be given to those with sufficient points based on their skill levels, English language abilities, and whether their salary meets a required threshold.

Priti Patel, Home Secretary, said that getting the bill onto the statute book was ‘a historic day in our new direction outside of the EU – controlling our own borders and delivering on the people’s priorities’.

The government has launched a scheme to make it quicker for scientists, academics, investors, entrepreneurs and doctors, nurses and  healthcare professionals to come the UK. Most care workers however, will not be covered by the scheme. Those eligible for this visa will pay reduced fees and will be supported through the process, with a decision expected to be given within three weeks.  Successful applicants will be exempt from the immigration health surcharge, but will still have to meed the relevant skill level and salary thresholds.

It is felt that the vast majority of vacant positions in the social care sector will not be filled from immigrants as these workers are not classed as skilled and they are therefore not eligible for this re-branded NHS and care workers fast track visa. In short, care workers won’t be able to apply for a visa dedicated to care.  Ministers argue that immigration won’t solve the care sectors problems which, they say, are down to poor pay and career prospects making the jobs unattractive to British workers who could be capable of filling the roles.

Currently those from within the EU do not need a visa to work within the UK because they benefit from freedom of movement, although there are limits on claiming certain benefits.  This of course is what will all change after 31st December 2020.

Unions however, are warning the UK is facing a crisis now, with foreign born NHS workers, who are considered vital to helping the UKs Covid fight, leaving the country because their visas are expiring due to delays and the costs involved in renewing them.