Summary of UK immigration information relevant to university staff
- Changes affecting EU, EEA and Swiss nationals working in the UK
- Frontier Worker Permit for EEA Nationals
- The Points-Based System
- The Skilled Worker Route
- New Entrants
- Going rates
- Eligibility for PhD points
- Tradeable points combinations
- Health and Care Visa
- Global Talent Visa route
- Permitted Paid Engagement
- The Employer Checking Service
- Government Authorised Exchange Visa
- Temporary Worker - Creative and Sporting visa (T5)
- Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa
- The Graduate route
- Employment of Individuals on a Student Visa
- Applying for Certificate of Sponsorship
- UK standard visitor visa
The UK introduced a Points-Based Immigration System (PBS) and new immigration rules on 1 January 2021, when ‘freedom of movement’ with the European Union (EU) ended. These changes affect how EU and non-EU citizens are treated. Irish citizens are able to enter and live in the UK as previously.
If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who lived in the UK before 31 December 2020, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. UCL strongly encourages eligible staff to apply before 30 June 2021. If you have any issues with applying for Settled Status, please contact HR Services.
Changes affecting EU, EEA and Swiss nationals working in the UK
From 2021, free movement for EEA citizens ended and new criteria whereby they may live and work in the UK were introduced. European entrants now need to pay the same Government application fees and NHS Surcharge paid by non-European migrants. They also need to factor in visa processing times prior to travel.
There is no change to right to work checks for citizens of the Common Travel Area (CTA) including for Irish citizens, who continue to have the right to work and move freely in and out of the UK. The recruiting manager does not need to require evidence of their status: the candidate’s verbal confirmation of their status will be enough.
The deadline for applying for most people was 30 June 2021. Applications may continue to be made if that deadline did not apply, or the applicant has ‘reasonable grounds’ for not applying by the deadline.
Permanent residents can apply free to convert to settled status and subsequently apply for citizenship (if they meet the criteria). Anyone with five years’ continuous residence can apply for settled status, provided they have spent no more than 180 days in any 12-month period abroad. There are some exceptions to this for staff conducting research abroad, who can be outside the UK for longer. Those working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic can apply from outside the UK, provided they have spent no more than 180 days in the past 12 months abroad.
For any eligible member of staff moving to the UK to take up a position with UCL, interest free loans of up to £10,000 are available from UCL to fund immigration charges and the cost of legal advice. See the GOV.UK website for the evidential document list and postal application process.
Individual EEA nationals must obtain a visa in advance of travel, unless they are eligible for or have obtained status via the EU Settlement Scheme.
EU nationals arriving at the border of the UK are given entry for 6 months as a visitor. They are not allowed to work without a visa allowing them to do so. Visitors can apply for a visa in advance of travel.
Frontier Worker Permit for EEA Nationals
Since December 2020, those not normally resident in the UK intending to visit UCL in the capacity of guest lecturers or external examiners for example have been eligible to apply for a Frontier Workers permit. This permit has been created for EEA nationals living outside the UK but commuting to work here. To be eligible, such individuals must have visited the UK to work before the 31 December 2020 but should live outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 month period. Permits can be issued for up to 5 years and may be re-issued, provided the permit holder continues to work in the UK in the manner described above.
The Points-Based System
Details about the PBS are available on the Home Office website together with an introduction for employers. Final details of the new PBS were published in the autumn of2020 via new legislation. Under the PBS, most migrants are able to apply to switch from one immigration route to another without having to leave the UK.
The Skilled Worker Route
The Skilled Worker Route (SWR) which replaced the Tier 2 Visa, was introduced in the autumn of 2020 for applications from those who wish to work in the UK. This route is for EU and non-EU nationals.
The SWR applies to a larger subset of jobs than did Tier 2, due to opening up this visa route to roles at and above Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3. This is a significantly larger pool than those jobs previously eligible, which were at RQF level 6 and above. The Government provides up-to-date information about what qualification levels mean. Review the Skilled Worker Visa: eligible occupations and codes before a role is advertised, to identify whether UCL may be able to sponsor an applicant to perform the role.
There is no longer a cap on the number of people who can come to the UK and the resident labour market test has been abolished. Points are assigned for specific skills, qualifications, salaries and shortage occupations and visas are awarded to those who gain sufficient points.
A job offer must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold. This is the higher of either:
- the general salary threshold set at £25,600, or
- the specific salary requirement for their occupation, known as the ‘going rate’
There are different salary rules for some workers in certain health or education jobs, for ‘new entrants’ at the start of their careers, those taking up shortage occupations and those able to obtain 'tradeable points'.
Based on the premise that 70 points are required to qualify for permission to work and that some characteristics are mandatory (i.e. not ‘tradeable’), the system includes the following:
|All of the following criteria must be met to be eligible to apply for a visa (so the individual needs to score all 50 points):|
|Offer of job from approved sponsor||No||20|
|Job at appropriate skill level (e.g. RQF level 3 (A levels) and above)||No||20|
|Speaks English at required level*||No||10|
|The following criteria are tradeable and applicants must score at least 20 points:|
|Salary of £20,480 (minimum) - £23,039 or 80% of going rate (whichever is higher) or 70% of going rate for New Entrants (whichever is higher)||Yes||0|
|Salary of £23,040 - £25,599 or 90% of going rate (whichever is higher)||Yes||10|
|Salary of £25,600 or above or going rate (whichever is higher)||Yes||20|
|Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC)||Yes||20|
|Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the job||Yes||10|
|Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job||Yes||20|
* Further details statement (see paragraphs 22-25)
The salary rate for New Entrants will be 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation, however, the minimum of £20,480 must always be met. Use the below flowchart to determine whether the person to whom a post will be offered qualifies as a New Entrant.
Where the individual is an ‘experienced worker’, they must meet the ‘going rate’ for the role as identified in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Code, or £25,600, whichever is higher (unless they can trade points). Some jobs will have a higher salary threshold. The ‘going rate’ can be pro-rated but salary thresholds cannot. This means that part-time staff will need to meet the pro-rated going rate but must still earn above the £20,480 minimum threshold.
Some worked examples based on UCL salaries for the academic year 2020/21 are available below to guide those wishing to calculate the points scored by typical roles. These examples are for reference purposes only and the score achieved for each post under the PBS will depend often upon the individual circumstances of the person appointed to any given role.
Eligibility for PhD points
UCL needs to justify the relevance of a PhD to an advertised role. The individual applicant must hold a PhD rather than the role itself being at PhD level. For a full list of occupations potentially eligible for tradeable PhD points see Annex B Table 24 of the Government's Further Details Statement.
Tradeable points combinations
How to use combinations of tradeable points:
|Category of applicant||Salary requirements|
|New entrant - under 26, studying or a recent graduate, or in professional training||Must be paid the higher of either £20,480, or minimum 70% of going rate for role.|
|Job on the Shortage Occupation list||Must be paid the higher of either £20,480, or minimum 80% of going rate for role.|
|Person holds STEM PhD that is relevant to the job||Must be paid the higher of either £20,480, or minimum 80% of going rate for role.|
|Person holds non-STEM PhD that is relevant to the job||Must be paid the higher of either £23,040, or minimum 90% of going rate for role.|
|None of the above apply||Must be paid the higher of either £25,600, or the going rate for role.|
The Health and Care Visa was launched in August 2020 for non-EEA nationals and was extended to EEA nationals from 1 January 2021. This is one of the fast track entry routes for individuals working in eligible health occupations with a job offer from the NHS, social care sector, or employers and organisations which provide services to the NHS, to move to the UK with their families.
As well as reduced fees and dedicated support for the application process, those who are eligible are exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.
Roles qualifying for this visa include: Biological Scientists and Biochemists, Physical Scientists and Medical Practitioners. A full list of qualifying roles and their SOC codes is contained in Annex D of the UK’s Points-Based Immigration System Further Details Statement. These roles entitle eligible applicants to 20 tradeable points, if the salary meets the national pay scale and is above £20,480.
Global Talent Visa route
The Global Talent Visa (GTV) route was extended to EU citizens from 1 January 2021. Those endorsed by a relevant body who have achieved the required level of points are able to enter the UK without a job offer. There is a GTV fast-track endorsement for individuals who have accepted a job as a Professor, Associate Professor, or equivalent position such as Senior Group Leader at UCL, provided certain recruitment requirements are met. Please download the UCL Global Talent Visa guidance pack for more information.
Government guidance on the GTV is also available. The four routes available under the GTV are summarised below:
1. Have you accepted the offer of a senior appointment at an institution approved by the British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society?
If you have been offered the role of Professor, Associate Professor, Reader, or equivalent position such as Senior Group Leader, and you meet the necessary recruitment requirements, you need a statement of guarantee from the HR Director at the employing institution to support your application for a fast-track visa.
2. Have you been awarded an individual fellowship on the list approved by the British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society?
If your fellowship is listed and you hold it currently or have done so within the last 12 months, you must submit a copy of the award letter as part of your fast-track visa application.
3. Are you working on a research grant* issued by an endorsed funder on the list approved by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)?
If you as an individual or your role is named in a successful grant application from an endorsed funder, you need to submit both the award letter and statement of guarantee from the employing or hosting institution as part of your application for a fast-track visa. The funder and the institution must both be on the approved UKRI list.
* Eligibility extends to the principal investigator (PIs), co-investigators (Co-Is) and team roles stated in the grant application at graduate level and above – for example, postdoctoral researchers, research assistants, technologists and methodologists. Eligible individuals must spend at least 50% of their work time on fulfilling the grant conditions (PIs and Co-Is holding multiple grants must spend at least 50% in aggregate). A minimum award threshold of £30,000 applies and the minimum grant duration is 24 months. Individuals must have at least two years left of their employment contract to be eligible.
4. Check the eligibility and assessment criteria for standard endorsement and submit an application for peer review by the British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering or Royal Society.
Academic visitors to UCL from outside the UK and Ireland who are asked to deliver one-off lectures can use a Permitted Paid Engagement Visa to do so.
The Employer Checking Service
The Employer Checking Service (ECS) is used to request verification from the Home Office that an individual has the right to work in the UK when they have an outstanding application or appeal and cannot present valid right to work documents before they start work as a casual or employee.
Government Authorised Exchange Visa
Those wishing to apply for a Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange Visa (previously Tier 5) can come to the UK for a short time in order to undertake work experience or training, an Overseas Government Language Programme, research or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme. To do this, individuals will need a Certificate of Sponsorship from UCL and must meet any other relevant eligibility requirements. This route is for individuals coming to the United Kingdom through approved schemes that aim to share knowledge, experience and best practice.
Temporary Worker - Creative and Sporting Visa (T5)
A creative worker is someone who works in the creative industry, for example an actor, dancer, musician or film crew member. This visa has replaced the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Creative and Sporting) Visa.
This webpage is currently under development and over the next few months, links will be added to explain how visa applications, Certificates of Sponsorship and other immigration-related matters are changing. Please visit this page regularly for updates about these changes. In addition, you can find out more about the new rules affecting immigration by visiting the Government’s What you need to know webpage.
Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa
This is a bespoke immigration route to enable British National (Overseas) (BN(O) citizens ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, and their immediate family members, to move to the UK to work, live and study.
This route opened in January 2021. Applications can be made to this route from inside or outside the UK. More information about this route can be found on the webpages of the UCL Student Immigration Advisory Team.
The Graduate route
This will be launched in the summer of 2021. International students who graduate in the UK can apply to stay here once they have graduated. Undergraduates and masters students can use this route for a maximum of two years without a firm job offer and PhD graduates for up to three years. More information about this route can be found on the webpages of the UCL Student Immigration Advisory Team.
Employment of Individuals on a Student Visa
It is UCL’s responsibility to ensure that if we employ anyone living in the UK with a Student Visa (previously Tier 4) they must not work for more than the maximum number of hours permitted by their visa. Here is an Excel Spreadsheet Timesheet that you may use to assist you in complying with the rules with regards to employing anyone with a Student Visa. UCL’s Student Immigration Advisory Team provides a range of useful advice for international students about working in the UK.
Applying for Certificate of Sponsorship
If you are a Departmental Administrator and wish to request a Certificate of Sponsorship for someone, by the Immigo System and do not already have access, please email email@example.com. If you have questions about your own CoS, in the first instance please speak to the Departmental Administrator or HR contact in your department.
UK visitor visa - Academic, research and teaching
In accordance with the government visitor visa guidance, staff from an academic institution overseas may apply for a visitor visa to:
- take part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts
- carry out research during a sabbatical
UCL must not pay those with a visitor visa to work at UCL. The Academic member of staff they will collaborate with may need to provide a letter confirming the arrangements for the visitor's research, exchange or clinical practice. Further information about eligibility and how to apply can be found on the government visitor visa webpage.
To research certain subjects at postgraduate level or above, academic visitors may need to get an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before coming to UCL premises. The UCL Principal Investigator for the research project should draft the description for the collaborator to include in their application for the ATAS certificate.