UCL Human Resources


Immigration – from 1st January 2021

Information about changes to the UK immigration from 1 January 2021.


The UK is introducing a Points-Based immigration System (PBS) from 1 January 2021, when ‘freedom of movement’ with the European Union (EU) ends. These changes will affect how EU and non-EU citizens are treated and aims to attract skilled people who can contribute to the UK’s economy. Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen living 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 do this. 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 will end and new criteria whereby they may live and work in the UK will be introduced. European entrants will need to pay the same Government application fees and NHS Surcharge paid by non-European migrants and they will need to factor in visa processing times prior to travel. Until 30 June 2021, employers can continue to accept passports and national identity cards of EU citizens already resident in the UK before 31 December 2020 as evidence of their right to work. However, an extra step is needed to confirm their immigration status.

Between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021, when a recruiting manager undertakes a right to work check with an EEA national, the EEA national will need to produce a current passport or national identity card, as before. The recruiting manager will also need to add one of the following relevant statements to the right to work check:

  • The candidate has pre-settled status
  • The candidate has settled status
  • The candidate was resident in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 and understands that they will need to apply for settled/ pre-settled status before 30 June 2021, if they wish to continue working in the UK without a Visa
  • The candidate has another type of  visa or permit (a copy of which has been made) meaning that they have the right to work in the UK
  • The candidate is new to the UK, is not eligible for settled status and needs to be sponsored under the Points Based System

There will be no change to right to work checks for citizens of the Common Travel Area (CTA) including 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. 

For more information please see the Right to Work process and a document checklist is available on the Government website.

UCL employees can check what they need to do to apply for settled status (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) and pre-settled status before 30 June 2021. Use the Government’s ‘online checker’ to confirm eligibility.

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 those eligible, 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.

If applicants intend to start work on or after 1 January 2021 and if they can’t be in the UK by 31 December 2020, then they cannot work for UCL without a visa. The individual 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 from 1 January 2021 will be given entry for 6 months as a visitor but they will not be allowed to work without a visa allowing them to do so. Visitors can apply for a visa in advance of travel.

Introductory guides for those planning to enter the UK from 1 January 2021 and individual country pages on GOV.UK with translated information across 24 EU languages are now available.

Frontier Worker Permit for EEA Nationals

From December 10 2020, those not normally resident in the UK intending to visit UCL in the capacity of guest lecturers or external examiners for example, may be able 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 31st of 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 maybe 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 to be implemented are available on the Home Office website together with an introduction for employers. Final details of the new PBS will be published later in 2020 via new legislation and guidance for applicants. Under the new PBS most migrants will be able to apply to switch from one immigration route to another without having to leave the UK. 

The Skilled Worker Route

New immigration routes, such as the Skilled Worker Route (SWR) replacing Tier 2 visas, will open from autumn 2020 for applications from those who wish to work in the UK from 1 January 2021. This route will be open to EU and non-EU nationals.

The SWR will apply to a larger subset of jobs than does Tier 2 due to opening up this visa route to Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3 jobs, which is a significantly larger pool than those jobs previously eligible at RQF level 6 and above. The Government provides up-to-date information about what qualification levels mean.

There will not be a cap on the number of people who can come to the UK and the resident labour market test will be 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 would be required to qualify for permission to work and that some characteristics are mandatory (i.e. not “tradeable”), the proposed 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 sponsorNo20
Job at appropriate skill level (e.g. RQF level 3 (A levels) and above)No20
Speaks English at required level*No10
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)Yes0
Salary of £23,040 - £25,599 or 90% of going rate (whichever is higher)Yes10
Salary of £25,600 or above or going rate (whichever is higher)Yes20
Job in a shortage occupation (as designated by the MAC)Yes20
Education qualification: PhD in subject relevant to the jobYes10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the jobYes20
Applicant is a New Entrant (as designated by the MAC)Yes20

Standard Occupational Classification codes 

* Further details statement (see paragraphs 22-25)

Applicants can obtain a further 20 “tradeable” points as shown above.

New Entrants 

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. 

New Entrant flowchart

All postdoc and lecturer roles may qualify as a New Entrant provided the ‘4 year override’ rule does not apply. 

Going rates 

Where the individual is an "experienced worker" they still 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 will need to justify the relevance of a PhD to an advertised role. A number of additional Shortage Occupation STEM jobs such as lab technicians which involve research or technical knowledge where it is believed that a relevant PhD would be an advantage will be included. The individual applicant must hold a PhD rather than the role itself being at PhD level unlike the current system. 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:

Points combinations diagram

Health and Care Visa

The Health and Care Visa was launched in August 2020 for non-EEA nationals and will be 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 will also be 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 will be extended to EU citizens from 1 January 2021. Those endorsed by a relevant body who have achieved the required level of points will be 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.

UCL’s webpage on Immigration - up until 31st December 2020 contains further information about this route and Government guidance on the GTV is available. 

The four routes available under the GTV are summarised below:

4 GTV routes

Permitted Paid Engagement

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 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. 

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.

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 hr.services@ucl.ac.uk. If you have questions about your own CoS, in the first instance please speak to the Departmental Administrator or HR contact in you department.

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 will change from January 2021. 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.

To read our immigration guidance up until 31st December 2020, please visit our webpage Immigration - up until 31st December 2020.