The future of the UK immigration system after Brexit: the long-awaited MAC report

The Migration Advisory Committee has published its report on its recommendations for the future of the UK immigration system after Brexit

12 February 2020

On 28 January 2020, the Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) published its long-awaited report in which it makes various recommendations on the future of the UK immigration system after Brexit.

MAC was commissioned by the Government to make recommendations as to what minimum salary thresholds should be in place in the UK’s future immigration system after Brexit. The Government also asked MAC to review how an Australian-style points-based system could be introduced in the UK.

MAC has now completed its review and has published its recommendations to the Government in the form of a 278-page report.

Key points

  • MAC recommends that the current Tier 2 work visa should be extended to apply to both EEA and non-EEA migrants after Brexit, albeit with a few modifications which they have previously recommended, namely:
  • Whereas currently Tier 2 is limited to highly skilled workers (subject to certain exceptions, e.g. roles on the shortage occupation list), MAC recommends that the new Tier 2 system should be expanded to medium-skilled.
  • The Resident Labour Market Test (the requirement to advertise a role for 28 days to give UK and EEA nationals the change to apply first) should be abolished.
  • The current annual cap on Tier 2 (General) visas should be abolished.
  • MAC recommends a reduction in the general salary threshold for Tier 2 from £30,000 down to £25,600. However, there should be exemptions for roles in the NHS and schools (where reference should be made to national pay scales to set the salary threshold). Also “new entrants” (broadly speaking, those under the age of 26 who are being sponsored for no more than 3 years) should be subject to a lower salary threshold of £17,900. It is worth noting that MAC recommends widening the definition of “new entrant”. It recommends that the new entrant rate should apply for 5 years, not just 3 years, and it should also include migrants who are working towards recognised professional qualifications and those who are moving directly into postdoctoral positions.
  • Currently migrants must meet the higher of the general salary threshold (referred to above) and an occupation-specific threshold. MAC wants to keep this system in place, albeit that it recommends that the occupation-specific threshold should be the 25th percentile of the full-time annual earnings distribution for the relevant occupation.
  • Currently the only route for workers without a job offer is Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent). MAC has found that the skills threshold for this visa is too high and it has therefore recommended modifying and expanding the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route as follows:
  • To apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, migrants must first express an interest.
  • A monthly draw is subsequently undertaken to select migrants from the pool of those who have expressed an interest. Those selected would then be invited to formally apply for the visa.
  • The selection process will be points-based, where points are given for characteristics that the Government wants to attract (for example, certain qualifications and age groups). MAC recommends that extra points for having studied in the UK should be awarded, and priority should be given for certain areas such as creative skills.
  • There should be an annual cap on the number of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas that will be issued.
  • Currently the immigration rules set out an annual increase in the minimum salary threshold for settlement under Tier 2. Currently the minimum threshold is £35,800, rising to £36,200 in April 2020, £36,900 in April 2021 etc. The MAC recommends a pause on the annual increase of the minimum salary threshold until it is able to gather sufficient data to make recommendations on the appropriate threshold for settlement applications.

Next steps

The Government will consider MAC’s recommendations and will, in due course, respond to the recommendations. At that point, we will have a much clearer idea than we have at present regarding the future of the UK’s immigration system.

Employers would be advised to review their resourcing arrangements to ensure that, where possible, they recruit EU nationals before 1 January 2021 when the new immigration system is expected to come into effect. This will be particularly important for employers that are dependent on low skilled workers from the EU, given MAC’s recommendations that only medium-skilled, and not low-skilled workers, should be eligible to apply for a Tier 2 work visa.

For more information around immigration services, please visit our Immigration expertise area.

Key contact

Huw Cooke

Huw Cooke Senior Associate

  • Employment
  • Business Immigration Services
  • Data Protection

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