Following the recent Government announcement, there will be fundamental changes to our immigration system for skilled workers. The most significant being the inclusion of European nationals. For the first time businesses who have relied on a European workforce will need to understand the requirements of the Immigration Rules to recruit any overseas nationals, including Europeans.

Time to secure an immigration licence

If your hospitality business anticipates recruiting any overseas nationals into skilled roles, such as chefs, you will need an immigration licence. The Government intends to open key routes from autumn 2020. Employers who are not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider doing so now if they think they will need to sponsor skilled migrants, including those from the EU, from early 2021. The licence process can be complex and time consuming. There will likely be a spike of applications at the end of 2020. The sooner a business can secure the licence to be ready for the new system the better.

Key changes

The Government’s announcement on 19 February 2020 confirms that there will be some welcome changes to the skilled visa route. These include the removal of the cap on visas issued and the removal of the requirement to advertise a role to the resident labour market before offering it to an overseas national. These changes will make the system more open for use by British businesses.

In response to the reduction in an available workforce from Europe when free movement ends in January 2021, the Government proposes to reduce the skills threshold for sponsored roles from graduate to A level.

A significant change will be the ability to trade points. A prospective employee may score fewer points on salary but be able to make these up with points for working in a shortage occupation. For example a role with a salary of £22,000 may not be earning enough to score points for salary, but may score additional points if this role was, as it is now, defined as being in a shortage occupation.

It is proposed that further attributes may be introduced to the points based system, such as age and previous UK studies, but the Government does acknowledge that further complexity will make the system even harder to navigate.

They have also confirmed a reduction in salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600 with further reduction to £20,480 for shortage occupations and certain PhD level roles. As now, there will be lower salary thresholds for new entrants to the labour market. These changes will be welcomed by businesses who have been concerned about how to meet their skilled labour requirements post-Brexit. When planning recruitment, businesses will be able to recruit skilled employees from anywhere in the world.

Lower skilled work

Of concern to the hospitality sector will be the exclusion of any scheme for lower skilled workers. The Government proposes that employers look to the resident population and proposes to introduce post-study work visas for international students and youth mobility to meet the demand for lower skilled work. They also suggest that investment in technology and automation could offer a solution. Undoubtedly there will be concern in the industry about the feasibility of these proposals to meet labour market requirements.


The most important changes for international students will be the anticipated introduction of a visa route which will allow employment in any sector at any skill level and salary level for two years at the end of their studies.

Supporting your business

Following these most recent announcements, securing a licence will now be at the top of the list of priorities for many UK businesses. Our experienced immigration team works with everyone from budding entrepreneurs and SMEs, to the largest global brands, local authorities and universities.

We specialise in guiding UK based businesses through the points based system to enable you to recruit the workforce you need.


To discuss your specific needs, please contact:

Emma Brooksbank


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.