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How Do Immigration Reforms Affect Independent Schools?

on Monday, 20 January 2020.

In December, the Queen's Speech outlined the new government's plans for immigration reform in 2020. We set out the forthcoming changes to immigration law, and how this impacts the independent schools sector.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

This Bill looks to tackle the issues posed by Brexit relating to immigration and social security. The Bill will mark the end of EU free movement laws in UK law, and will ensure that EU nationals arriving in the UK from 2021 onwards will be subject to the same immigration laws as non-EU nationals. The Bill also includes provisions to ensure the right to remain of European citizens already resident in the UK, and will clarify the status of Irish citizens, ensuring that they are able to continue working and living in the UK as present.

Other Planned Changes to the Immigration System

Plans to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system from 2021 (presumably to replace the existing Points-Based System) have also been proposed. Based on skills and contributions to the UK, the new system will score migrants on a range of criteria, so that the UK can attract the "brightest and best" people from around the world. The three broad categories are listed below.

  • Exceptional Talent/Contribution
    For migrants who have received world-leading awards or otherwise demonstrated exceptional talent, along with investors and sponsored entrepreneurs setting up a new business. This does not sound terribly dissimilar to the existing Tier 1 immigration categories.
  • Skilled Workers 
    For those who meet a points criteria and have a job offer. This category sounds incredibly similar to the existing Tier 2 schemes. Employer sponsorship of skilled workers from overseas seems set to continue, albeit in far greater numbers given that from 2021 onwards it will be used to sponsor EEA nationals as well. It is within this category that the government plans to introduce a new fast-track 'NHS Visa'. There may well be scope within this category for other fast-track schemes for key roles, such as teachers.
  • Sector-Specific Workers
    Those who enter on schemes for low-skilled work, youth mobility or short-term visits. This appears to be very similar to the existing Tier 5 categories. These categories will provide no route to permanent settlement and will be revised on an ongoing basis.

There is currently no reference to student migration, other than a repetition of the government's plan to reintroduce a graduate work visa in 2021. Based on the similarities between current and planned changes, student migration seems likely to continue in much the same vein as the existing Tier 4 arrangements and will also apply to EEA pupils arriving in the UK from January 2021 onwards. Schools may wish to review their current compliance with the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance (our free Tier 4 compliance questionnaire might be a good starting point). Another consideration for schools will be whether additional resource will be required to deal with the increased number of Tier 4 sponsored pupils.

It remains to be seen whether this government will honour the promise in the immigration white paper published by Theresa May's government to "consider ways in which we can streamline sponsorship and make it more 'light-touch'."

These announcements bear great similarities to the existing immigration system, which will surely be of comfort to many. Nevertheless, there will no doubt be some changes, so schools will need to pay close attention to any future announcements.


For further information about any immigration issues affecting your school, please contact Tom Brett Young in our Immigration Law team on 0121 227 3759, or complete the form below.

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