From Tuesday most foreign nationals, including from the European Union, who want to work in the UK from 1 January will have to apply online for a visa.
Those seeking a skilled worker visa will need a job offer, to be proficient in English and earn at least £25,600.Free movement from and to the EU will come to an end on 31 December. The UK left the EU on 31 January but has been largely following its rules during the subsequent 11-month transition period, as the two sides try to reach agreement over a trade deal.
The government has announced it is setting up a new Border Operations Centre, which it says will ensure round-the-clock surveillance of goods and passengers coming in and out of British ports for the first time.
- Brexit happened but rules didn’t change at once: The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020, but leaders needed time to negotiate a deal for life afterwards – they got 11 months.
- Talks are happening: The UK and the EU have until 31 December 2020 to agree a trade deal as well as other things, such as fishing rights.
- If there is no deal: Border checks and taxes will be introduced for goods travelling between the UK and the EU. But deal or no deal, we will still see changes.
Border preparations stepped up
It will use £20m software produced by the US tech firm Palantir, which gathers information from different government computers, in the hope of minimizing the amount of “short-term” disruption at the border in the days and weeks after 1 January.
Business groups have said delays at the border are inevitable given the looming changes to customs procedures while Labor said “glaring questions” remained unanswered about what businesses needed to do.
“The government is putting the burden on businesses to prepare for the end of the transition period when it has not explained what it is those businesses are getting ready for,” said shadow minister Rachel Reeves.
“The government is re-badging a basic element of preparation but still can’t tell us how many customs agents are recruited or trained or whether crucial IT is ready.“
Speaking to the BBC, Mr. Gove said: “A lot of what businesses need to do is the same whether or not we get a free trade agreement or not”.
“There’s no harm in doing these things because they’ll be necessary come what may.”
To tackle what the Cabinet Office calls the “challenges” of potential disruption at the UK border next year, a Border Operations Centre will use big data technology to try to “identify the root causes” of hold-ups to passengers and freight.
The software system is produced by the controversial US tech firm Palantir and will pull together information from different government computers to monitor the flow of people and vehicles across the UK border.
Palantir has courted controversy in the United States, where its systems are used by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
This has led the human rights organization Amnesty International to warn of “a high risk that Palantir is contributing to serious human rights violations of migrants and asylum-seekers”.
The company denies the suggestion and says it remains extremely concerned about protecting human rights, privacy rights, and civil liberties in general.
The UK government has stressed that Palantir will only process data in Britain and that strict measures are in place to protect personal information.
What is changing in immigration?
The UK’s new immigration system will determine who can work in the country from 1 January.
Online applications for visas via a range of new “routes” will open on Tuesday.
Applications for skilled worker visas will be judged on the basis of a points system, which is modelled on the system in place in Australia for many years.
Points will be awarded for a job offer at the appropriate skill level in an eligible occupation, knowledge of English and whether applicants meet a salary threshold – which will typically be at least £25,600.
The cost of applying will be between £610 to £1,408 and people will have to show they have enough money to support themselves as well as having proof of identity.
How do the rules affect people already living in the UK?
EU citizens already living in the UK by 31 December and their families do not have to go through the new system but instead can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, and have until 30 June 2021 to do so.
If they are successful, they will be able to remain in the UK and claim the same benefits as UK citizens if they become unemployed.
Irish citizens do not need to apply to the scheme and will not require permission to come to the UK, as the UK and Ireland are both part of a Common Travel Area.
Different rules apply to workers from outside the EU, and EU migrants arriving after the end of the transition period. Those who lose their job will have to return to their home country, unless they have indefinite leave to remain.