Last reviewed 6 December 2021

Over the last year, the UK has, the Home Secretary claims, welcomed thousands of workers with the skills the country needs including IT workers, scientists, plumbers, architects, butchers, doctors, creative workers and bricklayers.

Priti Patel was speaking on the first anniversary of the Government launching the points-based immigration system and opening the Skilled Worker Visa marking, she said, the UK’s biggest shift in immigration policy in recent history.

The Skilled Worker route, which accounts for 61% of work-related visas granted, has seen the largest increase in visa numbers, up 45,866 or 57% to 126,017 while the Global Talent route increased from 595 to 2786 visas issued by the end of September 2021.

In comparison, 110,721 Skilled Worker visas were granted by the end of September 2019 and 80,151 granted by the end of September 2020 — highlighting the impact of the pandemic on migration.

“One year on,” Ms Patel said, “our system is making it easier for businesses to hire the skills and talent they need, while incentivising investment in our domestic workforce, boosting wages across the country.”

The number of visas issued across work and study routes has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, she went on, demonstrating that the UK continues to attract worldwide talent and skills to support the post-pandemic economic recovery.

The points-based immigration system is described by the Government as a simple system, awarding points for people who have a skilled job and are paid at a rate that does not drive down wages, as well as having a good standard of English.

In spring 2022, more visa routes will open, including the Scale-Up, High Potential Individual and Global Business Mobility routes.

These will, the Home Office said, provide more opportunities for businesses to recruit leading people in their fields and encourage brilliant innovators and entrepreneurs to open enterprises in the UK.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

The extension of visa programmes for international workers may assist with alleviating difficulties associated with the recent labour shortages.

However, businesses must ensure they undertake the appropriate right to work checks and comply with immigration laws. Failure to do so can lead to costly fines and criminal sanctions, as well as prejudice any existing foreign nationals within the organisation and future applicants.

Anyone coming to work in the UK who doesn’t have settled status will likely need sponsorship from a UK employer.

As such, organisations have to apply for and meet the ongoing requirements of a sponsorship licence. It takes around eight weeks to process these applications so employers should factor this into their wider strategies and time-scales when recruiting abroad.