Our businesses, industries, public services and voluntary organisations rely (to a greater or lesser extent) on migration for labour, skills and ideas.

We recognise the importance of attracting and retaining skilled migrants in the UK, as they make an important contribution to our economic wellbeing, and of supporting UK employers in accessing the international talent they need to compete on the world stage. However, there is no consent for uncontrolled migration and the future system will ensure the UK can attract the people that we need, as opposed to the unregulated flow we have seen under free movement.

Our future border and immigration system will ensure the UK continues to attract and retain  people who come to work and bring significant benefits to the UK and it will cater for a range of skills. It will be built around the skills and talent people have – not their nationality.

However, immigration will be considered alongside investment to improve productivity and
the skills of the UK workforce.

There will be a route for skilled workers to come to the UK providing they are sponsored by an employer. We will accept the MAC’s recommendations not to impose a numerical cap or a resident labour market test. The future system will be business friendly. We will also reform the sponsorship system to minimise burdens on employers, particularly small and mediumsized enterpris es (SMEs). Our existing specialist work immigration routes will continue.

We have listened to the concerns of businesses of all sizes and across many sectors, and so there will also be a route allowing temporary short-term workers to come for a year. This will be tightly constrained, with no rights to settle, to bring dependents or to access noncontributory public funds. It will operate on a transitional basis, giving the economy time to adjust, and it will be fully reviewed by 2025. We will retain the ability to close the route if economic conditions warrant that.


Attributes and requirements of the current non-EU immigration system and proposals for the future – EU and non-EU – immigration system are summarised below.

6.1 The UK will have two new work routes:

  • one for skilled workers entitled to stay longer periods, to bring dependants and in some cases to settle permanently, who will mainly be sponsored by an employer – this will be open to migrants from all countries; and
  • another for temporary short-term workers at all skills levels, not sponsored, but subject to tightly defined conditions. This will be a transitional route and will only be open to migrants from specified low-risk countries.

6.2 In both cases, the people concerned will need to have secured permission before they can begin work and employers who employ the migrants concerned prior to that permission having been obtained will be liable to fines, as is currently the case.

6.3 We will also be operating routes adapted from the current system for:

  • Innovators. For experienced business people who want to set up a business in the UK that is innovative, scalable and viable. We intend to launch a new Start-Up visa route in Spring 2019, for those at an early stage of their career with an innovative business idea, who can then move into the Innovator route.
  • Exceptional Talent. A flexible route for highly skilled individuals in the creative, arts and humanities, science, research and engineering, and digital technology sectors, who wish to work in the UK.
  • Investors. For those who make a substantial financial contribution to the UK.
  • Other temporary workers. Alongside the new temporary short-term worker route, we will continue to operate other temporary routes such as our Youth Mobility Schemes, routes for sportspeople, those in the creative sector and charity workers. We are piloting a scheme to assist the agricultural sector.


Skilled workers

6.4 There is currently a route for workers from outside the EU to come to work in the UK in highly skilled jobs. We want to create a new route in the future immigration system. We want the system to be as smooth and seamless as possible, enabling UK businesses to compete for global talent, to complement, not substitute for, the talent available in the UK labour force. Net migration must be kept to sustainable levels and so we must grow the pool of local talent, at all skills levels.

6.5 International comparisons of worldwide immigration systems assess the UK’s high skilled route favourably. The future system will be based on principles that help to define high skilled – salary levels, qualifications, skill levels – and not nationality. Our aim is to maximise the economic benefits that migrants bring to the UK.

UK visa applications are processed quickly and our service compares very well with other countries. UK Visas and Immigration commit to specific service standards for the processing of applications and in the year ending June 2018, 96% of non-settlement visa applications were decided within our standard 15 working days processing time. In 2016 Deloitte completed a Global Immigration Study which ranked the UK third in the world in terms of speed of processing times for visas for skilled workers.

Supporting our innovative industries

6.6 Science, research and innovation are at the heart of our modern industrial strategy. We are committed to supporting our innovative industries, ensuring that the UK can continue to prosper after we leave the EU.

6.7 The UK will always welcome global research and innovation talent – the diversity of ideas and perspectives helps us to achieve more in scientific and technological endeavours than we could ever achieve alone. The future immigration system will continue to recognise these contributions.

6.8 We intend to explore additional options to support start-up companies, including in our new, expanding digital technology sector, under the future immigration system and beyond. We propose to launch a new Start Up visa route in 2019 and we will explore further ways to supplement our existing flexible offer to leading digital technology experts endorsed under the Tech Nation Visa under the Exceptional Talent route and digital technology occupations in shortage.

Supporting our innovative industries – including scientists and researchers

Under the current system, we offer routes for high skilled scientists and researchers looking to come to the UK on either a temporary or permanent basis and we have recently made a number of changes to the existing system to recognise their contribution. These include:

  • Introduction of a new UK Research and Innovation-led scheme to support the temporary movement of scientists and researchers under our Government Authorised Exchange Scheme, for those looking to come to the UK for two years;
  • Doubling the number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas, including for top global scientists,  to 2,000 a year. This helps to underpin the UK’s position as a hub for international collaboration and research excellence;
  • Changes to the UK Immigration Rules to waive the Resident Labour Market Test for  employers recruiting supernumerary researchers supported by Awards and Fellowships, and members of established research teams who are sponsored by UK Higher Education Institutions and the Research Councils under our main skilled work route;
  • Providing an exemption from the usual rules for absences from the UK for scientists and researchers called to assist with humanitarian and environmental crises; and
  • Enabling faster switching between our existing Tier 4 student route and highly skilled tier 2 visas, demonstrating our commitment to support those at the early stages of their careers.

6.9 We recognise that some start-ups need to employ talented staff to help their  businesses grow, but may not be able to pay their employees high wages at the outset, instead offering equity stakes in their businesses. We intend to explore options to support such start-ups.

6.10 As with the current system, skilled workers will have a range of entitlements and obligations placed on them and their employers. We will continue also to allow skilled workers, other than intra-company transferees, to settle in the UK after a defined period (five years), and to bring dependants. We also propose to continue to provide opportunities for skilled workers to switch into other routes such as study.

6.11 We plan to continue to require an assessment of language skills to support integration and protect our key public services by ensuring that workers have sufficient finances of their own to support themselves and their families without access to public funds.

6.12 We recognise that reforms are required to provide an improved service, offering better business access to international talent, and one which can cater for significantly increased volumes. We also recognise, and will take into consideration, the challenges facing small businesses who haven’t had to
previously engage with the current high skilled route.

6.13 Currently, the main high skilled route (Tier 2 – General) is capped at 20,700 places a year. The MAC has advised that skilled migration should not be capped, and the Government accepts this recommendation. This is a very significant change which will aid our economy and our public services by ensuring that there are no limits on the volumes of skilled migrants to meet the needs of businesses
and the UK economy, the brightest and best can always come to work here, and EU migrants are accommodated in the future system.

6.14 The MAC also recommended that we should consider abolishing the resident labour market test (RLMT), which they found did not provide the protection to British workers it was intended to. This currently requires an employer to advertise a job for four weeks and to consider applications from resident workers before offering it to a migrant. This adds to the length of time the process takes and we
accept that at the higher end of the skills range different recruitment processes often apply. The Government accepts the MAC’s advice and analysis that the RLMT is unlikely to be effective in ensuring that settled workers have the first opportunity to fill any vacancy.

6.15 Abolishing the RLMT will significantly speed up the process for UK employers of recruiting migrant workers, as vacancies will no longer have to be advertised for four weeks before being offered to a migrant. UK employers will be able to be nimble when competing on the international stage for the very best global talent.

6.16 It is already the case that overseas skilled workers can switch in-country between employers when they find an alternative job. We will look at how we can make this process as smooth as possible in future system, ensuring that the system is flexible and responds to the needs of the market and workers.

6.17 We will seek to maintain a route for intra-company transfers for skilled workers to allow companies easily to transfer existing employees from an overseas branch to their UK office. We do not intend to extend this to intermediate skilled workers (RQF 3-5).

6.18 Workers from outside the EU with intermediate skills (RQF 3-5, or A level) are unable to come to the UK on the current high skilled Tier 2 route, because that is limited to occupations at RQF 6 and above (essentially graduate level jobs). These jobs, insofar as migrant workers occupy them, have been open to EU citizens only.

6.19 The MAC has recommended lowering the skills threshold for the new skilled workers route to RQF 3 while maintaining the minimum salary threshold of £30,000. This would enable incorporation of medium level skills once Free Movement ends.

6.20 We have noted, and agree with the MAC’s recommendation that workers with intermediate skills make a positive economic contribution. We accept that they should be given entry to the UK labour market if employers require them. In future it will be open to workers from all countries, not just the EU.

Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) in England and Northern Ireland. Wales and Scotland operate their own Credits and Qualifications Frameworks.

Level 3 qualifications include A-Level / advanced apprenticeship/ Level 3 NVQs. Examples include: Laboratory technicians; Senior care workers; Electrical and electronics technicians; Managers and directors in retail and wholesale; Managers and directors in storage and warehousing; Legal associate professionals; Travel agency managers and proprietors; and Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified. Level 4 qualifications include Certificates of Higher Education, higher apprenticeships and

Level 4 NVQs. Level 5 qualifications include Diplomas of Higher Education, foundation degrees and higher national diplomas.

We do not differentiate between levels 4 and 5. Examples include: Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture; Managers and proprietors in forestry, fishing and related services; Conference and exhibition managers and organisers; Public service associate professionals Civil Servants; Marketing associate professionals; Financial and accounting technicians; Estimators, valuers and assessors; Ship and hovercraft officers; Medical and dental technicians; and Architectural and town planning technicians.

6.21 We agree with the MAC that the best way to do this is to have a new single immigration route for skilled workers, from RQF 3 to RQF 7 (post-graduate).

6.22 Workers in this route, from RQF 3 upwards, will need to be sponsored by their  employer; employers will pay an immigration skills charge and individual migrants must pay a health charge, subject to any discussions with the EU about reciprocal health care. These charges ensure that those who are employing migrants are contributing to the skills budget, which helps to train resident workers, and that migrants are making a fair contribution to the National Health Service. In return, individuals will have entitlements to bring dependants (who may also work), extend their stay, remain permanently and access the National Health Service. They may only access non-contributory public funds if they become settled, after meeting relevant residence requirements.

6.23 We have noted that the MAC said that if in the skilled route the permitted skills level is expanded to include intermediate skills (RQF 3-5), the current minimum salary threshold of £30,000 should be maintained, to maximise economic contribution. The MAC noted that 40% of existing jobs in the intermediate skills level meet the current salary thresholds and that £30,000 is the level of household income at which an average family of EEA migrants starts making a positive contribution to public finances.

6.24 We agree with the MAC’s view that the salary thresholds should ensure that migrants are raising the level of productivity in the UK, making a positive contribution to public finances and are not putting downward pressure on earnings. This salary threshold is an important control to ensure that we can manage migration at sustainable levels. However, before confirming the level of a future salary threshold we will want to engage extensively with businesses and employers, consider wider evidence of the impact on the economy, and take into account current pay levels in the UK economy. We will ask the MAC to keep this under review, given that we would expect the threshold to change over time in response to economic conditions.

6.25 Graduate entrant jobs are already subject to a lower salary threshold and we intend to continue with that approach to ensure that those at the start of their careers are able to access the job market. We will consider, engaging employers and businesses, whether a light touch form of the resident labour market test would be appropriate for these intermediate skilled jobs.

6.26 We currently maintain a shortage occupation list (SOL) which is used to give priority to individuals within the current highly-skilled route cap, and to exempt migrants from minimum salary thresholds required for settlement if they are in a shortage occupation. The MAC will continue to maintain, and keep under regular review, a list of occupations that we are short of as a nation, from RQF3 upwards.

6.27 We intend that nationals from specified low risk countries, including those with whom we have reached a specific agreement as part of bilateral negotiations, should be allowed to look for work having entered as a visitor and apply to switch into the skilled worker programme.

6.28 A migrant in this group who finds work will not be able to start employment without having first provided their biometrics and obtained permission to work, which will be enforced by in-country, right to work checks conducted by employers. Employers are under a legal obligation not to employ illegal workers. This is a considerable change compared with the current rules.


Assurance / Sponsorship

6.29 It is a key aspect of any immigration system that its integrity is preserved. This means operating a system which guards against abuse, while reducing unnecessary or bureaucratic barriers for genuine businesses and migrants.

6.30 In the current non-EU high skilled route, this is achieved through the process of sponsorship, which requires all organisations seeking to employ persons from outside the EU, first to apply and obtain a sponsor licence from the Home Office.

6.31 Currently, around 30,000 UK-based firms hold such a licence and perform the essential compliance duties of a sponsor by assuring government that an individually identifiable migrant is coming to the UK to fill the specific genuine vacancy for which they have been given permission.


The UK’s Sponsorship system

The existing sponsorship system requires all organisations seeking to employ persons from outside of the EEA to apply for and obtain a license from the Home Office. An individual sponsor licence is valid for up to four years.

Currently, every sponsor is given an allocation of sponsorship certificates – each of which provides a unique reference number that a worker can use to apply for a visa. This approach maintains the integrity of the immigration system, ensuring that the current limit on  migration through the Tier 2 (General) route is not breached. It also enables the Government to track where the migrant is employed.

There are a number of duties which sponsoring organisations have to perform. These include, for example, informing the Home Office if the migrant worker stops turning up for work. Sponsor duties are carried out through an online system, which employers can easily access. The sponsor also has financial obligations, such as the Immigration Skills Charge, which they have to pay for each migrant worker that they sponsor.

6.32 These obligations ensure a sponsor is directly responsible for any migrant they sponsor, and therefore requires a direct link between employer and employee.

6.33 Broadly, the system works well for its current size. However, the Government recognises feedback from users of the system that there are improvements that we can make to provide a more efficient and streamlined service, and that many more businesses will need to engage with the sponsorship system once free movement ends. We are clear that the principles of sponsorship will remain.

6.34 In the future, we propose a reformed lighter-touch, risk-based approach, such  as seeking to share and utilise data already held across government, reducing the administrative burden on employers.

6.35 We plan to continue to test most, if not all, of the current requirements which demonstrate a sponsor’s direct relationship with a worker, but we intend to explore making more ambitious changes to provide for greater scope for retrospective checking of compliance, utilising digital information processed automatically – removing bureaucracy and speeding up the recruitment process.

6.36 We will review the existing sponsorship requirements to ensure that businesses are not being asked to provide information that is of little value in ensuring compliance. The Government will also consider the impact on small and mediumsized businesses, the vast majority of which have never engaged with the current system.

6.37 We will explore different risk-based models, e.g. the use of umbrella organisations to act as  sponsors, where it may be appropriate for specific sectors of the economy, and how we can introduce a lighter-touch regime for trusted employers.

6.38 We understand that many organisations have little to no experience of the existing sponsorship system and the prospect of using it may be daunting. As part of this, we may look to introduce a ‘tiered’ system of sponsorship, offering a sponsor licence to those organisations who seek one to meet their recruitment needs, while introducing a transactional system for those who do not need a licence
or have a small number of vacancies to fill. Through offering this choice, organisations are free to choose the option which is right for them.

6.39 We want our future system to support a flexible labour market. We are mindful of the need for workers to change jobs and with our ambitious approach to sponsorship, we intend to remove unnecessary barriers to this process, while continuing to take steps to prevent abuse of immigration laws and rules. Wherever in person interaction by either a sponsor or applicant is required, appropriate
physical facilities will be in place throughout the UK, including in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

6.40 There are a number of practical steps we can introduce in the short-term which will reduce the time organisations spend interacting with the system. We will review sponsor duties and what it is we ask employers to do. We will seek to remove those duties where information is held elsewhere, has already been provided to government or adds little to the integrity of the immigration system. Our aim is to
ensure that overall, when the new single system is in place, the burden on businesses is no greater than it is at present. To maintain the UK’s competitive edge in attracting international talent, we are committed to minimising the time it takes to hire a skilled migrant and aim to process the vast majority of work visas within two to three weeks.


Reforming the UK’s sponsorship system

We recognise that reform to the current system is required to provide a more streamlined system, which is easier and less burdensome to businesses and organisations who use it. Any changes made to the sponsorship system will need to be phased in. We understand businesses desire for certainty and time to adapt their own internal processes. By taking a phased approach, we can minimise disruption, which will in turn ease organisations through the system of sponsorship.

Current users of the system will see substantial changes, much of which reflects their feedback. As proposed above, we do not intend to have a cap on our new skilled worker route; this will remove the current requirement as part of Tier 2 for a monthly ‘panel’ at which visas are issued. This will enable these visas to be issued continuously throughout the year, rather than in monthly cycles – removing delays in the recruitment process.

We will also explore the best way to harness technology and utilise data which is both in the public domain and held across government. In doing so, we will no longer require organisations to hold duplicate information or records or provide the same information to government on more than one occasion.

Transitional short-term work

6.41 The MAC has said that there should be no dedicated route for unskilled labour and we do not intend to open one. This is consistent with the public’s view that we should be attracting the brightest and best to come to the UK, and that lower skilled migrant labour may have depressed wages or stifled innovation in our economy.

The end of free movement presents a unique opportunity for us to re-design our  immigration system with this in mind – prioritising those who will contribute the most to our economy and society and incentivising UK companies to lead the way inimproving productivity in their workforces.

6.42 However, we acknowledge that there are particular difficulties in recruiting staff in certain parts of the UK, particularly more rural and remote areas and regions. We also recognise that some sectors have built up a reliance on lower skilled workers from the EU, often for relatively short periods, such as those which require additional workers in the run up to Christmas. We recognise that employers in these areas require a period of time to change their ways of working once they have certainty about the shape of our future immigration system.

6.43 Equally, while in general skilled workers come to the UK come for longer periods, some will come to work for short periods – for example to fulfil a temporary contract or participate in a research project.

6.44 Accordingly, the Government proposes that, for a transitional period after the UK’s exit from the EU, there should be a new route for temporary short-term workers at any skill level to come to work in the UK.

6.45 These workers will need a visa from the UK Government, and we will set restrictions on nationalities, duration and possibly numbers. The route will be tightly defined – allowing workers to come for a maximum of twelve months, to be followed by a cooling off period of a further twelve months to prevent long-term working – and it will not entitle anyone to access public funds or rights to extend a
stay, switch to other routes, bring dependants or lead to permanent settlement. This reflects the typical requirements of these individuals – those coming for shorter periods do not generally require such entitlements.

6.46 This new route will only be available to nationals of specified countries, for example those low risk countries with whom the UK negotiates an agreement concerning the supply of labour, including returns arrangements. This is in keeping with our existing approach, where the youth mobility route (see below) is only offered to nationalities of such countries. As with other routes, applicants will be subject to a criminal records check.

6.47 Employers will be responsible for checking that prospective employees have the right to work in the UK. We will ensure that work and conditions of employment are monitored to avoid exploitation of workers and abuse of the system, working closely with the Director of Labour Market Enforcement, using exit check data to monitor departure and through use of sanctions, penalties and data matching, for example with HM Revenue and Customs. We will take any evidence that employers are abusing the system extremely seriously.

6.48 Workers will need to pay a visa fee. We will carefully consider what the overall cost of this visa should be and intend to increase the amount charged incrementally each year that the route operates to incentivise businesses to reduce their reliance on migrant labour.

6.49 We will ask the MAC to engage with business and stakeholders and to consider in an annual report how the route is operating and whether it is working as intended for employers, including its duration and cooling off periods. We will engage extensively with business and stakeholders as part of the engagement process on the duration and cooling off periods. We will take action if economic requirements change or it becomes apparent that it is working to the detriment of domestic workers or that it is giving rise to immigration abuse. We will also take action if the evidence suggests a limit on the total number of people able to come under thisroute should be imposed.

6.50 We are clear that this is a transitory measure and will be kept under review. We will work with the MAC, as well as representatives of business and local communities, by 2025 to consider whether there should be any continuing facility for temporary workers to come to the UK. This will give employers sufficient time following the Implementation Period to make the necessary changes in their ways
of working. Government will work with employers in key sectors to help drive this level of business change.


Case Studies – Short-term temporary work

Ragnar works in the hospitality industry in Sweden. He wants to come to the UK to work at music festivals throughout the summer, serving food and drinks. He is anticipating earning about £6,000. Under the future immigration system, he will apply online for a temporary work visa to come to the UK and his application will be assessed to see whether he poses a security or immigration risk to the UK.

Rebekka is a lawyer from Denmark who has been visiting the UK to provide advice to a British business, but now wants to come on secondment to that business so that she can advise them full time. Rebekka is currently in the UK as a visitor and applies online for a temporary work visa so that she can be employed by her client. Rebekka will be paid a monthly salary of £5,000.

If Ragnar and Rebekka’s applications are accepted, they will both be granted a temporary work visa that will allow them to stay and work in the UK for up to 12 months. During that time, they will be able to switch employers and they won’t be restricted to working in the hospitality and legal sectors if they can find employment elsewhere.

Anyone wishing to employ Ragnar or Rebekka will need to check that they hold a valid temporary work visa and are eligible to work in the UK. Neither Ragnar nor Rebekka will be able to bring any family members or those financially dependent with them, nor will they be eligible to benefits or healthcare (beyond emergency care). At the end of the duration of their visas, they will have to depart, and this will be monitored by the exit checks system. Following departure, they must then wait a certain amount of time before they are able to apply for another temporary work visa. In the meantime, they will be able to come tothe UK as a visitor or, if they qualified for one, a different visa.

Other work routes

6.51 The MAC did not recommend an explicit work migration route for low-skilled workers with the possible exception of seasonal agricultural workers. The Government agrees with the MAC’s view that there should be no dedicated route for unskilled labour from any source, except (as described above) we will allow some flexibility for short-term workers. There will be no general use of schemes tailored to particular industries.

6.52 This is not to say that there will be no migrants in the UK undertaking low skilled work. Dependants of skilled workers; students; refugees; those coming on a family visa; or a youth mobility visa; are all allowed to work in the UK. The MAC notes there are currently 170,000 non-EEA workers employed in occupations below the current minimum for Tier 2

Seasonal Agricultural Work

6.53 The Government announced11 in September that we will be running a smallscale pilot scheme for agricultural workers in 2019, to test the feasibility of such a scheme and in recognition of the challenges facing that industry, which the MAC has acknowledged. The Government will consider the outcome of the pilot before taking any decision as to whether to roll out the scheme more widely.

6.54 The Government shares the MAC’s view12 that such a scheme should not be an easy option for the agricultural sector and that there needs to be proper monitoring of conditions of employment to avoid exploitation of workers. The Government notes the MAC’s advice that to drive up productivity, employers should be required to pay an upwardly revised national minimum wage/national living wage and will consider this if a scheme is rolled out.

6.55 The introduction of any seasonal scheme for agricultural workers will be temporary. In contrast to the proposal for expanded youth mobility arrangements, it would be open to a wider range of nationalities.


Youth Mobility

6.56 The UK currently has youth mobility arrangements with Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan. These  schemes allow people aged 18-30 to come to the UK for two years, during which period they can work or study.

6.57 While there is no obligation to work under youth mobility arrangements and the people concerned are permitted to undertake high skilled work if they can obtain it, it is believed most people who come to the UK under a Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) engage in lower skilled work. These schemes are reciprocal, enabling young British people to spend time in the countries concerned.

6.58 We have proposed a UK-EU YMS as part of our Mobility Framework to ensure that young people can continue to enjoy the social, cultural and educational benefits of living in the EU and the UK.

6.59 Such a scheme will be designed in broadly the same way as existing YMS schemes, taking account of EU specificities, and will be reciprocal. It will provide an additional source of labour for the UK labour market and provide continuing opportunities for British people to gain experience of living and working in the EU.

Specialist routes

6.60 The UK will also have other more specialist routes for highly valuable migrants  and workers. Tier 1 of the existing system provides flexible, unsponsored routes for the most talented individuals such as those coming under the Exceptional Talent programme. We will increase the number of places available under this route once EU citizens come within its ambit.

6.61 We will look to ensure that the very highly skilled, such as scientific researchers, those who have a proven track record of success in their industry and those with post doctorate qualifications, are appropriately accommodated by the system.

6.62 In the meantime, we plan to launch a new and reformed Start-Up visa route in  2019. We will continue to consider how these routes could evolve further to accommodate workers who invest in a newly created business.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

A flexible route for highly skilled individuals in the creative, arts and humanities, science,  research and engineering, and digital technology sectors, who wish to work in the UK. It is designed for those who are internationally recognised at the highest level as world leaders in their particular field, or who have demonstrated exceptional promise and are likely to become future world leaders. There are 2,000 places each year and applicants must be endorsed by one of five Designated Competent Bodies (DCB) before they apply for a visa:

  • Arts Council England – for the arts and culture;
  • British Academy – for humanities and social sciences;
  • Royal Academy of Engineering – for engineering;
  • Royal Society – for natural sciences and medical science research; and
  • Tech Nation– for applicants in digital technology.

Successful applicants are granted leave for up to five years and are free to work without the
need for a sponsor. Those recognised as existing world leaders may apply for early settlement
after three years, instead of five.

Tier 1 (Start-Up)

Demonstrating our commitment to making the UK the best place for developing innovative ideas, in June 2018, we announced a new Start-Up visa route launching Spring 2019, replacing our existing Graduate Entrepreneur route. This will enable all business people, not just recent graduates, to apply for a visa following endorsement by a university or an approved business sponsor. We are working to ensure that there will be a range of accelerators,incubators and angel investment groups and strong representation across the UK.

Other temporary workers

6.63 The UK recognises the benefits that professionals working in a range of sectors bring to the UK economy and culture. We want to continue to attract talented individuals from EU and non-EU countries, including professional sports persons,entertainers and artists.

6.64 We remain open to talented scientists and researchers who make a significant contribution to international collaborations. We will ensure that our immigration system continues to cater for such people and we will offer opportunities for people to share skills and knowledge through approved work experience and professional training schemes.

6.65 We will continue to offer these opportunities through the existing routes, which cater for a wide group of temporary professional workers. There are currently five main sub-categories for temporary professional workers. We will make improvements to existing routes where necessary, taking account of feedback from specific sectors, particularly around sponsorship arrangements.

6.66 We will also look to consolidate Government Authorised Exchange schemes and rebrand where necessary to promote the wide-ranging opportunities available. The new skilled workers route will be the sole route for individualsseeking permanent skilled employment in the UK.

Creative and Sporting Industry

6.67 Artists, musicians, entertainers and sportspeople make the UK a more interesting, vibrant and rich society in which to live. They contribute to both our culture and our economy and the Government recognises that international collaboration is a vital part of this.

6.68 The UK already attracts world class performers in these fields and we will continue to do so in the future. The UK’s existing rules permit artists, entertainers and musicians to perform at events and take part in competitions and auditions for up to six months. They can receive payment for appearances at certain festivals or for up to a month for a specific engagement, without the need for formal
sponsorship or a work visa.

6.69 The current Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) route caters for creative workers, such as musicians, actors or artists, who are working and touring in the UK. Some nationals can benefit from visa-free travel to the UK for stays of up to three months, if they first obtain a certificate of sponsorship (their visa application is considered at the UK border). A 12-month working visa is also available.

6.70 We will ensure that our future immigration system continues to support the thriving cultural and sporting life of the UK.

Temporary professional workers

i. Government Authorised Exchange – for people coming to the UK through approved schemes to share knowledge, experience and best practice or to undertake work-based  training or research in specific fields for up to two years.

ii. Charity workers – for people coming to the UK to undertake voluntary, unpaid work for a charity for up to 12 months. The work must relate to the direct purpose of the charity.

iii. Religious workers – for people coming to the UK to work as religious workers for up to two years to undertake pastoral and non-pastoral work.

iv. Creative and sporting – for those coming to the UK to work or perform as sports people, entertainers or creative artists for up to 12 months, including international quality sportspeople, such as Premier League footballers.

v. International agreement – for people coming to the UK under a contract to provide a service that is covered under an international agreement for up to five years. This subcategory also makes provision for employees of foreign governments working in the UK.


6.71 For those wishing to base themselves in the UK to work on a self-employed or freelance basis, the most talented will continue to able to do so where they are able  to qualify under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, and those coming to establish their own business may be able to do so where they meet the requirements of the

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route.

6.72 Skilled professionals who are technically self-employed, but effectively filling a
position with a UK-based business (for example, barristers) will continue to be able
to be sponsored under the new route for skilled and highly skilled workers.


6.73 The UK has existing “Mode 4” commitments under bilateral free trade agreements concluded between the EU and third countries (for example, the EUCanada CETA), which provide for the admission of self-employed professionals where they are coming to supply a service to a UK client under a contract. These commitments, which we expect the UK to continue to be bound by following the
UK’s exit from the EU, are currently catered for in the UK immigration system.

Entry is limited to six months and these commitments are limited to specific sectors.  The Government expects to negotiate similar arrangements with the EU as part of a deal on a future economic relationship.

6.74 In addition, those admitted temporarily under any future Youth Mobility Scheme agreed with the EU or other key partners would be permitted to work on selfemployed terms.

6.75 As part of ensuring that the UK remains an open economy, it will be a continuing objective of immigration policy to ensure that it supports trade and inward  investment by facilitating business mobility. By agreeing ‘Mode 4’ commitment s in future free trade agreements, trading partners can provide service industries with greater certainty as to their ability to move key personnel across borders to supply services and fulfil contracts.

6.76 The UK, as a member of the EU, is currently bound by the EU’s existing commitments under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to admit business personnel where they are coming in the context of supplying a service (known as ‘Mode 4’ commitments).

6.77 ‘Mode 4’ commitments are concerned with temporary entry for business purposes, and not with access to the labour market or long-term migration for the purpose of work. They cover:

  • temporary entry as a business visitor for the purpose of selling services (for example, undertaking short-term paid engagements that relate to a profession such as law or music) and establishing a branch of an overseasbusiness in the UK;
  • transferring key personnel (managers and specialists) from an overseas company to a branch or subsidiary of that business in the UK (i.e. intracompany transfers); and
  • temporary entry of skilled workers in connection with the supply of service to a UK client by a business with no existing presence in the UK (i.e. contractual service suppliers). These latter commitments are restricted tospecified sectors.

6.78 The UK currently implements these commitments (and similar commitments which the EU has taken in bilateral free trade agreements with third countries, such as the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).

6.79 The UK Government will approach the question of what ‘Mode 4’ commitments it takes in future trade agreements with a view to securing an ambitious and successful outcome to future negotiations; ensuring that the outward mobility needs of UK businesses are supported; and ensuring that any such commitments do not undermine the UK’s ability to adjust its immigration policies to meeteconomic needs and wider migration objectives.

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