People moving to the UK will need to speak English and already have work lined up under a new points-based immigration system.
The government has set out a new Immigration Bill that will come into force on January 1 2021, marking the end of free movement.
Migrants will now have to gain 70 points to be eligible for a visa, in aims of creating a ‘high wage, high skill, high productivity economy’ in the UK, a statement said.
It continued: ‘For too long, distorted by European free movement rights, the immigration system has been failing to meet the needs of the British people. Our approach will change all of this.’
In the system, EU or non-EU citizens will be awarded 10 points straight away if they can speak English to a certain level.
A job offer from an approved sponsor, such as an employer cleared by the Home Office, and a job at a ‘required skill level’ will then earn them 20 points each.
Other points could be awarded for certain qualifications and whether there is a shortage in a particular occupation.
For those moving with a job offer, the salary threshold will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 – but workers who earn above £20,480 can move to the UK if they have a job offer on the government’s job shortage list, or a relevant PhD.
This means low-earners, such as nurses, may be able to get visas due to shortages of staff.
Highly-skilled workers, such as scientists, technology or maths professionals, can also move without a job offer, so long as they are endorsed by a ‘relevant and competent body’.
However, there will be no temporary or general visa options for low-skilled migrants.
The policy stated: ‘UK businesses will need to adapt and adjust to the end of free movement, and we will not seek to recreate the outcomes from free movement within the points-based system.
‘As such, it is important that employers move away from a reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, productivity, and wider investment in technology and automation.’
It is estimated that around 70% of the EU workforce currently living in the UK would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route.
A pilot scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture will be quadrupled from 2,500 to 10,000 places, while youth mobility arrangements with eight countries will continue.
They currently result in around 20,000 young people coming to the UK each year.
Students wishing to come to the UK will need to be able to speak English, support themselves through their studies and have an offer from an approved educational institution.
Current arrangements for specialist occupations such as religious ministers, artists, musicians and entertainers are expected to broadly remain the same and be extended for EU citizens.
Self-employed and freelance workers can also continue to apply for visas under existing rules and will not need to be sponsored.
Visitors, including EU citizens, will be able to come to the UK without a visa for six months, but are not allowed to work in that time.
Asylum applications fall outside the points-based system and are expected to operate under existing rules.
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the system as a ‘historic moment for the whole country’ which will help ‘unleash’ the UK’s ‘full potential’.
However, the government has been warned that care, construction, hospitality, food and drinks companies are likely to be affected by the new system.
A spokesperson for the UK Homecare Association said: ‘Cutting off the supply of prospective careworkers under a new migration system will pave the way for more people waiting unnecessarily in hospital or going without care.
‘Telling employers to adjust, in a grossly underfunded care system, is simply irresponsible.’
Shadow Home Secretary Diana Abbott also claimed ministers were too anxious to ‘look as if they’re cracking down on immigration’ and had not fully considered the policy’s impact.
She told BBC Breakfast: ‘One of the problems is the salary threshold they’re talking of, it’s as if they think that the level of your salary determines how valuable your role is and what skills you have, but we know that there are people in relatively low-paid occupations like social care who are skilled and valuable, and their new system may keep these people out and without social care workers from the EU, social care, for instance in London, would be absolutely in a very difficult position.’