The below gives a summary of the detailed research and recommendations issued by the Migration Advisory Committee on 28th January 2020. While the way in which the Government will act upon the below is open to question, the MAC’s recommendations are considered very seriously, so there is a strong likelihood that many of these suggestions will be considered and acted upon in some shape or form in the near future during the planning and implementation of a new UK immigration system in the coming years.

The “Points-based system”.
The MAC considered how a points-based system could be used to admit skilled migrants with a job offer on entry, without a job offer on entry, and for settlement.

Interestingly – for those with a job offer the MAC recommended retaining the existing framework for Tier 2 (General).

For those without a job offer, the MAC recommended the government (if it wants to have a PBS route on entry) should consider modifying Tier 1 (Exceptional/Global Talent visa’s) in the following way:
• There should be an overall annual cap on those admitted; • The route should operate on an expression of interest basis creating a pool of migrants interested in coming to the UK; • There should be a monthly draw from this pool with those selected invited to submit a full application; • The selection of those invited to apply should be based on those who have the highest number of points in the pool using a points-based system with tradeable points; • There should also be an absolute minimum number of points; • Points should be given for characteristics that the Government wants to attract through this route and for whom other routes are not suitable; • Among the characteristics that the Government might want to consider in assigning points are: Qualifications with a rigorous process to assess the quality of qualifications and not just the level; Age; Extra points for having studied in the UK; Priority areas such as STEM and creative skills. • Changes should only be made if data is collected on the outcomes of migrants on this route, with monitoring and evaluation of the route.

The current path to indefinite leave to remain via Tier 2 (General) requires meeting a settlement income threshold unless one is in a job that has been on the Shortage Occupation List. The MAC found it impossible to evaluate the current system, so recommended a pause in planned changes pending a review of the paths to settlement.

Recommendation: There should be an immediate pause in the proposed increases to the settlement threshold, currently £35,800
Recommendation: There should be a review of the requirements for settlement, to establish a clearer picture of how it is currently working and possible changes that could be made.

Salary thresholds in Tier 2 (General)
These recommendations are in addition to those made in the earlier MAC report on EEA Migration and accepted in the Immigration White Paper, namely expansion of eligibility to include medium-skill occupations (RQF3+), abolition of the cap and the Resident Labour Market Test. These recommendations are also made in the context of the initial recommendation that the general structure of Tier 2 (General) is retained.

Recommendation: Both the occupation specific and general salary thresholds should be based on the relevant distribution of full-time earnings as reported in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) and updated annually. The appropriate salary threshold should continue to be the higher of the occupation specific and general threshold.
Recommendation: The occupation specific threshold should be the 25th percentile of the full-time annual earnings distribution for that occupation.
Recommendation: The general threshold should be set at the 25th percentile of the full-time annual earnings distribution for all Tier 2 (General) eligible occupations.
Recommendation: National pay scales should be used as the relevant salary thresholds in 24 occupations in health and education instead of both the occupation specific and general thresholds.
Recommendation: There should be more adequate monitoring of how migrants are faring in the UK labour market after entry and ongoing review of the impacts of the recommendations on levels of salary thresholds.
Regional variation

The MAC considered the different arguments for and against regional salary thresholds. Outside of London, differences in earnings across regions are not large enough to justify the extra complication. Earnings differences within regions and devolved administrations are larger than those between them. Institutionalising some parts of the UK as ‘lower wage’ also does not seem to be the right way to reduce regional inequalities. On balance, the MAC decided against regional variation in salary thresholds. As in their previous Shortage Occupation Report, the MAC remains of the view that the distinctive problems of remote areas would be better handled through a specific visa for them.

Recommendation: The relevant salary thresholds should apply across the UK.
Recommendation: There should be a separate pilot visa for ‘remote’ areas of the UK, part of which could be lower salary thresholds for migrants into those areas. This should only be done with a full evaluation to understand its effectiveness and impacts.

Part time workers, allowances and equity
The MAC did not find evidence that the current Tier 2 (General) system discriminates against women, though there could be more flexibility for existing visa holders to switch to part-time work after becoming a parent. Enforcement becomes more difficult should pro-rating, and forms of compensation other than salary, be allowed.

Recommendation: Salary thresholds should not be pro-rated to allow for part time work.
Recommendation: The Government should consider more flexibility (i.e. prorating salary thresholds) for visa holders switching to part-time work after becoming a parent.
Recommendation: Only the salary of a main job should be used to determine whether the salary threshold is met. Allowances, equity and employer pension contributions should not be included.
Recommendation: The rules on Tier 2 (General) visa holders owning equity in the employer sponsoring them should be reviewed.

Priority or Shortage Occupations
The MAC does not think it is a good idea to commission a review of the Shortage Occupation List itself in the immediate future, as any assessment of current shortages is unlikely to be indicative of shortages when the new immigration system is in place and once free movement has ended.

Recommendation: Occupations on the Shortage Occupation List should not have lower salary thresholds for entry.
Recommendation: We recommend a review of whether the SOL is needed after the new immigration system has been fully introduced.
Recommendation: National pay scales should be used as the relevant salary thresholds in 24 occupations in health and education instead of both the occupation specific and general thresholds.

New Entrants
Salary thresholds are lower for new entrants because salaries are generally lower for them and faster pay progression can be expected. Currently the new entrant thresholds are set at the 10th percentile, leading to a lot of variation relative to the experienced worker threshold. The current definition of a new entrant does not always meet a common-sense definition of one and the expected rate of pay progression is demanding: The MAC have recommended changes to deal with these issues.

Recommendation: The salary thresholds for new entrants should be a single ‘reduction’ percentage applied across both the general experienced worker threshold and the occupation specific experienced worker thresholds.
Recommendation: The reduction percentage for new entrants should be set at 30 per cent.
Recommendation: The definition of a new entrant should be widened to include those are working towards recognised professional qualifications and those who are moving directly into postdoctoral positions.
Recommendation: The new entrant rate should apply for five years, an extension from the current three-year entitlement. Any time spent on the new post-study work route should count towards the five years of new entrant threshold eligibility.
NB:These recommendations would mean that the new entrant general threshold would be in the region of £17,900 (to the nearest £100). There are risks with this which makes a further review important at a later stage.

Eligible Occupations
The proposed expansion of Tier 2 (General) to include medium-skill jobs post Brexit means that the boundary between low and medium-skill jobs becomes important in a way it is not now. A full review should be conducted when SOC2020 is introduced but, meanwhile;

Recommendation: adding/removing the following occupations from the list of RQF3+ occupations
• Add: Air-conditioning and refrigeration engineers, Rail and rolling stock builders and repairers, Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors, Carpenters and joiners, Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters, Plasterers, Floorers and wall tilers, Painters and decorators, Construction and building trades supervisors, Childminders and related occupations, Teaching assistants and Educational support assistants. • Remove: Fishing and other elementary agriculture occupations n.e.c. and Waiters and waitresses.

Data Issues
In its report on EEA migration in 2018, the MAC highlighted that the availability and access to data remain serious constraints to its work. As an evidence-based body, it is concerned that the issues accessing data hamper MAC ability to use the most appropriate and robust data in order to undertake analysis to inform recommendations.
The introduction of the future immigration system provides an opportunity to focus on how data can be used to understand the impacts of changes to migration policy. The past shows that there has not been adequate monitoring or evaluation of specific visa routes, which makes learning from past experience to feed into future policy very challenging. The future global system brings fundamental changes and it is essential that data is collected on migrant outcomes by visa route in order to assess these changes.

Recommendation: The Government and ONS should seek to link datasets across government to allow a better understanding of the employment outcomes of migrants, for the purposes of research whilst ensuring confidentiality.
Recommendation: The Government should invest in a data set designed to link migrants with subsequent outcomes to be used for the evaluation of all visas.
Recommendation: The Home Office should ensure it retains historical data on migration routes in a usable format for future analysis.
Recommendation: The Home Office should publish breakdowns of entry clearance visas by gender on a regular basis.