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Geoscience and the UK's points-based immigration system

The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. On 19 February 2020 the Government published a policy paper which sets out the new points-based immigration system that will take effect from 1 January 2021.

This policy paper was informed by the evidence presented in the Independent Report produced as a result of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)'s Call for Evidence. The Society's response to this Call for Evidence highlighted that:

  1. Diversions from the national average salary value vary by region around the UK. This disparity means that the challenge of meeting salary thresholds is not evenly distributed around the UK.
  2. Existing settlement salary thresholds are currently that of a Chartered geologist – a process that takes a minimum of four years to complete - so the timeframe for salary progression is not commensurate with expected career progression across the geoscience sector.
  3. The burden of appealing for allowances to the current system is concentrated on smaller businesses and those in regions where the cost of living is lower.
  4. SMEs have reported issues with retention due to the uncertainty posed by the visa process.
  5. The ability to recruit staff at technician level is particularly vulnerable to the current and proposed salary thresholds.

The Society's response can be read in full via the following links:

The sections below outline how changes to the UK's immigration policy announced on 19 February 2020 relate to the evidence that The Society submitted to the MAC's Call for Evidence.

1. There will be no regional skill or salary allowance for difference parts of the UK.

The Society’s evidence shows that diversions from the national average salary vary by region, and the challenge of meeting a single fixed salary threshold will be disproportionately distributed across the UK.

2. The salary threshold will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600.

While a lower salary threshold is welcomed as it widens access to a non-UK pool of geoscience skills and talent, in some regions of the UK the salary threshold of £25,600 will remain a challenge for small businesses to meet. These changes will disproportionately affect smaller businesses as their salary margins are lower.

3. There will be no temporary route to entry.

This will mean that SMEs will no longer be able to hire EU citizens on temporary work visas, which removes uncertainty but also access to a key market of flexible talent currently met by the EEA free movement rules.

4. There will be no low-skilled route to entry.

This could negatively affect the available talent pool to fulfil roles at technician and assistant level, as they do not typically pay >£25,600 and tend not to require doctorate-level training against which the salary threshold can be reduced.