Immigration Reforms Announcement

UK Visas and Immigration have published a road map for immigration, which provides insight on the future for economic immigration.

On 24 May 2021, the UKVI published a lengthy statement entitled the ‘New plan for immigration: legal migration and border control strategy statement’ covering the UK Government’s proposals for the next four years. This statement is not to be confused with the new ‘Plan for Immigration’ which was published in March and mainly covers illegal migration and asylum seekers.

The statement promises ‘transformational change’ and contains details of the following:

  1. Streamlining the process of sponsorship
  2. Introduction of new immigration routes, allowing for migrants to work in the UK without sponsorship
  3. Implementation of digital systems that promise to transform customer experience
  4. Reformation of the UK border with plans to introduce a universal permission to travel requirement

Further details and a ‘roadmap’ are due to be published in summer 2022.


It is clear from the statement that the UKVI aim to streamline the sponsorship process, by way of the following changes:

  1. Speed up end-to-end processing from applying for a sponsor licence to an individual being approved for a visa. This will be through the removal of in-person biometric appointments and automatically inviting sponsored applicants to make visa applications.
  2. Improve sponsors’ experience of using the sponsor system through automated checks with the HMRC and Companies House to enable fast track approval. Although this is already in place for sponsors registered with organisations such as Charities Commission or London Stock Exchange, this is a welcome change for sponsors who have a presence in the public domain and will lead to a reduction in document collating for sponsor licence applications and no doubt reduce timeframes. However, sponsors should take all reasonable steps to ensure that their profile at Companies House or any other body where they are registered is up to date and mirrors their records with the UKVI.
  3. Providing a ‘dashboard’ for sponsors in managing their migrant workforce. This is promising and if implemented efficiently, will make the process more transparent for sponsors, however there is no information on whether migrants must ‘opt’ in for this service.   
  4. Preventing abuse of the system through automated PAYE checks and introducing trust ratings for sponsors based on compliance. We already know that the UKVI share information with HMRC and the recent requirement to include PAYE numbers for all sponsors on the SMS in an indication that the UKVI aim to share information more frequently. The trust rating is interesting and it would be useful to see how this would be implemented, without leading to a two tier sponsorship system. 
  5. Introducing a new Skilled Worker Eligibility checking tool making it easier for prospective Employers and workers to assess if a particular job is eligible under the Skilled Worker route. This is a useful concept – however, as immigration practitioners, we know that assessing eligibility is not so straightforward and could lead to errors.

New immigration routes

The statement touches on the already released Global Talent route and the previously announced Graduate route launching in summer 2021.

In addition to this, the UKVI have announced new routes including with a promise to provide more details in due course:

  • Unsponsored points-based route to be introduced in spring 2022 with an emphasis on those deemed to be highly skilled and academically elite.
  • Global Business Mobility route, also from spring 2022, which will incorporate existing provisions for intra-company transfer, contractual service suppliers, sole representatives and a new provision for import and export-related secondments.
  • A new International Sportsperson route to replace Tier 2 and Tier 5 routes.
  • Simplifying the family, private life and settlement routes.

Border and Security – Fully digital system

The UKVI aim to remove the use of physical documents to demonstrate immigration status, through a phased approach. As part of a whole government approach, the UKVI will look  to put systems in place to allow government departments and public bodies to check immigration status directly with them.

This also encompasses the UKVI’s focus on border and security and reiterates the proposal to introduce Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETAs) which will apply to all travellers to the UK (excluding British and Irish citizens) who do not have an immigration status prior to travelling.

In addition, the UKVI  has indicated that entry clearance vignettes will be replaced with a digital status record.

What next?

This latest announcement outlines how our UK immigration system will develop over the next few years.

Organisations are encouraged to participate in any consultations that may arise from the planned future updates to enable their voices to be heard. Stakeholder engagement plays an important part of shaping our future system.

We will provide further updates once more information is released so watch this space.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of May 26, 2021.