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Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) releases report on points-based system and salary thresholds

In 2019, the Migration Advisory Committee was commissioned by the Government to conduct a review of salary thresholds and how a potential ‘Australian-style’ points-based immigration system would work in the UK post-Brexit. The MAC has now published their recommendations following a consultation process, which Ukie responded to here.

Their recommendations included:

  • Retaining salary thresholds but opening up the Tier 2 General visa route (the route most applicable to games companies recruiting non-EEA workers) to include medium-skilled workers as well as the currently high skilled workers. This inclusion would reduce the salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600.
  • No regional variations in salary thresholds – variations would leave to a large increase for London salaries, but only a minimal decrease for job roles outside of London.
  • Roles on the Shortage Occupation List should not have lower salary thresholds. 

On top of this, their assessment of introducing a points-based immigration system was not the most positive – the MAC determined that adding a PBS could risk being “cosmetic” and having “no purpose”. It was concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that the current Tier 2 General visa route fails to select sufficiently qualified migrant workers. If the Government were to introduce a points-based route, it was suggested this would be best done so through the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa – the route which does not require a job offer for migration. 

The recommendations were surprising considering that the Telegraph reported only a week before that “Downing Street sources” indicated that the proposals would be the opposite. The suggested proposals included a total scrap of the £30,000 salary threshold, and an introduction of a full PBS which would award points to migrants who showed a “willingness to work outside of London”, reflecting the Government’s wider agenda of regional development. However, neither were the case and the latter was not reflected in the MAC’s ultimate recommendations for a PBS for the Tier 1 Visa route (instead suggesting qualifications, age, studies in the UK, and priority areas such as STEM).

It remains to be seen how far the Government will adopt the MAC’s recommendations. Upon publication of the MAC’s recommendations, the Government responded with the following:

"The Government will introduce a firmer and fairer points-based immigration system from 2021 that welcomes talent from around the world while reducing low-skilled migrants and bringing overall numbers down. We will carefully consider the report before setting out further details on the new system.”

There is potential here that a cosmetic PBS will be introduced with little actual effect, or that the MAC’s recommendations will be followed and that a PBS will be introduced through the Tier 1 visa route. Either way, it appears that any future PBS will have little effect on the games industry. 

What is more important is the potential reduction in the salary threshold for recruiting workers from non-EEA countries. Once the UK leaves the EU, the majority of EEA citizens will be processed through the Tier 2 General visa route just as with rest of world workers currently.

Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie, said in response to the MAC's recommendations:

"A reduction in the salary threshold would be great for the games industry. The UK's thriving games scene continues to benefit from the valuable contribution made by international talent and we support this positive suggestion."