The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is hugely influential on the Home Office and the rules they bring in when it comes to migrants coming to work and settle in the UK. Today (28.01.20), they have released their official report on how they believe the Home Office should operate in this area.


We have summarised the most important points for you below so that you can be aware of the many changes the MAC have recommended, as the Home Office are bound to take the report very seriously and heed much of the advice within it.


Main areas of interest:


  • Would a points best immigration system work in the UK?
  • Should salary thresholds change for migrants?


These two questions make up the bulk of the report, and the way in which the MAC have answered them will be massively important to the Home Office and may affect all people either migrating to the UK or trying to settle here.


Current rules:


So you know what to compare the new rules to, here is a brief summary of the current ones:


Since April 2017, the general salary threshold has been £30,000 or £20,800 for new entrants. New entrants currently meaning those aged under 26 on application, switching from Tier 4, or the role was advertised through a university milk round.


In terms of a points based system (the Australian-style immigration system that the government wants to re-introduce), there is not currently one in place but there have been similar policies implemented in the past to varying effect.


Recommendations – Points based system:


The MAC has recommended retaining the existing framework for Tier 2 (General). This means that this visa type will remain the same in terms of application procedure, with no points based system. This is partly because applicants on this visa type usually have a job offer already, meaning there is less need for a rigorous vetting scheme such as a points based system.


However, the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa does not rely on a job offer. The MAC have advised the Home Office to consider modifying Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) in the following ways:


  • 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;

What characteristics should earn applicants points?


According to the report, points should be given according to the following:


  • Qualifications
  • Age of applicant (the younger the better, essentially.)
  • Evidence of having studied in the UK
  • Skilled in priority areas such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths.)


The MAC has recommended this points based system for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visas because it says the current system is too hard on applicants and relies on a proven track record of success, rather than the potential an applicant shows.


Recommendations – Salary threshold:


The biggest highlight for this area is the fact that the MAC have recommended reducing the minimum salary threshold to around £25,600, instead of the current £30,000.


This reduction to the wage threshold would allow most employers to hire migrants at wages that many existing workers are currently on.


This reduction will be UK-wide at first, as the MAC does not want to over-complicate the matter by regionalising this change.


However, they also recommend that there should be a separate pilot visa for ‘remote’ areas of the UK, part of which could have even lower salary thresholds for migrants into those areas. This should only be done with a full evaluation to understand its effectiveness and impacts.


Also, the MAC have recommended that occupations on the Shortage Occupation List should not have lower salary thresholds for entry.


Going forward, the MAC have also called for more in-depth monitoring of how migrants are faring in the UK labour market after entry and advising for on-going reviews of how these changes to the salary thresholds are going.


Some other interesting recommendations regarding salary thresholds:


  • Salary thresholds should not be pro-rated to allow for part-time work.


  • The Government should consider more flexibility (i.e. prorating salary thresholds) for visa holders switching to part-time work after becoming a parent.


  • Only salary on the main job should be used to determine whether the salary threshold is met. Allowances, equity and employer pension contributions should not be included.


  • 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.


  • The occupation specific threshold should be the 25th percentile of the full-time annual earnings distribution for that occupation.

We will wait and see


Many interesting points raised here, we look forward to seeing if they all come to light after the Home Office considers them. As we said at the start of this article, the MAC holds considerable weight with the Home Office, so it is likely that the report will be treated with the utmost respect by most politicians and policy makers.


We will be sure to keep you right up to date with how this progresses.


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