On 31 December 2020, freedom of movement between the United Kingdom and the European Union ended. The UK’s new points-based immigration system is now in place and receiving applications. This was a significant milestone which delivered on a key HM Government commitment to the British people to take back control of our borders and put in place an immigration system which works in the interests of our whole United Kingdom.
However, this only marked the beginning of a wider programme of change to radically transform the operation of our border and immigration system.
In March I set out our plans to fix our broken asylum system and build a fair, but also firm, system for dealing with humanitarian protection claims and illegal migration through this Government’s New Plan for Immigration.
Today I am laying before the House a command paper (CP 441) setting out our New Plan for Immigration for legal migration and border control. Together both papers provide a complete picture of the Government’s plan to take back control of our borders and immigration system.
Building on the success of the EU settlement scheme and the points-based system, over the next four years we will implement further reforms to bring more radical changes and benefits to the way all individuals cross the border and come to the UK. This will support the plan for growth and two strands of the Government’s build back better agenda: to build back safer by securing the UK border and ensuring compliance with a new system of controlled immigration, and to build back stronger by supporting the UK’s domestic labour market and attracting the brightest and best global talent to the UK to live, work and study.
The strategy statement I have published today sets out our programme for 2021 and 2022. This includes: further reform to the points-based system, a new graduate visa, new routes to attract top talent to the UK, and a new international sportsperson route, alongside further simplification of our immigration rules to streamline our systems and reduce complexity. We will also be improving the user experience by implementing digital solutions, removing paper from the process and reducing the need to attend application centres. This will lay the groundwork for the full transformation of the border and immigration system in the coming years.
It also outlines our vision for the border and immigration system beyond 2022, with this next phase of our programme being truly transformational for everyone using our systems and crossing the UK border, implementing major elements of HM Government’s published 2025 UK border strategy.
We are moving away from a complex system reliant on people proving their rights through physical documents, sometimes decades old, to a streamlined system which is digital by default. Our goal is to achieve this by the end of 2024. This will make the system quicker, easier and in some cases safer for people applying to come to the UK and proving their rights when in the UK.
Through upstream transformation to our border and immigration system we will also improve our ability to know more about people before they reach the UK border. We will introduce an electronic travel authorisation scheme as part of a wider universal permission to travel requirement for everyone wishing to travel to the UK—except British and Irish citizens. This will support us in our ambition to be global leaders in providing a streamlined and seamless customer experience.
This is an ambitious programme to deliver a world-leading border and immigration system. The plans set out in the strategy statement are essential if we are to have a border and immigration system which will attract highly skilled people, while also strengthening the security of our United Kingdom.