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Employment

Brexit – hiring EU employees during the transition period and beyond

Brexit - hiring EU employees during the transition period and beyond

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. As a result, free movement for nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) (and Switzerland) will end on 31 December 2020.

From 1 January 2021, the UK will operate a new points-based immigration system and EEA citizens moving to the UK to work will need to obtain a visa in advance.

 

Key Points for Employers who currently employ EEA nationals

Employers should support current staff who may be affected by the changes, and ensure that they are aware of the EU Settlement Scheme:

  • EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who are resident in the UK before 31 December 2020 can apply for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • Individuals must be resident in the UK before 31 December 2020;
  • Applications must be made before 30 June 2021. It is free to apply;
  • If granted, the individuals will be able to continue to live and work in the UK;
  • Those granted pre-settled status can remain in the UK for up to 5 years;
  • Those granted settled status can remain in the UK as long as they wish and may be eligible to apply for British citizenship.

Employers can continue to confirm an EEA national’s right to work by seeing a passport or National Identity Card until 30 June 2021. From 1 July 2021, employers must see proof of status (either under the EU Settlement Scheme or a relevant visa under the new point-based system).

 

Key Points for Employers who wish to employ EEA nationals now

Where an EEA national arrives in the UK prior to 31 December 2020, they may be able to apply for EU Settled Status. This may be more cost-effective than hiring an individual after 1 January 2021 (see below).

As such, employers should investigate anticipated hires as a matter of urgency and ascertain whether a potential EEA hire can relocate prior to 31 December 2020, in order to establish residency and apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.

 

Key Points for Employers who wish to employ EEA nationals from 1 January 2021

Where an EEA national is not eligible under the EU Settlement Scheme (i.e. where the individual has not been resident in the UK prior to 31 December 2020), then the new points-based immigration system will apply and the employer will (usually) need to operate as a sponsor.

For a Skilled Worker Visa, the employer will need:

  • a sponsorship licence (between £536 – £1,476 for a worker licence, depending on the size of the business);
  • to assign a certificate of sponsorship (usually £199 per worker);
  • to pay additional costs such as the Immigration Skills Charge (between £364 and £1,000 per worker per year, depending on the size of the business); and
  • to offer the minimum salary level (for a skilled worker visa, the employer will usually need to offer the higher of £25,600 per year or the “going rate” for the job).

There will be increased charges for the individuals too, such as the application costs and the immigration health surcharge.

Employers will need to be mindful that recruitment of EEA nationals may take more time and more expense from 1 January 2021.

As such, employers may wish to:

  • apply for a sponsorship licence (if not done so already);
  • check their current sponsor licence (if the business already has one) and ensure it is valid and fit for purpose;
  • familiarise themselves with the impending changes to the immigration system;
  • note key project deadlines to establish resource requirements throughout 2021; and
  • build in extra time and make sure visa applications are submitted in advance to ensure project deadlines are not adversely affected.

Please note, the above summary is based on the Skilled Worker Visa only (previously Tier 2 General visa). Other types of visa may be more appropriate, and guidance and costs may differ.

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