The UK's transition withdrawal period from the EU comes to an end on 31st December 2020. From 1st January 2021, freedom of movement of people between the UK and the EU will come to an end, and new UK immigration laws will come into effect. Accordingly, all employers need to assess their workforce and business to ensure they remain compliant.

Current Employees (or those employed and living in the UK before January 2021)

Unless employees have UK/British/Irish citizenship (including "dual citizenship") or have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, EU/Swiss employees must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021 to continue living in the UK.

If employees do not apply to the scheme, they may not be able to continue living or working in the UK as they do now and their employment is at risk.

Action for employers:

  • Ascertain the citizenship of all employees
  • Employees who do not have UK/British/Irish citizenship should provide to their employer the original document which confirms they have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. A copy should be taken of this and kept on the employee's HR file
  • If employers are unsure of their employee's citizenship, employees should be asked to bring in their original passports for copies to be taken for HR files
  • If EU/Swiss employees have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, they must do so by the 30th June 2021 so the employer should remind the employee of this deadline and that failure to have the right to remain in the UK may lead to their dismissal
  • Staff Manuals should be updated to include a clause requiring employees to be able to demonstrate that they have the right to work in the UK - an employee would be in fundamental breach of their contract by failing to provide evidence of this; thus giving the employer the right to dismiss without notice.

New Employees (from 1 January 2021)

From 1 January 2021, anyone recruited from outside the UK for the Skilled Worker route (currently called Tier 2 and/or 5) will need to demonstrate that:

  • they have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor
  • they speak English at the required level
  • the job offer is at the required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level)
  • they'll be paid at least £25,600 or the 'going rate' for the job offer, whichever is higher.

If the job will pay less than this - but no less than £20,480 – the applicant may still be able to apply by 'trading' points on specific characteristics against their salary. For example, if they have a job offer in a shortage occupation or have a PhD relevant to the job.

If employers are already a licensed Tier 2 visa sponsor, they will automatically be granted with a new Skilled Worker Licence. If not, then the employer will need to apply for a sponsor licence which can be requested now:

Licence Fees

Type of Licence Fee for small/charitable sponsors Fee for medium/large sponsors
Tier 2 £536 £1,476
Tier 5 £536 £536
Tier 2 and Tier 5 £536 £1,476

Tier 2 is for skilled workers with long-term job offers whilst Tier 5 is for skilled temporary workers. The definition of a small business is one that has an annual turnover of £10.2 million or less and 50 employees or less.

Licence applications can take between three and five weeks to be considered. The Home Office carefully reviews all applications for sponsor licences. If it considers that one or more requirements have not been met, the application will be refused. It is therefore essential that the application is prepared thoroughly and carefully. Once a licence has been granted, employers can start recruiting skilled EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals to work in the UK. A sponsor licence is valid for an initial period of four years, with the option to renew.

Other routes

Some visas allow the holder to work in the UK without a sponsor. For example, the Global Talent route which is designed to attract recognised global leaders and promising individuals in science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology.

Action for employers:

  • Assess the nationality of their current workforce and business to see if the business will need a sponsor licence from 2021.
  • Complete the application form online with information about the company and pay the fee. Compile and send required supporting documents which provide the Home Office with key information about the company.

Verfides will continue to keep you updated with any developments.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.