Businesses that employ staff from the EU or elsewhere in the EEA need to consider how Brexit could affect them in light of the EU-UK trade deal. We’ve taken a look at the issues you might face and provided tips on how to minimise disruption for you and your employees.
Will we still be able to employ EU nationals after the 31 December 2020 (end of the transition period)?
Yes, but only if they have the right to work in the UK either under the EU Settlement Scheme or general UK immigration laws. As the transition period has ended on 31 December 2020, EEA nationals wanting to move to and work will now be subject to the same immigration laws as non-EEA nationals.
The EU Settlement Scheme is open to citizens of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland (referred to as “EEA nationals/citizens”) and their family members who live in the UK before the end of the transition period. The scheme allows eligible people to obtain the UK immigration status they need to continue living, working and studying in the UK after the transition period (i.e. from 1 January 2021 onwards).
- An EEA national or their family member who have been living in the UK for a continuous period of five years (not having been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any of those five years) can apply for settled status.
- If an EEA national has been living in the UK for less than five years, they should apply for pre-settled status. Once the individual has the required five-year residence, they can apply for settled status. The EEA national must make this application before their pre-settled status expires.
- The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021, but the employee must have started living in the UK by 11pm on 31 December 2020. The employee may bring a close family member (e.g. spouse or civil partner) to the UK after 31 December 2020 if the relationship with them began before 31 December 2020.
- An employee will have to leave the UK if no application has been made either under the EU Settlement Scheme or the new UK Immigration Rules by the deadline.
- The employee’s status, once granted, is linked to the passport or national identity card that was used to apply for the scheme. The employee won’t get a physical document to confirm their settled or pre-settled status. Employers will have to use the online Right to Work Check tool to check an employee’s status. Right to work checks continue in the same way as now (passports or national identity cards) until 30 June 2021 for EU citizens. Employers should not require EU employees to show them their status under the EU Settlement Scheme until after 30 June 2021. A company-wide right to work check must be carried out on EU workers on 1 July 2021.
EEA nationals who want to work in the UK for the first time after 31 December 2020 can only do so under the new points-based UK immigration system (“PBS”) that came into force on 1 January 2020. Under the new system, an employer must have a sponsorship licence to bring people into the UK.
- Skilled workers may get a visa if they have a job offer from an approved employer, have the required skills level, are able to speak English and be paid the relevant salary threshold. This will be either the general threshold of £25,600 or the going rate for the occupation (whichever is the higher). Individuals who earn no less than £20,480 a year may be able to trade points on specific characteristics against the salary. There will be no cap on sponsored skilled workers and no requirement to complete a resident labour market test before sponsoring a migrant worker.
- The Global Talent Scheme is now open to EU nationals. This allows highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer if they’re endorsed by a recognised UK body, approved by the Home Office.
- The intra-company transfer route allows multinational organisations to facilitate temporary moves into the UK for key personnel through subsidiary branches. Intra-company transfer sponsorship requirements will have to be met, the applicants have to be in roles at graduate level equivalent and are subject to a different minimum threshold from the main skilled worker route (i.e. £41,500 or the going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher).
- Low skilled workers: Under the new PBS it will not be possible to bring low skilled EEA national workers into the UK, not even temporarily, apart from under the seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme.
From 1 January 2021 an employer will have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge also when sponsoring EU migrant workers. The immigration Skills Charge is £1,000 per skilled worker for the first 12 months, with an additional charge of £500 for each subsequent six-month period. Discounted rates will apply to charities and small businesses (£364 per year and £182 for each subsequent 6-month period).
When making a visa application, EU nationals also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge which is £625 per year.
- Make sure all current EEA national employees already in the UK have applied/will apply under the EU Settlement Scheme before the deadline (30 June 2021)
- Apply for a sponsorship licence as soon as possible to beat the surge and delays
- Speak to your legal representative and work out strategies that best suit your business needs
- Read our guidance on personal data of employees
Our business immigration section has more information on how we can help you with issues related to employing EEA nationals.