The uncertainty surrounding Brexit continues, however one thing we do know is that the UK’s transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021, freedom of movement between the UK and EU will end and a new points-based immigration system will be introduced. For organisations, in particular, that recruit outside of the UK, this will pose some significant changes that employers will need to be prepared for.
The new system will not apply to EU citizens already living in the UK by 31 December 2020. They will be eligible to apply for the EU settlement scheme and have until 30 June 2021 to make an application. Their status will depend on how long they have been resident in the UK.
- Less than 5 years: pre-settled status
- More than 5 years: settled status
As a transition measure, employers will be able to accept passports and national identity cards from EU citizens as evidence of right to work up until 30 June 2021.
The EU Settlement Scheme Process
Applications are open until 30 June 2021. Applications can be made via an app. To make an application, an individual will need an EU passport and their National Insurance number. They will need to do the following on the app:
- Take a selfie and upload it
- Scan their passport
- Complete a simple online form
The individual’s NI number will be used to assess how long the individual has been in the UK through their contributions made to tax and/or benefits received.
Once this is complete, either “settled” or “pre-settled” status will be awarded. There will be an opportunity for further documents to be uploaded if the individual is aware they are “pre-settled” rather than “settled” status for example. This may happen if the individual has come to the UK under a treaty agreement or if they haven’t been paying tax whilst working.
Skilled worker route
From 1 January 2021, if employers want to recruit workers from outside of the UK, they will need to become a Home Office-licensed sponsor. This will enable them to recruit workers from anywhere in the world. Further information on becoming a sponsor can be found here:
Under the new skilled worker system, anyone coming into the UK to work will need to demonstrate that:
- they have a job offer from a Home Office-licensed sponsor
- the job offer is at the required level – RQF 3 or above (A Level and equivalent)
- they speak English to a required standard
In addition to this, the job offer must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold. Which is the higher of either the general salary threshold of £25,600, or the specific salary requirement for their occupation, known as the ‘going rate’.
Applicants can trade characteristics such as qualifications, against a lower salary to get the required number of points (salary no less than £20,480) and may still be eligible if they have:
- a job offer in a specific shortage occupation
- a PhD relevant to the job
- a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job
A total of 70 points is needed to be able to apply to work in the UK:
|Offer of job by approved sponsor||Mandatory||20|
|Job at appropriate skill level||Mandatory||20|
|Speaks English at required level||Mandatory||10|
|Salary of £20,480 to £23,039 or at least 80% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)||Tradable||0|
|Salary of £23,040 to £25,559 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)||Tradable||10|
|Salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)||Tradable||20|
|Job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee||Tradable||20|
|Education qualification: PhD in a subject relevant to the job||Tradable||10|
|Education qualification: PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job||Tradable||20|
This category will become more flexible, but it isn’t a route to permanent residency. Applicants need to have a NQF Level 6 qualification to be eligible. However, individuals can apply to switch this visa to a skilled worker visa whilst in the UK. Confirmation from Government is pending on this.
Global Talent route
From January 2021, the current Global Talent route will open to EU citizens on the same basis as non-EU citizens. This means that the most highly skilled, who can achieve the required level of points, will be able to enter the UK without an agreed job offer if they are endorsed by a recognised UK body as approved by the Home Office.
In this case, employers will not need to be registered as a sponsor to employ via this route. The current list of approved endorsing bodies are:
- The Royal Society, for science and medicine
- The Royal Academy of Engineering, for engineering
- The British Academy, for humanities
- UK Research and Innovation, for science and research
- Tech Nation, for digital technology
- Arts Council England, for arts and culture
The Graduate visa will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK for summer 2021. This will enable international students to remain in the UK and work at any skill level for two years after they have completed their studies. This is also an unsponsored route. This increases to three years for international students completing a PhD for summer 2021. However, one thing to note is that this type of visa does not count towards the time needed for settled status.
We anticipate that following the closure of the settlement scheme, there will be changes to right-to-work checks, however, as yet this has not been confirmed.
Preparation for employers
Key areas of focus for employers in preparing for this new landscape will include communicating regularly with employees and stakeholders; gathering data sooner rather than later; headcount and workforce planning; and reviewing all relevant policies.
If your business would benefit from some HR support in the weeks ahead, please get in touch.