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The UK’s New Immigration Scheme: The facts about employing EU workers after Brexit

The facts about employing EU workers after Brexit

POSTED 11/05/21


The UK’s new immigration scheme for employing overseas workers was implemented on 1 December 2020. In most cases, employers will have to apply for a sponsor licence if they want overseas staff to work for them.

The new Worker and Temporary Worker routes apply to both:

  • European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who arrived in the UK after 11 pm on 31 December 2020
  • non-EEA nationals who apply for permission to enter on or after 1 December 2020
  • EEA nationals who arrived by 31 December 2020

Employers don’t have to sponsor EEA nationals who arrived in the UK before 11 pm on 31 December 2020 as these EEA nationals (and some family members) entered the UK under the EU freedom of movement rules that were in place at that time. This means employers can continue to employ them without having to sponsor them. It is essential that these individuals apply for and are granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) before 30 June 2021.

There are 2 types of status that can be granted:

  • Settled Status

This is usually granted after the employee has lived in the UK for a continuous 5-year period known as ‘continuous residence’. 5 years’ continuous residence means that the individual has lived in the UK for 5 years in a row, for at least 6 months in any 12-month period.

There are some exceptions including:

  • Childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas work posting for one period of up to 12 months Compulsory military service of any length Time spent abroad as a Crown servant, or in the armed forces or as a family member of someone in this category

People with Settled Status can stay in the UK indefinitely. They can also apply for British citizenship if they meet the eligibility requirements.

  • Pre-Settled Status

This is granted if the employee doesn’t have 5 years’ continuous residence when they apply. They must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020. People with Pre-Settled Status can stay in the UK for another 5 years from the date they are granted Pre-Settled Status. They can apply for Settled Status after 5 years’ continuous residence. It is important that they remember to apply before their Pre-Settled Status expires.

EEA nationals arriving after 31 December 2020

EEA nationals entering the UK after 11pm on 31 December 2020 will need to be sponsored under the new Worker or Temporary Worker routes if they wanted to work in the UK, unless they have another type of immigration permission that allows them to work.

What are the new Worker and Temporary Worker routes?

These are the main immigration routes for overseas nationals who want to work in the UK. The Worker routes replaced the Tier 2 routes from 1 December 2020. The new and old routes are described in the table below:

Tier 2 routes before 1 December 2020Worker routes from 1 December 2020
Tier 2 GeneralSkilled Worker
Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer: Long-term Staff Graduate TraineeIntra-Company routes: Intra-Company Transfer Intra-Company Graduate Trainee
Tier 2 Minister of ReligionT2 Minister of Religion
Tier 2 (Sportsperson)T2 Sportsperson
Tier 5 Temporary Worker routes before 1 December 2020Temporary Worker routes from 1 December 2020
Charity WorkersCharity Worker
Creative and SportingCreative and Sporting Worker
Government Authorised ExchangeGovernment Authorised Exchange Worker
International AgreementInternational Agreement Worker
Religious WorkersReligious Worker
Seasonal WorkersSeasonal Worker

Who doesn’t need to be sponsored?

Irish citizens, although EU nationals do not need permission to live and work in the UK. This means employers can carry on employing them without having to sponsor them. This includes Irish citizens who arrived after 31 December 2020.

How can we help?

We have summarised some of the key changes that will shortly affect many businesses looking to employ overseas workers in the UK. Our expert solicitors can help you with every stage of this journey from considering whether you need a sponsor licence to applying for and extending visas for your workers.

If you have any questions please contact Maddie Sewa at Setfords.

This note is not intended to substitute legal advice from your instructed lawyer. You should always consult with your lawyer directly regarding any specific queries you may have.

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Mandie Sewa

Consultant Solicitor

T: 0203 869 3111 or call 0330 058 4012 ext. 2804
E: msewa@setfords.co.uk

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