The UK’s business immigration rules are about to radically change – is your business ready?

With all the talk about whether the UK will reach a Brexit deal before 31 December 2020, it is easy to forget that, whatever happens, the transition period will end on that date and from then on the UK’s immigration system will be very different for our erstwhile European neighbours.

Many of you may have recently received emails from the UK government or spotted one of their adverts which is reminding employers that, as a result of Brexit, a revamped immigration system is being introduced and businesses may need to take action if they need to recruit workers from the EU.

The guidance on how employers recruit EU (and non-EU migrants) has been published in various locations, and is sometimes difficult to find the answer you are looking for, and so we have summarised below the main changes which you need to be aware of if you need to recruit from outside of the UK from 1 January 2021.

The UK’s new immigration system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. Anyone you want to hire from outside the UK will need to apply for permission in advance under the amended points-based immigration system. We anticipate that the most commonly used route will be the “Skilled Worker” visa, which replaces the previously named Tier 2 (General) visa.

In summary, anyone coming to the UK to work will need to demonstrate that:

  • they have a job offer from a licensed sponsor
  • the job offer is at the required skill level – (A Level and equivalent or above)
  • they speak English to the required standard

In addition, the job offer must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold. This is the higher of either:

  • the general salary threshold of £25,600, or
  • the “going rate” for their occupation.

Applicants can trade characteristics, such as qualifications, against a lower salary to get the required number of points. For example, if the job offer is less than £25,600, but no less than £20,480, an applicant 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 (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) relevant to the job

Another popular visa route is the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route, which allows multinational organisations to facilitate temporary moves into the UK for key business personnel through their subsidiary branches, subject to ICT sponsorship requirements being met. This route is slightly different in that it requires applicants to be in roles at graduate level (as opposed to A level), will require applicants to be in roles skilled to RQF 6 (graduate level equivalent), and subject to a different minimum salary threshold from the main skilled worker route.

There is also a Health and Care Visa, which is part of the skilled worker route. This is to help ensure individuals working in eligible health occupations, with a job offer from the NHS, social care sector or organisations that provide services to the NHS, are able to come to the UK.

For those employers who already employ EU citizens, they and their family members are eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and have until 30 June 2021 to make an application.

Becoming a licenced sponsor

Some of you may have spotted our last article where we set out the process a company needs to follow in order to become a licenced sponsor. If your business is not already a licensed sponsor and you think you will want to employ migrants through the skilled worker route from January 2021, you should consider applying now as only those businesses that are a licenced sponsor can hire workers from outside the UK. The standard processing time for an application is usually eight weeks, and this could be longer if UKVI receives an influx of applications in the New Year.

If you would like to know more, or need help with applying for a Sponsor Licence, please call Laurence Dunn on 01962 714873, or Louis Howlett on 01962 670713.

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