98% of UK employers are currently unable to hire new EU arrivals next year. We look at the rules post Brexit rules.
Latest Government data analysed by immigration law firm, Migrate UK, reveals that only 2% of UK employers currently possess a licence to sponsor EU workers from 1st January 2020, risking their company’s access to critical skills post Covid-19.
In just seven months the UK will likely see the biggest change to its immigration system in nearly 45 years, with an end to free movement and the introduction of a UK points-based system. From 1stJanuary 2021, all EU and non-EU citizens entering the UK for the first time will be treated equally, meaning from next year, to recruit the vast majority of EU workers, employers must hold a sponsor licence issued by the Home Office.
Yet, with sponsor licence applications normally taking three months on average, and now much longer due to Covid-19, a large majority of UK employers are cutting applications to the wire and risk not being ready for this unique change in UK immigration law. Employers are still required to provide proof of certain original or certified copies of documents, and the application process remains semi-digital, making it an even more challenging and lengthier process in the current climate.
Jonathan Beech, Managing Director of Migrate UK, said: “House of Commons business statistics show that there are 1.4 million private sector employers in the UK. Yet the Government’s current register of sponsors shows that just over 31,000 hold a licence, which means only 2% are in a position to employ new EU arrivals next year.
Beech continues: “With Covid-19 causing significant disruption to business and many Directors focused on the here and now, it’s easy to forget Brexit. But organisations that rely on overseas talent or face skill shortages, it’s imperative to start applying for a licence now, especially with the anticipated sheer volume of applications. If not, businesses may unwittingly miss out on the talent pool and EU workers are already choosing potential employers based on whether they hold a licence or not.”
Points based immigration System
The Government published employer guidance relating to the new points-based immigration system for those who wish to work in the UK from 21st January 2021 as a result of Brexit. Advo hr gives an overview of the main points.
From 1 January 2021 the UK will be introducing a points-based immigration system which will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same and changes the way migrants come to work in the UK.
Points will be allocated for specific skills, qualifications, salaries, occupations, where there is a shortage and then if an individual gains enough points, they will be awarded a visa to work in the UK.
The guidance the Government have published sets out the steps employers can take to prepare if they need to employ foreign workers.
Whom does this not apply to?
EU citizens already living in the UK by 31 December 2020. They are eligible to apply for settled status along with their family under the EU settlement scheme until 30 June 2021.
There is no immigration route for lower skilled workers who do not meet the skills or salary thresholds below.
Who is eligible?
An individual who:
- Has a job offer from a home office approved sponsor
- The job offer is at the required skill level (more guidance provided on the government website)
- Speaks English
- They earn more than the required minimum salary threshold
- If they earn less than the required minimum salary threshold but more than £20,480, they might be eligible if they can demonstrate the job offer is in an occupation where there is a specific shortage or PHD relevant to the job.
For highly skilled workers who can meet the required level of points, from 1 January 2021 the current Global Talent route will open to EU citizens in addition to non-EU-citizens. This would mean these individuals can enter the UK without a job offer if they are endorsed by the relevant competent body.
What happens prior to January 2021?
Until January 2021 current immigration rules still apply.
How does an employer who wants to employ skilled workers from abroad from January 2021 become an approved sponsor?
You will need to apply to be a sponsor and you can do this now: www.gov-uk/uk-visa-sponsorship-employers Applications usually take around 8 weeks from receipt of the application.
How to get a sponsor licence:
- Check your business is eligible
- Choose the type of licence you want to apply for which depends on the type of worker you want to sponsor e.g. Tier 2 – long term job offers and/or Tier 5 – temporary skilled workers
- Decide who will manage sponsorship within the business
- Apply online and pay a fee when you apply. The current fee stated for small sponsors (annual turnover £10.2 million or less and have 50 employees or less) is £536.
If your application is successful you will be provided with a licence rating, your licence will be valid for four years, subject to continuing to meet your obligations as a sponsor and you will be able to issue certificates of sponsorship for jobs that are suitable.
For more information you can keep up to date via: www.gov.uk/government/publication/uk-points-based-immigration-system-employer-information/.