On 31 December 2020, the Brexit transition period ended and from 1 January 2021, there is no longer any free movement to the UK for European Union (EU) citizens.
EU citizens are still able to travel to the UK for short trips without needing a visa, provided they are in possession of a valid passport whilst they are in the UK. From 1 October 2021 however, EU citizens will only be able to enter the UK if they hold a valid passport and national identity cards will no longer be accepted unless the individual comes within certain designated categories.
EU citizens can remain in the UK as visitors without a visa for a period of up to 6 months. Travel to the UK in such circumstances will therefore be entirely possible but if the EU citizen is looking to remain in the UK for a period longer than 6 months, then they will require a visa. EU citizens looking to enter the UK from 1 January 2021 in order to work here will need to apply for a Skilled Worker visa and they will need to be sponsored by an employer who has a Sponsorship Licence from the Home Office. Whilst previously EU citizens could freely work in the UK, they will now need to apply for visas and, for the first time, pay very significant visa fees including contributing towards the UK’s National Health Service by paying the NHS Health Surcharge.
EU nationals who started living in the UK before 1st January 2021 and who wish to continue living in the UK after 30th June 2021, should apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for either Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status. However, those holding indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK including Irish citizens do not need to apply under the scheme.
For EU nationals who are looking to enter the UK now for the purposes of working here, they will need to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa and there will be many steps to go through. Firstly, they will ned to work for a UK employer who holds a UK Sponsor Licence. The Sponsoring employer will need to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to employ them and the position itself will need to be on a specific list of eligible occupations. All Skilled Workers must be paid a minimum salary or the going rates for the job in question, whichever is higher. Skilled Workers will usually need to be paid at least £25,600.00 gross per annum unless the going rate for the job is higher than this. In certain circumstances however, a Skilled Worker can earn less than £25,600.00 but the absolute minimum salary must be £20,480.00 and this is provided other specific Home Office criteria are met.
For the first time, employers looking to employ newly arriving EU nationals (from 1 January 2021) will need to be in possession of a Home Office Sponsor Licence and such applications can take between 1 – 3 months to be processed. The Home Office have recently introduced a new service offering a quicker turnaround of Sponsor Licence applications, as a cost. The fee to apply for a Sponsor Licence is £536.00 for a small Sponsor and £1,476.00 for a large Sponsor. The Priority Service costs an additional £500.00.
Employers found to be employing EU migrants in breach of the Immigration Rules or without having a Sponsor Licence in circumstances where one is needed face receiving a civil penalty of up to £20,000.00 per migrant worker employed. There are also criminal actions against employers who knowingly employ migrant workers who do not have permission to work in the UK.
From 1 January 2021 therefore, newly arriving EU citizens will be required to navigate the UK’s complex immigration system in order to be able to work here.