1. What procedures do EU nationals working in the UK have to take?

Any EU nationals and their family members living and working in the UK as at 31 December 2020 have the right to remain in the UK without restriction, provided they register for Settled or Pre-settled status by 30 June 2021.

2. What procedures do EU nationals seeking employment in the UK over the next 12 months have to take?

EU nationals already living and working in the UK as at 31 December 2020 should follow the procedure above. From 1 January 2021, there will be a new unified immigration system. This will mean fewer options available to EU nationals looking for lower skilled work in the UK.  Where possible, employers should consider bringing forward their recruitment strategies to 2020 to take advantage of the current rights of Freedom of Movement.

3. What challenges will businesses face with hiring EU nationals?

From 1 January 2021, there will be an end to Free Movement. There will be a new UK Points Based System and the Home Office have announced initial details. In general, there will be no low skilled or temporary work routes and this has created a major concern in a number of sectors as to how positions will be filled, particularly in construction.

4. How has the UK’s immigration law changed after Brexit?

The Home Office have announced some changes which are to be introduced on 1 January 2021.  Everyone, whether an EU or non-EU citizen who wishes to come to and live in the UK will from 1 January 2021, need to demonstrate their right to be in the UK.  All applicants will receive written confirmation of their immigration status.

From January 2021, most EU citizens will not need to attend a visa application centre in order to enrol their Biometrics (fingerprints) and they will instead be able to provide facial images using a smartphone self-enrolment application form.  Another major change is that when applying for visas, for the first time, EU citizens will be required to pay the same Government application fees along with the Immigration Health Surcharge as non-EU citizens have been doing.

5. What advice can you give to businesses?

 Currently, the skills threshold to sponsor migrants into the UK for the purposes of employment is essentially graduate level jobs. From 1 January 2021, this will be lowered to A level or equivalent.  Any business looking to sponsor a migrant in the UK will require a Home Office Sponsor Licence.  Now is the time to apply to avoid the rush.

6. What is the points-based system?

This is the category which most employers will use. Each worker will need a minimum of 70 points to qualify and a number of characteristics will be required in order to be granted points. The current Resident Labour Market Test is also likely to be removed.  With the lowering of the skills threshold and with one unified immigration system, employers will need to apply for Home Office Sponsor Licences. These can incur a fee of up to £1,467.  Employers will also to need to pay the Immigration Skills Surcharge of up to £1,000 per year, per employee. Although a lower fee applies to those sponsored by smaller companies.

The employee will also be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge of £400 per year of employment. This is set to double in October, so whilst the skills threshold will be reduced, both employers and employees will need to pay significant Home Office application fees which may act as a deterrent, particularly in low pay sectors.  The Government also plans to introduce, in due course, a universal “Permission to Travel” requirement which will require everyone wishing to travel to the UK, other than British and Irish citizens, to seek permission in advance of travel.  British and Irish citizens will be able to simply present their passports while visa holders will need to present their visa at the border.  People without visas will need to obtain Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETA’s) before travelling to the UK.

Looking ahead, one positive announcement from the Government is that they will allow most migrants living in the UK to apply to switch from one immigration category into another, without having to leave the UK.  Hopefully, this will support employers in retaining staff whom they would have invested time, energy and resources into including in training.  This will be quite a significant change from the existing rules where the ability to switch from one visa into another is not allowed and applicants are required to leave the UK in order to apply for visas from abroad.  However, this provision may not apply to all cases and therefore it is very much a question of “watch this space”.