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Q & A: UK’s new immigration system: how will it impact EU Nationals and their employers?

5 August 2020

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On 31 December 2020, free movement of people will cease to operate in the United Kingdom.

A new immigration system will be introduced from 1 January 2021 and the government has provided further details of the new system on 13 July 2020.

The proposed system is aimed to be a “fair and firm” points-based system designed to attract high-skilled workers. This will apply to both non-European nationals and European nationals.

The changes will affect the way in which organisations recruit EU & EEA citizens who will require sponsorship from employers. This is a significant change for EU employers in the UK and we recommend our clients plan ahead and prepare for the changes now.

The date of exit had no direct impact on EU & EEA Nationals. The UK government has stated its intention to preserve the rights of EU nationals living in the UK who arrived before 31 December 2020 (the end of the transition period).

Therefore, EU citizens resident in the UK before the end of this year, can continue to register under the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021 deadline.

The end of the transition period will be after 31 December 2020, (in the event of a no deal) or after 30 June 2021 (in the event of a deal), free movement will end.

Therefore, it is encouraged that all EU & EEA nationals currently living in the UK, submit their applications under the settlement scheme as soon as possible. This will provide them enhanced rights in the UK above other EU & EEA nationals who come to the UK after December 2020.

It is recommended applying in the first few months after they arrive in the UK to avoid delays later when there may be many other applicants, or the system may change.

The EU Settlement Scheme is free to apply and based on residence only subject to grounds of serious or persistent criminality or public policy.

It depends on their status on 1 January 2021, examples are below.

The employee or prospective employee already lives and works in the UK on 1 January 2021:

The EU individual and each family member will need to apply for “pre-settled status” under the EU Settlement Scheme after they start living in the UK and before the deadline of 30 June 2021.

Pre-settled status would grant limited leave to remain in the UK for 5 years and provide the holder with enhanced rights in the UK above other EU nationals who come to the UK after December 2020. This will lapse if absent from the UK for a continuous period of more than 2 years.

Once an EU national has completed five years continuous residence in the UK with only absences of up to six months (or one absence of up to 12 months for a good reason), they are eligible for settled status which will enable them to live and work in the UK permanently if they qualify.

As a transition measure, employers can accept the passports and national identity cards of EU citizens as evidence of their right to work up until 30 June 2021.

The employee or prospective arrives to the UK after 1 January 2021:

This situation covers two possible scenarios:

  • A new recruitment of a new employee entrant in the United Kingdom or;
  • The transfer of an existing employee to the United Kingdom.

In these two situations, the employer and the employee will need to make consider visa options and requirements under the main UK immigration system before recruitment can be completed.

The new points-based system is specifically designed to attract only skilled workers.

The full details of the new system are yet to be revealed. It will include a route for skilled European workers if they can demonstrate that:

  1. They have a job offer from an approved sponsor.

  2. The job offer is at the required skilled level

  3. They can speak English at the required level

  4. They are paid at least £25,600 with an absolute minimum of £20,480 or the minimum required by the Home Office for the specific occupation they will undertake.

The UK points-based system requires the applicant to score 70 points to be eligible for a general work visa.

Applicants will be awarded 50 points if they meet the first three requirements set out by the Home Office.

  • Having a job offer from a Home Office approved Sponsor (20 points)
  • The offer being at the required skill level – RQF level 3 or above (A level or equivalent) (20 points).
  • Being able to speak English (10 points)

They must obtain a further 20 “tradeable” points through a combination of points available from their salary level, a job in a shortage occupation or a relevant PhD.

  • Salary (attracting between 0-20 points on a salary between £20,480 and £25,600 or above)
  • Education qualification (attracting between 10-20 points based on having a PhD)
  • A job in the shortage occupation list (attracting 20 points)

The list of professions recognised by the Home Office as being at PhD level is already published.

There are also different minimum salary rules for workers in specific occupations listed by the Home Office, in certain health or education jobs, and for “new entrants” at the start of their career.

The salary requirement for new entrants will be 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation. However, unless an exception applies, the minimum of £20,480 must always be met.

The Home office will retain the ability to widen the number of attributes that will score tradeable points to enable the immigration system to meet the needs of the economy.

However, the mandatory requirements will not be tradeable.

No. To be able to employ EU Nationals, employers will need to obtain a sponsorship licence to sponsor migrant workers by meeting the Home Office’s requirements and making the relevant application with supporting documents.

The most common type of licence is for the Tier 2 categories, which allows companies to employ long-term skilled workers who meet the specific requirements of the Tier 2 route. Thereafter the employee will also have to go through a separate application process to secure their status in the UK.

As the new system will prevent employers from employing both EU and non-EU individuals without holding a sponsorship licence, EU nationals who seek to live and work in the UK from January 2021 will need sponsorship from their employer and subsequently a visa to do so legally.

If you currently employ medium-high skilled EU nationals, you will need to assess your business needs and workforce to establish if the same will be required for the future in light of the new system.

It is recommended that you anticipate the crucial step of being a Home Office approved licenced sponsor in advance in order to ensure you can recruit the skilled employees needed without delay.

Once an application is submitted, it can take up to 8 weeks for a licence application to be approved and longer if the UKVI decide a pre licence visit is required. Furthermore, there may be further governmental delays due to the Covid-19 crisis.

On approval, the licence is valid for 4 years and to retain it you must ensure you submit a renewal application to avoid losing the ability to sponsor workers.

The Home Office recommends planning ahead of the changes and encourages employers to consider getting a sponsorship licence now.

Yes. It will not be possible to apply for a licence without a Company registered in the UK.

The proposed system does not offer any route for occupations that the government considers as ‘low skill.’

The sponsor and the applicant will need to show that the job is at the required skilled level “NQF3” on the National Qualification Framework. This is the equivalent of A level (baccalaureate). It is important to stress that the role needs to be at the required level. For example, a youth who has obtained the equivalent of A-level will not be eligible if the job does not require him to exercise any of the skills required for an A level role.

The Home Office have a published list of occupations which correspond to the required skills level and a list of occupations which do not meet the relevant level.

The minimum general salary threshold will be reduced from £30,000 to £25,600 (gross annual salary).

The absolute minimum limit is £20,480.

If the applicant salary is between £20,480 and £25,600, they may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against their salary.

For example, if the applicant has obtained a job offer in an occupation which is part of the shortage of occupation list or if the applicant is highly skilled and have a PHD.

Rare exceptions may be available for NHS staff or young people under 26. More guidance around this is to follow.

The required level of English is level B1 of the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR).

This can be met by the following:

  • Nationality of a majority English speaking country;
  • if the applicant has an appropriate academic qualification from the UK;
  • if the applicant has an appropriate academic qualification recognised by the UK as an equivalent level;
  • Home Office approved English Language test at the appropriate level.

The current Home Office fees (at 13 July 2020) are outlined below. Please note these are not our professional fees and the Home Office fees are subject to change without prior notice from the Home Office.

Home Office fees: Sponsor licence application

  • £ 536 for a small business, and
  • £ 1436 for a large company (i.e. more than 50 employees and more than £ 102 million in turnover).

Home Office fees : Tier 2 Application (may vary on a case by case basis).

  • Certificate of Sponsorship: £199 per migrant;
  • Immigration Skills Charge: £1000 per year of sponsorship;
  • Immigration Health Surcharge: £400 per year per migrant;
  • Application fee where a certificate of sponsorship issued for 3 years/more than 3 years: £464 / £928 per migrant.

Additional fees will apply for expedited processing services.

These additional costs should therefore be factored in if you plan to employ a new migrant worker of any nationality (EEA or non-EEA).

The new system will substantially reduce the low skilled workforce. EU citizens seeking to enter the UK with a low skilled job or low paid salary will not be eligible to obtain a visa.

For lower skilled and lower paid staff, employers may use temporary short-term visa schemes without skills or salary requirements such as the 2 year Youth Mobility Scheme (Tier 5) visa, which is currently available to a limited list of countries and not open to EU nationals.

Yes – The new system will apply to both for EU and non-EU nationals and treat them equally.

The new system is aimed to bring a firm and fair points-based system to attract the high skilled workers to contribute to the UK economy, communities and public services. Furthermore, there will be an aim to simplify the Immigration Rules and for a streamlined immigration system.

We are urging businesses to consider applying for a sponsor licence now, if they have not already done so in preparation of the new system. There is a surge of new applicants which will increase in the coming months in anticipation of the new system and Brexit which will impact the application processing times. Furthermore, if unsuccessful the organisation may have a cooling off period of 6 months before making a new application which will impact business plans.

You will need to check the validity period as well as the date of renewal of your licence and make sure that the key personnel dedicated to the management of your license has been appointed in accordance with the requirements of the Home Office.

We also advise you to check that you can access the online Sponsorship Management System in order to avoid any delay on planned recruitments.

Furthermore, you must also ensure you continue to carry out your sponsor duties and reporting obligations as a licence holder.

We offer an immigration service tailored to your needs.

Our bilingual legal team specialised in immigration is ready to assist you through each step of the procedure for obtaining a sponsorship licence, a sponsorship certificate or a visa for your future employees.

Our team works in close collaboration with our employment team in order to offer you a tailor-made service which covers all the legal aspects of your future recruitments in the United Kingdom.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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