As the UK formally left the European Union on 31 December 2020, it ended the right for EU citizens to live and work in the UK with EU free movement rights. The UK immigration system now treats all overseas workers in the same way regardless of their country of nationality.
For many employers who previously recruited staff from the EU without any barriers, this will mean engaging with immigration bureaucracy for the first time. Most workers recruited from outside the UK will need to be sponsored by their prospective employer under the new Skilled Worker immigration route. Employers will need to obtain a Sponsor Licence to authorise them to assign work authorisation documents (called Certificates of Sponsorship) to new international recruits.
However, there is some good news. The Skilled Worker immigration route introduced at the end of 2020 is considerably faster than previous immigration categories and the onerous requirement to advertise a vacancy for a month has been abolished. The minimum skill level for job offers has been reduced from degree level roles to the equivalent to A level type roles and minimum salary levels have also been reduced with a considerable degree of flexibility. In addition, employers who were already licensed for Tier 2 will have had their licence converted automatically to a Skilled Worker licence.
Employers who think that they may need to sponsor workers from overseas in the future – and who do not already hold a Sponsor Licence – should consider applying for a licence now.
Obtaining the Sponsor Licence can be the most time consuming part of sponsoring an overseas worker but as it is not necessary to have a particular vacancy or prospective employee in mind when applying for a sponsor licence employers can complete the process ahead of the recruitment cycle.
If you have any questions about immigration after Brexit or you wish to discuss whether a Sponsor Licence will be right for your organisation, please contact Julia Jackson or your usual Wedlake Bell contact.