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  • Writer's pictureNick Jones - GL Law

Is your business ready for the UK’s new immigration system?

Nick Jones, Head of Employment and Business Support at GL Law, our legal partners in the UK, writes on changes in the new UK immigration system and provides essential information for all UK companies on employing non-UK citizens.

Key aspects of the new UK business immigration system:

  • From 1 January 2021 EU nationals have to apply in advance for permission to come to the UK for any purpose other than visiting.

  • Employer sponsorship of skilled workers (similar to the current Tier 2 arrangements) will continue to be the main route for workers coming to the UK.

Right to work checks

The guidance helps distinguish EU nationals who currently have the right to work in the UK, from other migrants from outside the EU that hold work visas by highlighting:

  • EU nationals will be granted digital status.

  • EU nationals will be required to prove their status via an online checking service, rather than using a biometric residence permit or an endorsement in their passport.

  • To allow for the fact that there will be some EU nationals who already reside in the UK and therefore eligible to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme but have until 30 June 2021 to submit their applications. Employers can continue to accept EU passports and national identity cards as evidence of an EU national’s right to work up until 30 June 2021 (but check for travel dates).

  • Non-EU citizens will continue to use a physical document to prove their immigration status. Those with a valid and current Biometric Residence Permit, Biometric Residence Card or status granted can also prove their right to work by using an online service.

Skilled Workers:

Very similar to the current points-based system, migrants who are looking to work in the UK under the Skilled Worker category will need to show that:

  • They have a job offer from a Home Office approved sponsor.

  • The job offer is at the required skill level – RQF 3 or above (A Level and equivalent).

  • They can speak English.

  • They will earn at least £25,600 or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher. If they will be earning less than that, but no less than £20,480, they may still be eligible if they have a job offer in a shortage occupation or a PhD relevant to the job.

There will not be a general route for employers to recruit at or near the minimum wage.

Global Talent scheme:

The Global Talent scheme allows EU, EEA and Swiss Citizens who are highly skilled in:

  • Academia or research;

  • Arts and culture; or

  • Digital technology

to come to the UK without a job offer. You can only apply for a Global Talent visa once you have successfully applied for an endorsement (from the Home Office appointed body for your field) to prove that you are a leader or potential leader.

This replaces the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and will endorse applicants to come to the UK to work on recognised research projects as well as providing an accelerated path to settlement for those who are endorsed on the route.

Updated guidance for sponsors of Tier 2 and Tier 5 migrant workers

The Home Office have updated the Guidance for Sponsors of Tier 2 and Tier 5 migrant workers. There is a new annex encouraging employers who are not currently Tier 2 sponsors to apply now if they intend to sponsor skilled migrants – including those from the EU, from early 2021. The new annex summarises the main requirements for sponsorship under the new immigration system, including the requirement that employer sponsors will need to demonstrate that they are able to offer genuine employment skilled to RQF level 3 or above.

What steps should employers be taking now?

Free movement ended at 11pm on 31 December 2020. Any EEA nationals entering the UK after this time fall under the new system and will not automatically have the right to work in the UK. They will need an appropriate visa to allow them to work for their employer.

EEA nationals already in the UK before the cut-off date will be eligible to remain in the UK if they obtain settled status. The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.

Therefore, employers should encourage employees to apply for settled status as soon as possible.

The current ‘Tier 2’ route will be renamed ‘Skilled Worker’ route and extended to apply to EEA nationals. If you already have a sponsor licence you should familiarise yourself with the changes under the new immigration system. If you are not currently a sponsor but believe you may need to sponsor skilled workers under the new system, you should apply for a licence as soon as possible. Our team of specialist solicitors are on hand to provide assistance with this application.

Specialist employment & business immigration legal advice

If you have any questions about how to manage the new system or the impact it will have on your recruitment plans, please contact our specialist employment and business immigration solicitors in Bristol or London. Call 0117 906 9400 or email


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