From 1 January 2021, freedom of movement with the European Union (EU) ended and a new UK points-based immigration system has come into effect.
The system treats EU and non-EU citizens equally and aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy. Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.
What do employers need to know?
The points-based system includes a route for “Skilled Workers” who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor. It is similar to the previous Tier 2 (General) regime which many businesses may be familiar with however there are some key differences.
Jobs offered will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A-level). There will also be the need to be able to speak English. The minimum general salary threshold is now £25,600 rather than the previous requirement of £30,000.
Where jobs pay less than this – but no less than £20,480 – it may be possible to ‘trade’ points on specific characteristics against the salary; for example, if the job is in a shortage occupation (these are listed on the government website) or a migrant has a PhD relevant to the job.
The impact of the changes should not be underestimated by employers wishing to employ workers from abroad. If you wish to recruit EU or non-EU migrants from 1 January 2021, you will need to have a sponsor licence.
EU Settlement Scheme
EU nationals who were present in the UK prior to the transitional period ending on 31 December 2020 can remain in the UK to continue to work and reside provided that they apply for either pre-settled or settled status under the EU settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021.
EU nationals who have already completed 5 years residence in the UK will be granted settled status which is the same as indefinite leave to remain (ILR). EU nationals who have less than 5 years residence when they apply will be granted pre-settled status which in essence is a visa for 5 years – they will be able to apply for settled status (ILR) after completing 5 years.
Frontier Worker Permit
This allows free movement to continue for certain EU nationals who are not primarily resident in the UK but can prove that they have worked in the UK prior to 31 December 2020. The downside of this compared to applications under the EU Settlement Scheme is that it does not lead to settlement but appears currently that the permit could be renewed each time indefinitely.