Now that the transition period has ended and there are fewer than 50 days for EU citizens to make applications under the EU Settlement Scheme, the changes that have been made to the UK’s Immigration system are becoming more apparent.
In these circumstances, it is useful to remind your clients of what has changed and what steps they may need to take to ensure that they have the capability to hire the workforce they need.
Until 30 June 2021, EU Citizens will be able to enter the UK and demonstrate they have a right to work by simply producing their passport.
From 1 July 2021, EU Citizens will be subject to the same rules as all other migrants.
Those who arrived before 31 December 2020, will have either pre-settled or settled status, while others might qualify for Frontier Worker Permits if they were not resident in the UK but had been visiting the UK for work prior to the end of 2020.
For all new arrivals from the EU, and those who do not qualify under the above-mentioned routes, they will either be restricted to the permitted activities for visitors or require sponsorship as set out below.
The Sponsor Licence system
Given the end of Freedom of Movement for EU citizens, there will be many companies who either relied on EU workers or who assigned or transferred employees from their European branches to their UK operations who did not require Sponsor Licences. This is likely to change and to be sure your clients can recruit the right workers, there are likely to be many companies who now need Sponsor Licences.
In respect of the application process for Sponsor Licences, this has not changed. However, a new limited priority application process has been launched, which means that a decision should be reached within 2 weeks rather than the standard 8 weeks.
Given the time it can take to make the application and get a decision, your clients would be advised to obtain the Sponsor Licence ahead of time.
There were some significant changes to the system for sponsoring workers introduced in December 2020.
Tier 2 General – Skilled Workers
The most significant changes came in this category, which was renamed as the Skilled Worker route.
The main changes introduced with the Skilled Worker route are as follows:
It is no longer needed to satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test. Instead, the decision-maker must be satisfied it is a genuine job.
The categories from which it is possible to switch into the Skilled Worker route have been widened and include the ability to switch from the Intra Company routes. Anyone in the UK can transfer into Skilled Worker route unless they are here as a visitor, short term student, parent of a child student, seasonal worker, domestic worker or somebody here outside the Immigration Rules.
For those coming from overseas, Certificates of Sponsorship can be obtained within 24 hours rather than through a limited monthly allocation.
The cooling off period, which meant that Tier 2 Migrants would have to leave the UK for 12 months at the end of their visa, has been dispensed with.
The minimum skill level has been reduced from degree-level to A-level qualified jobs. Roles still need to be fitted into the Home Office’s SOC code system where different roles are given a specific code. If the wrong code is used, the application would be refused.
The minimum salary, subject to those which apply to specific roles, has been reduced from £30,000 to £25,600. There are certain circumstances where a salary of £20,480 will suffice. The minimum salary to be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain has also been reduced to £25,600.
Skilled Worker visas are valid for up to 5 years at time. Under the old scheme, Tier 2 General Migrants could only stay a maximum of 6 years. Under the Skilled Worker route, they can have unlimited extensions. Unchanged from the old route, they are eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after 5 years, provided they meet the other requirements.
Intra Company Transfers
There are fewer changes here, and the minimum required skill level for the roles is still degree-level. However, there are some beneficial changes as follows:
As with the Skilled Worker route, the cooling off period has been removed.
The amount of time they can stay in the UK will change to 5 years in a 6-year rolling period or 9 years in a 10-year rolling period if they earn over £73,900.
The Graduate Route
A route has been opened for graduates from summer 2021 onwards. Provided they have completed a qualifying course, they can stay in the UK for two years, or three years if they have completed a PhD, and work without requiring sponsorship. This will provide employers with the ability to recruit new talent without the costs involved in the Skilled Worker route.
Representative of an Overseas Business
Apart from being put into a separate Appendix in the Immigration Rules, there are no significant changes to this route and it still remains a great way for your overseas clients to get an experienced employee to the UK to spearhead setting up their operations in the UK.
Under the new rules, more of your clients will need Sponsor Licences to have access to the workforce they need. These need to be obtained before they can hire overseas staff. While some of the Rules have been relaxed, it is still essential that the requirements are met. In these circumstances, it will be necessary to ensure your clients are aware of these changes and have access to assistance to meet the conditions imposed by the Home Office.