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Brexit and Immigration

The UK will introduce a new immigration system with effect from 1 January 2021. The free movement of people from the EU will no longer apply, such that the new system will affect EEA and Swiss nationals as well as non-EEA nationals. Accordingly, employers must start to prepare for this now, with careful consideration/understanding of:

  • the proposed new rules
  • the company’s recruitment plans and budgets
  • obtaining or reviewing sponsor licences
  • assisting staff with applications under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

Hopefully, businesses will already have steps to familiarise themselves with the implication of the end of free movement and the new immigration system, in order to avoid obvious losses in productivity and talent (notwithstanding the second lockdown). Beware, illegal working risks significant penalties!

How can employers prepare?

  1. If you have EU nationals working for you already, remind them to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. It’s free to apply and is a fairly straightforward online process. There is a window of opportunity to employ additional EEA workers before 31st December. They will be able to stay until the end of June 2021 without any additional steps being taken.
  2. The new immigration system will apply to employers who want to take on both EU and international workers after 1st January 2021. This involves applying for approval from the Home Office in the form of a sponsor’s licence to employ overseas nationals, a process that takes around 8 weeks and should be started as soon as possible. It can take longer for what are considered ‘high risk’ industries such as hospitality and retail.
  3. In addition to the paperwork, becoming a sponsor for skilled overseas workers requires businesses to have certain systems and processes in place. Now is the time to find out what is required and implement them. Under the new rules it will potentially be costly and time consuming to employ overseas nationals and you cannot begin your workforce planning too soon. 
  4. Make sure that you understand the immigration status and right to work of all employees and workers is imperative to getting this right. Employers should make sure that they are informing their EEA and Swiss nationals of their eligibility for EUSS and British citizenship (for them and their families). If this isn’t done by 30 June 2021, the right to remain in the UK will be lost.

These upcoming months will likely lead to uncertainty due to the combination of Brexit and the pandemic controls. It cannot be stressed enough that these issues should be approached as a priority before the new year.