With the end of freedom of movement between the UK and EU from 1 January 2021, the UK has introduced an immigration system that treats all applicants equally. Anyone recruited to work in the UK from outside the UK, excluding Irish citizens, must meet certain requirements and apply for permission. Employers will need a sponsor licence.

The new system does not apply to EEA or Swiss citizens already employed in the UK, although they will have to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK.

Sponsor licences

A sponsor licence will normally be required to employ someone from outside the UK, with the application process typically taking six to eight weeks. Once obtained, the licence is valid for four years.

The licence can cover those with long-term job offers and temporary workers. You can apply for a licence covering one or both types of worker. Before applying to be a sponsor, you should check that the people you want to hire will meet the requirements for coming to the UK for work.

Skilled worker route

This will be the route for most workers employed from outside the UK. Visas are only awarded to those who gain sufficient points, with key requirements including:

  • job offer at the required skill level (A Level and equivalent);
  • English spoken to the required standard; and
  • minimum salary threshold.

Applicants can trade characteristics, such as their qualifications, against a lower salary to get the required number of points.

Impact on recruitment

As expected, the impact on employers and their workforces will be varied. You can no longer rely on EU recruitment to fill low-skilled and mid-level occupations, while those recruiting skilled workers face more onerous requirements and greater expense.

The retention of existing workers is more important than ever, and you will need to plan over the longer term how vacancies are to be filled. For some companies, remote working may offer a solution.

A good starting point for anyone looking to employ from outside the UK is the introduction to new recruitment rules for employers found here.