Free movement rights have allowed EU nationals and their family members to enter and live in any EU state for up to three months, after which they are allowed to stay providing they are exercising a treaty right, which includes taking employment. From 1 January 2021, EU citizens wishing to come to live and work in the UK will need to apply for a visa under the Immigration Rules.
EU and EEA citizens who are already living in the UK are able to protect their status by applying to the EU Settlement Scheme, and employers should be encouraging staff to do this in advance of the 30 June 2021 deadline. Currently, the Government advice is that employers do not need to change how they carry out right to work checks and that EU passports are still proof of right to work for new employees until 30 June 2021. From 1 July, for any new EU or EEA recruits, employers will need to see either proof of a status under the settlement scheme or a visa under the new immigration system.
Many employers who will be used to hiring EU and EEA citizens without any additional requirements, will now have to consider how to navigate the Immigration Rules and sponsor skilled workers.
Large changes in the immigration system came into effect on 1 December 2020, the most important of which for employers is the replacement of the Tier 2 visa with the skilled worker visa. The main changes are that more roles can be sponsored, the salary threshold is lowered, the cap on visas is suspended, and employers no longer have to carry out the resident labour market test.
Employers who rely on workers from outside the UK need to consider whether they should apply for a sponsor licence to ensure they can continue to recruit from 1 January 2021. Decisions are likely to have been delayed due to the pandemic, however, employers should carefully consider whether they can comply with the obligations placed on sponsors and prepare applications soon so that when the world is moving again, recruitment can continue.
Finally, employers should keep an eye on any further guidance from the government about right to work checks as currently there is a situation where employers can rely on passports for those employees who would need a visa.
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