Brexit may feel like it was a lifetime ago – particularly at a time when the spread of the Coronavirus continues to grip global economies. But the impact of the UK’s exit from the Bloc is something that will undoubtedly be felt by employers for some time. In fact, Covid-19 and the restrictions that have been imposed on travel, for example, are likely to have temporarily masked the impact of Brexit’s changes to freedom of movement.

However, as the UK continues to follow its roadmap out of restrictions, the effect of Brexit on compliant international hiring may soon emerge, particularly when it comes to navigating the new UK immigration system.

The challenge is that many businesses are simply still unaware of exactly how the immigration system and Right to Work have (or haven’t) changed as a result of Brexit, and what impact this may have on hiring and background screening programs. Indeed, in a survey carried out in March of this year we found that only 2% of businesses were entirely comfortable with post-Brexit immigration rules – a significantly small amount considering the potential risks that non-compliance poses to employers.

In order to help demystify this issue as best we can, Sterling hosted a webinar with Fragomen LLP – leading UK immigration lawyers. Here’s a roundup of what organisations need to know.

Registering under the EU settlement scheme

While there are new restrictions for those moving between the UK and EU for employment purposes, generally speaking, any EU nationals that were already residing in the United Kingdom before 2021 can remain, but they will need to register to the EU Settlement scheme.

Hopefully, any employees that fall into this category will have already applied for this. If not, organisations should urge them to do so soon, as the 30th June deadline is looming.

Requirements for new overseas hires

Individuals may be able to relocate to the UK for work via a Skilled Worker visa, though under this route they will be required to have a registered sponsor. Where organisations are recruiting new hires from the EU as a Skilled Worker, there are two tests that the person will first need to pass.

The first will see individuals scored against a number of attributes where they are required to achieve a rate of 50 points. These will be judged on having:

  • An approved sponsor
  • A job that the meets the relevant skills threshold
  • A passed English language test

The skills threshold was recently lowered to what is known as RQF3 and above – or a minimum of an A-level equivalent.

The second test requires individuals to meet a 20-point minimum target under the following categories:

  • Salary minimum £20,480 – £23,039 – 0 Points
  • Salary £23,040 – £25,599 – 10 points
  • Salary £25,600 or above – 20 points
  • Job is a shortage occupation – 20 points
  • PhD in relevant subject – 10 points
  • PhD in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subject – 20 points
  • Applicant is a new entrant – 20 points

Right to Work

With an international hire there are also critical Right to Work (RTW) considerations. Any employer with prior experience in overseas recruitment will be familiar with these requirements, and these haven’t changed for anyone who arrived in the country on or before 31st December 2020. However, as mentioned above these individuals need to have applied for pre-settled or settled status.

Any new arrivals into the UK will need a visa permitting them to work in the country under the points-based immigration system mentioned above. This doesn’t change an employer’s RTW responsibilities, though we are urging organisations to bear in mind the potential changes to digital processes under Right to Work checks should the Home Office choose to go ahead with a return to in-person requirements in June.

UK Sponsor License explained

For any employers planning to sponsor a non-British / Irish individual for work, there are two types of sponsor license available:

  • Worker (subcategories: Skilled worker, Intra-company transfer, Minister of Religion, Sports person)
  • Temporary Worker: (subcategories: Charity, Religious, Creative or Sporting, Government Authorized Exchange, Seasonal or International Agreement workers)

The application process for these is lengthy and there are several caveats that businesses need to abide by. For example, employers need to have specific compliance procedures in place. They are also required to have processes to track and monitor those workers that the company is sponsoring.

The above is just a whistle-stop tour of the post-Brexit immigration system and it is advisable to seek expert guidance and counsel pertinent to your specific circumstances. However, what it does show is that the impact of Brexit is still playing out for UK employers – and will likely continue for some time yet.