Following Brexit, from 1 January 2021 official ‘freedom of movement’ between the UK and EU will end. The UK is introducing an immigration system aimed at treating all applicants equally, irrespective of where they are from. From this date all employers will need a ‘sponsor licence’ to hire most workers from outside the UK.

Who does the system apply to?

Anyone outside of the UK, except Irish citizens. It will also not apply to EEA or Swiss citizens who are already employed in the UK. Any EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020 (and their family members) can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (with a deadline of 30 June 2021 to apply).

How will the system work?

Workers are categorised as follows:

Skilled workers

Employers will need to demonstrate that:

  • The job offer is from a Home Office licence sponsor
  • They speak the required level of English
  • The offer is at the required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A-level)
  • They will be paid at least £25,600 or the ‘going rate’ for the job offer (whichever is higher).

If the job pays less than the required amount (but no less than £20,480), the applicant may still apply to ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against their salary. Eg if their job offer is in an occupation where there is a particular shortage, or they have a PhD relevant to the job.

Different rules apply to workers in some health and education jobs, and for ‘new entrants’ who are just starting their careers.  The government states there will not be a general route for employers to recruit from outside the UK for jobs offering a salary below £20,480 or jobs at a skill level below RQF3.

Intra-company transfers to the UK

If you’re transferring a worker from a different part of your business (overseas) to work in the UK, they can apply for the Intra-Company Transfer route. For this, they will need to already be existing workers who meet the skills and salary thresholds.

They will need to be:

  • Sponsored as an Intra-Company Transfer by a Home Office licensed sponsor
  • Have 12 months’ experience working for a business overseas which is linked by ownership to the UK business.
  • Undertake a role at the required skill level of RQF6 or above (graduate level)
  • Be paid at least £41,500 or the going rate for the job (whichever is higher)

Rules apply and permission for transfers is only temporary. They can be assigned to work in this country multiple times, but can’t stay for more than five years in any six year period.

Anyone paid over £73,900 do not need to have worked overseas for 12 months and can stay for up to mine years in any ten-year period.

Workers who are transferred to the UK as part of a structured graduate training programme for up to one year can apply for the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route. The requirements are the same except there are different rules on length of overseas experience and salary.

Other routes to employment

Some visas allow workers to be in the UK without a sponsor. Look at the full list of worker routes on the gov website and its points-based system introduction for employers document.

Other routes include the Global Talent route –  designed to attract recognised global leaders and individuals in science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology.

The Youth Mobility Scheme has been devised to allow 20,000 young people (aged 18 to 30 years old) to come to the UK to work and travel each year.

The advice is currently to apply straight away if you would like to become a licensed sponsor. Read our guide to becoming a UK visa sponsor.  Find more information on the gov website here.