The 31st of December marked the end of the transition period of Britain’s separation for the European Union, and with it brought a myriad of laws and implications regarding free movement and the hiring of EU Citizens that as an employer, you’ll now need to consider. That’s why we’ve partnered with Fragomen LLP to compile an overview of the current steps you’ll need to take, challenges you may face, and implications you might have to consider when hiring externally from the UK.
Prior to 1st of January 2021, EU Nationals could exercise their freedom of movement and work, and could be considered for employment in the same vein as a British National. For individuals who were residing in the UK before this date, the government has brought into effect laws to protect their right to continue living and working in the country. One of which is the EU Settlement Scheme; this allows EU, EEA, and Swiss Citizens that have lived in the UK to apply for varying degrees of settlement status up until June 30th, 2021.
If the individual has resided continuously in the UK for 5 years or more, they can be awarded “indefinite leave to remain” status, allowing for both residency and employment in the UK to continue. If residency began less than 5 years before 31st December 2020, individuals can be awarded “pre-settled” status; effectively a provisional right of settlement on the assumption that 5 years of continuous residency will be achieved, allowing them to become “settled” at a later date.
As an employer, this means that there are no boundaries, fees or implications involved in hiring a previously-residing EU National – providing the individual successfully applies for the scheme before the deadline. If you are considering hiring a candidate or currently employ someone that falls into this category, it is immensely important that you ensure that they are undertaking or have completed the application process.
If you are considering the employment of an EU citizen that has no current right of settlement residency and intend to establish them in the UK, you’ll be subject to a new point-based immigration system. As an employer, you’ll be responsible for the sponsorship of the candidate, which includes ensuring the individual meets all the necessary criteria as well as certain financial obligations associated with onboarding an EU National.
In order to do so, you’re required to obtain a worker sponsorship license; the application fee is £536 if you qualify as a small business, or £1476 for medium to large businesses, and is valid for 4 years – you will of course be required to reapply after this time limit should you wish to continue hiring international candidates. The application process typically takes 8 weeks to complete, and costs £199 to issue the certificate. Once obtained, you are permitted to employ eligible EU Nationals, most commonly on a Skilled Worker Visa.
The UK now utilises a point-based system to consider the eligibility of individuals for a Skilled Worker Visa. Most importantly, the role that you are hiring for will have to be at an appropriate skill and salary level to qualify the candidate for sponsorship. The role should require an educational background of RQF Level 3 or higher (broadly speaking needing A-level qualifications or above), and should pay both the equivalent of, or higher than, £25,600 a year and the “going rate” of that field.
The candidate will also be required to be fluent in English to a citizenship level, and can certify this by providing their passport if they’re from a country of English-speaking origin, show they studied a degree taught in English, or pass the Home Office approved English test.
If your candidate and job role meet all the criteria, then you’ll incur an Immigration Skills Charge that you cannot recoup from the prospective employee. Much like the License Application Fee, this is subject to the size of your company and the intended length of stay of the employee. A small business will pay a sum of £364 for the first year of sponsorship and £182 for every 6 months thereafter (for up to 5 years). For medium or large companies, this charge is £1000 for the first year, and £500 every 6 months after that. Other charges, such as the Visa Application Fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge are the legal responsibility of the employee (and also apply to their dependents), though you can pay these on their behalf should you wish.
If you are considering facilitating sponsorships for EU Nationals, it is important to ensure you have the appropriate HR facilities to do so. Aside from confirming the candidate and job role meets all necessary criteria for sponsorship, as a sponsor you are responsible for informing the government of any changes to employment; be it job role, salary, changes of address etc. Make sure you have the necessary staffing and equipment to maintain these records and processes. If these processes aren’t conducted to the legal standard, you may lose your sponsorship license and/or be subject to civil penalties.
If you are considering hiring an EU National remotely, immigration law does not concern employees who do not reside in the UK. However, other laws, namely tax law, will need to be considered. Ensure that HR records make clear that the employee works externally from the UK and is not considered a foreign branch to your company.
For EU-based studios, it’s important to bear in mind that under the terms of the Brexit deal, each respective European Union country can opt to honour existing registrations or require British Citizens to take additional procedures to maintain their right to work and reside in the EU permanently. Immigration rules can vary drastically from each country, so ensure you are up to date with the latest laws applicable to your respective nation.