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In 2016, the majority of Britain voted for Brexit—UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Probably the most important public policy concern arising from the withdrawal is how Brexit will impact immigration.
A reduced EU workforce in the UK would be one of the likely effects of Brexit. Currently, approximately 2.31 million EU workers are living in the UK. However, many of them do not meet the existing visa requirements for people who are not from the UK but intend to live and work in the country.
Once the EU free movement ends, people from the EU will no longer be able to work and live in the UK like they used to. Instead, they will need to meet the criteria of a new points-based immigration system that will soon become effective in the UK.
So, what does this all mean for businesses that currently employ workers from the EU? The following is how Brexit will affect immigration requirements for your workforce.
Within the framework of the EU free movement, EEA nationals can fly to and enter the United Kingdom without restriction, irrespective of their stay duration or intent. However, this will longer be the case once Brexit takes full effect.
After that period, the same immigration laws currently applicable to non-EEA nationals would apply to EU residents who are not already residing in the United Kingdom. This means that the EU nationals not currently living in the UK will need to apply to the Home Office for the right to study, work, join family members and stay here permanently. They will need to do this by demonstrating eligibility and paying the related fees.
Under the new scheme, EU people and their employers would have to take into account the time, effort, and cost needed to apply to the home office, without any assurances of a favourable outcome. The immigration pathways available to affected EU staff will depend on a variety of things, including the intent of travel and the expected length of stay of the person.
On 31 December 2020, EU people not residing in the United Kingdom who need to be present here to work will have to be sponsored. They will need to fulfil the requirement of the Tier 2 immigration scheme from 1 January 2021 onwards.
This requires them to obtain the requisite number of points by satisfying the stringent requirements of the skilled worker visa system. This includes the skill level of the applicant’s position, income, and language capability, among others. A UK-based business will need to have a valid sponsor license before the person can apply for their tier 2 visa.
In its immigration guidance paper, the government urged businesses without a sponsor license to immediately apply for it if they intend to recruit EU workers from 2021. This is recommended to make the transition easier for UK-based employers and prevent disruption of the workforce when the new regulations become effective.
The Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa will normally be acceptable if the organization is outside the UK and the employee is moved to a UK branch. All Tier 2 applications need careful preparation, ensuring that the license is in place, facilitating the specific visa application of the worker, and meeting the ongoing enforcement and license management responsibilities placed on the employer.
EU citizens already living in the United Kingdom have till 30 June 2021 to enrol under the EU Settled Status scheme. This status protects the rights of EU people to reside legally in the UK and, for instance, to work here. Those who by this date fail to apply for settled status will be deemed illegally present in the UK
Employers of EU people are advised to play an active role in promoting these requirements and preparing their employees. It will ensure that your employees maintain their right to work, which in turn will help the company prevent any future unlawful working problems where a worker has not obtained the necessary status.