Can my business recruit non-UK workers?

This question is haunting all UK business owners. The answer is a difficult one too. Considering the current situation of the Brexit transition. Even the immigration solicitors are a bit stumped. However, it is an important question and we will do our best to answer it.

If you are a UK business owner then you already know that whether or not you can hire an immigrant is based on their nationality. However, earlier you did not require a sponsor licence to hire an EU member under the free movement however, post-Brexit any non-UK employee will need a sponsored visa to work in the UK. Also, you will need to conduct right to work checks with all your employees.

You will need a home office issued a sponsor licence to hire any non-UK worker. However, recruiting anyone outside of the UK is a very complex task. There is a possibility that your new recruit could obtain indefinite leave to remain in the UK while maintaining their nationality.

Brexit has already happened and the transition phase will end on 31st December 2020. Until then you can continue employing EU people without a sponsorship licence but post this you will be able to recruit non-UK people if:

  1. They have permanent residence, settled status, pre-settled status under EUSS
  2. They moved to the UK before the end of the Brexit transition phase that is before 31st December 2020. If they want to continue to work in the UK without immigration control then they will have to apply for settled status before June 2021
  3. If they are arriving to work in the UK post 31st December 2020 then they will need a sponsored visa.

A new points-based immigration system will be introduced by the UK government in January 2021.

Does your business need a sponsor licence?

If you do not have a home office approved sponsor licence to enable you to sponsor overseas workers then once the free movement ends you will have access to a very limited talent pool to complete your recruitments. You will only be able to hire:

  • British citizens
  • People with settled status, like having indefinite leave to remain or pre-settled status under the European union settlement scheme.
  • Overseas nationals

So if your business does not have a sponsor licence you should apply for one. You may or may not think that with the current impact of the pandemic there are a lot of unemployed people and you don’t need a sponsor licence but you may have to reconsider if the unemployed resource pool does not possess the skill sets you are looking for because sometimes training can be more expensive than investing in a sponsor license.

In case you are unsure if you need a sponsor license or not, take support from an immigration solicitor. Just putting this in a pipe till you need to revisit it is not something you want to risk at this moment with your business. If you leave it at the last minute you may have to hold out for much longer. It can take you up to 8 weeks or more to secure your first sponsor license. Applying for a sponsor right now will make you Brexit ready.

The application process for a sponsor license is currently completely digitized. You can upload the supporting documents online or via post. You may have to hire a sponsor licence management team.

You should start reviewing your workforce, apply EU worker checks, consider your training programs, and try to understand your urgency of applying for sponsorship licence. You should hire an immigration solicitor who can help you understand both the past and upcoming points-based systems and help with your understanding of the topic. This can help you get Brexit ready.


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