Brexit FAQs for EEA (European Economic Area ) nationals working in the United Kingdom

The Immigration Act is now law and most changes will come into force on 1st January 2021. Recruitment businesses must reassess, and potentially adjust business models to adapt to the Brexit Immigration changes.

What must EU nationals living in the UK do now?

EU Nationals who have residency in the UK before 31 December 2020, can continue living and working in the UK so long as they apply for (and successfully obtain) Settled or Pre-Settled Status, under the EU Settlement Scheme (the Scheme). The deadline for applications under the Scheme is 30 June 2021.


When they apply, any individual who can establish 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK will be granted Settled Status. Anyone who cannot meet this requirement, but is nevertheless eligible under the Scheme, will be awarded Pre-Settled Status. (Continuous residence is, broadly speaking, showing no more than 6 months’ absence from the UK in any 12-month period.)

How can individuals without existing “right to work”, work in the UK in 2021?

With effect from 1 January 2021, new visa requirements will apply to all EU and non-EU nationals alike. This means that from 1 January 2021, EU nationals who are not eligible for, or do not already hold, Settled/PreSettled Status will require a work permit (or another visa permitting them to work) in order to be employed in the UK. In order to access the work permit visa route, recruitment businesses and/or their clients (depending on the circumstances) will need a Sponsor Licence.

How can employers apply for a sponsor licence?

In order to employ someone via a work permit the employer needs to hold a Sponsor Licence. These should be applied for now if you anticipate employing non-UK national workers after 1 January 2021. Likewise, if your client may need to recruit from outside of the UK due to skills shortages they should apply for a sponsor licence now, not wait until they want to recruit.

Further information can be found here

How can individuals without existing “right to work”, work in the UK in 2021?

With effect from 1 January 2021, new visa requirements will apply to all EU and non-EU nationals alike. This means that from 1 January 2021, EU nationals who are not eligible for, or do not already hold, Settled/PreSettled Status will require a work permit (or another visa permitting them to work) in order to be employed in the UK. In order to access the work permit visa route, recruitment businesses and/or their clients (depending on the circumstances) will need a Sponsor Licence.

How can employers apply for a sponsor licence?

In order to employ someone via a work permit the employer needs to hold a Sponsor Licence. These should be applied for now if you anticipate employing non-UK national workers after 1 January 2021. Likewise, if your client may need to recruit from outside of the UK due to skills shortages they should apply for a sponsor licence now, not wait until they want to recruit.

Further information can be found here.

What is the points based immigration system?

Not all roles are eligible for sponsorship under the new regime, and there are minimum skill levels and salary levels that must be met. Recruiters who typically recruit for skilled roles may already be used to dealing with migrant candidates, and may find the changes under the new immigration routes (such as the reduction in skill level, salary requirements and the abolition of specific requirements to advertise roles in a prescribed manner) opens up significant opportunities.


In all cases, the new visa process will result in a significant increase to the costs of recruiting sponsored individuals, which means that the costs of recruiting EU nationals who do not hold Settled/ Pre-Settled Status will increase.


Further information from the government can be found here.

What options are there for working with EU national contractors in 2021?


There is no “self-employed” visa and APSCo continue to lobby for a flexible visa for highly skilled independent contractors.

It is sometimes possible for contractors to be employed by a consultancy (and sponsored under a work permit) with the consultancy then providing their services to their clients. However, businesses should take specific legal advice over whether they are able to do this under the immigration rules.

There is a Global Talent visa that does not require an offer of employment but these are intended for leaders in the field of academia, science and digital technology. Their application must be endorsed by an accredited body.

Workers currently working in the UK but living outside of it may be able to obtain a Frontier Worker Permit. But any person who establishes a pattern of living overseas but working in the UK after 31 December 2020, will have to qualify for the points-based immigration system. They will not be eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit.

If the contractor/candidate is employed outside of the UK by a group company of a UK business, then they might be eligible to move to work in the UK under an Intra Company Transfer work permit, but the employer in the UK will still need to hold a Sponsor Licence.

What options are there for UK nationals working in the EU in 2021?

You need to consult individual country immigration offices – there is no unified EU approach. However, you must take action now to ensure that you do not have live contracts on or after 1st January 2021 supplying contractors without immigration status. These assignments may need to be terminated if you cannot obtain reassurance on legal right to work in the applicable country.

This update was kindly prepared for APSCo by our legal affiliate Brabners LLP (All Rights Reserved 2020). The contents of this update are not intended to serve as legal advice related to individual situations or as legal opinions concerning such situations, nor should they be considered a substitute for taking legal advice

What should Recruiters do now?

• Assess their permanent workforce and contractor/agency worker active placements – identify EU nationals and consider enquiring if they have settled status/pre-settled status. • For all new placements – permanent and contract – identify if the candidate is an EU national and if so, consider enquiring whether they have settled status/pre settled status.
• Consider whether you have or should apply for an immigration Sponsor Licence – if you anticipate recruiting non-UK nationals from 2021 onwards then you should apply for a Sponsor Licence.
• Advise your clients that they may need a Sponsor Licence and support them in their applications if appropriate.
• Understand the new rules around skilled worker visas after 1 January 2021.
• Consider whether it will impact your clients and your relationships with clients.
• Consider whether you will be impacted by skills shortages and the lack of domestic talent to fill temporary and permanent roles in 2021 and ways to mitigate this risk.

*Recruiters have a duty not to discriminate against EU, EEA or Swiss citizens. You cannot require them to show you their status under the EU Settlement Scheme until after 30 June 2021 and any less favourable treatment on the grounds that they do not hold Settled Status could amount to unlawful discrimination.

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