In the run up to Brexit we will be publishing a series of webinars, articles and podcasts covering some of the key issues for employers from an immigration perspective.

With the end of the transitional period fast approaching, and EEA nationals no longer having free movement within the UK with effect from 1 January 2021, employers need to be thinking about future proofing their business. In particular, the question of how reliant your company is on an EEA workforce and the effect that Brexit will have on your company's future success will be a pertinent issue that most employers are grappling with.

In the run up to Brexit we will be publishing a series of webinars, articles and podcasts covering some of the key issues for employers from an immigration perspective.

EU Settlement Scheme

The Government has already introduced the EU Settlement Scheme for EU, EEA or Swiss citizens (and their family members) living in the UK before 31 December 2020.  As of the end of June 2020, there had been more than 3.7 million applications with more than 3.4 million now having been granted status.  Any such citizen coming to the UK after this date will be subject to the new immigration system – this will be broadly similar to the current points based system with some variations and/or new visa categories.

New Immigration System

Where employers could previously avoid the need for a sponsor licence by focusing on recruitment within the EEA, this will no longer be possible once free movement ends.  All EEA and non-EEA nationals coming to the UK from 1 January 2021 will be subject to the same immigration system; and an employer having to secure a sponsor licence will become all the more important. 

The new immigration system will include a route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor with a sponsor licence.  From 1 January 2021, for them to be eligible for sponsorship, the jobs offered to both EEA and non-EEA nationals will need to be at a required skill level of RQF 3 (equivalent to A level) or above and the potential employee will need to be paid the relevant salary threshold.  This will either be the general salary threshold of £25,600 or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher.  In some circumstances, a person earning less than this – although not less than £20,480 - may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against the salary. For example, if the job on offer is on the shortage occupation list.

Do you need a sponsor licence?

Employers who do not already have a licence will need a sponsor licence from 1 January 2021 if:

  • they are wanting to employ newly arriving skilled EEA migrants from 1 January 2021, in particular where an employer's current workforce is reliant on EEA nationals; and/or
  • they are wanting to employ skilled workers from outside the EEA. 

With little over 4 months to go until the end of free movement all employers who are not currently licensed sponsors, but are likely to want or need to sponsor migrants through this skilled worker route from January 2021, should seriously consider starting to apply for a sponsor licence now. Applications can currently take up to 8 weeks to be determined. However, as the UK moves closer to Brexit (and with the added uncertainty around Covid-19), it is likely that there may be lengthy delays with applications being determined. This could potentially result in disruption to your business if you have not obtained a sponsor licence in time to ensure that your recruitment needs continue to be met.


We are launching our "Beyond Brexit" series of immigration webinars in the coming months looking at:

  • Do you need a sponsor licence? 
  • UK's New Immigration System 
  • Are you ready for the new dawn of UK immigration? 

We will keep you fully posted on the date and time for our first webinar.

Key Contacts

Sarah Harrop

Sarah Harrop

Partner, Employment & Immigration

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Sajida Hussain

Sajida Hussain

Legal Director, Employment

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