Immigration UPDATE: end of the BREXIT transition period

As we fast approach the 31 December and the end of the transition period, which has permitted EU nationals to live and work freely in the UK, it is important that HR teams are aware of the impact this will have on the recruitment of EU staff for 2021.  Additionally we highlight below the impact that remote working, and commencing employment overseas due to Covid-19 has on European nationals.

Q&A sessions

The Staff Immigration Team will be running 3 online information sessions via Microsoft Teams during October and November, on the new immigration routes, and considerations for Europeans nationals, along with an opportunity for you to ask any questions. An online booking form can be found on our Training page. SIT suggests that at least one person from every department, faculty, and college should attend a session.

Current EU/EEA Staff and the impact of Covid-19

EU/EEA staff who have commenced employment outside of the UK

All EU/EEA staff that have been engaged by departments and faculties but have not yet started work in Oxford due to the Covid-19 pandemic (working instead outside the UK since the start of their employment) must start living in the UK before 1 January 2020 or they and their family will require a work visa and be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

This requirement will not apply to EU/EEA citizens who already have Settled or Pre-Settled status, or who have already established a home in the UK and are eligible to apply for Settled or Pre-Settled status before the 30 June 2021 deadline.

EU/EEA staff that have left the UK to work remotely during the pandemic

EU/EEA staff that were resident in the UK before the Covid-19 pandemic, but have been working outside the UK during the pandemic, should be made aware of the following: 

If they have not yet applied for Settled or Pre-Settled status, they should apply as soon as possible and before 1 July 2021, at the latest. It might be possible to make the application from outside the UK, as explained in Home Office guidance.

If they hold Settled status, they can remain outside the UK for up to 5 years without affecting their status. Returning to the UK, even for one day, during a five year period of absence will mean that they won’t lose their settled status and it will reset the clock for another five years.

If they hold Pre-Settled status, they can remain outside the UK for up to 2 years without it cancelling their pre-settled status BUT if their absence outside the UK is more than 6 months in any 12 month period (or 12 months for an important reason, such as a work or study placement, maternity or illness) it will break the continuity of residence in order to be eligible for settled status. This will mean that while they can remain in the UK for the five years, the long absence might mean that they do not qualify for settled status at the end of that time.

This then may require them to apply for a work visa (at significant expense) or apply for another Pre-Settled visa before 1 July 2021.

It is not yet clear what absences related to Covid-19 will be accepted as an important reason for the purpose of the 12 months absence.

The Staff Immigration Team is happy to advise staff on this issue and to provide advice on whether their absence is likely to be accepted as an ‘important reason’.

Recruiting staff from 1 January 2021

A new visa system is being introduced by the UK Government on 1 January 2021.  Importantly it will require all EU/EEA (except Irish) citizens not already resident in the UK to obtain a work visa before coming to the UK. The new visa route will treat EU/EEA citizens the same as other non-UK/Irish citizens.

This new visa system requires departments, faculties, and colleges to consider whether any new employees who will be arriving in the UK after 1 January 2021 - and who are not UK or Irish citizens - require a visa.

When a candidate has accepted the post consider the information known about the candidate or enquire further.

If you have been informed of the following, the candidate can work in the UK and no further action is required except to obtain the evidence of Right to Work before the start of employment:

  • The candidate is a UK or Irish Citizen
  • The candidate is a EU/EEA citizen or the family member of an EU citizen who
    • has Indefinite Leave to Remain,
    • has settled status,
    • has pre-settled status, or
    • has been living in the UK since before 1 January 2021 and plans to apply for pre-settled or settled status before 1 July 2021
  • The candidate is a non UK/EU/EEA citizen who has:
    • Indefinite Leave to Remain
    • A current visa that allows unrestricted employment in the UK (not a Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 visa)

Candidates who are EU/EEA citizens who have not been living in the UK before January 2021, or are non-EU citizens without a right to work will almost certainly require UK visas for themselves and their families. The Staff Immigration Team should be contacted three months before the start date to ensure that if a visa is required, it can be obtained.

Undertaking a RTW on a EU/EEA citizen up to/ after 1 July 2021

Whether we have assisted them to obtain a visa before coming to the UK, or reminded them to apply for Pre-Settled or Settled status before the 30 June 2021 deadline, you will still only need to copy and retain EU/EEA candidates passports if completing a right to work check before 1 July 2021.

From the 1 July 2021 and onwards a Right to Work check for EU/EEA nationals will require them to evidence they hold either Settled or Pre-Settled status, or other valid RTW document.

New Immigration System from 1 January 2021 – Tier 2 will be replaced with the Skilled Worker Route

Although the new Skilled Worker route will be broadly the same as Tier 2 there are a number of changes which are expected to include:

  • Both EU/EEA (excluding Irish) and non EU citizens can be sponsored;
  • A wider number of roles will be eligible for sponsorship, as the skills threshold has been lowered to RQF 3 (A-level/Higher equivalent);
  • There will be no monthly limit on the number of skilled workers who can be sponsored;
  • The 12 month ‘cooling off’ rule will no longer apply;
  • There will be no restriction on the period of time that can be spent under the Skilled Worker route.

We expect the full Immigration Rules to be published later in October, but full guidance on practical aspects of the new system may not be available until nearer the time the Skilled Worker route is launched. Our sessions in October and November will provide a more detailed overview of the upcoming changes and we will then provide full training on the new system as soon as possible after the full guidance is published.

Global Talent

The Global Talent visa route has, over the past few years, seen the introduction a number of additional ‘accelerated routes’. Although we expect much of this to remain the same, we understand that some improvements to ease the process will be in place from January 2021.

For more advice on anything related to these details please do not hesitate to contact the Staff Immigration Team .

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