Hiring foreign workers in the UK after Brexit: What’s important to know?

On 1st January 2021 the Brexit transition period ended, and this saw some important changes for organisations hiring overseas staff. Firstly, employing foreign workers in the UK following Brexit involves a new process for EU nationals. In addition, there have also been some wider changes for all non-UK and Irish nationals. Here we explain some of the key changes and how they will affect your organisation.

Key changes since Brexit

•             EU/EEA/Swiss citizens now need permission to work in the UK

•             Most non-UK and Irish nationals entering the UK for work will therefore need a sponsored visa

•             A points-based system (PBS) is in place for all worker visa applications

•             Worker routes are no longer available to low- or unskilled workers

•             Employers wishing to hire non-UK and Irish nationals will need a Sponsorship Licence (with certain exceptions)

What types of worker visas are available post Brexit?

There are 6 main visa routes now available to overseas workers coming to work in the UK following Brexit. These 6 types of visa are:

•             Skilled Worker visa

•             Health and Care Worker visa (a subcategory of the “Skilled Worker” route)

•             Temporary Worker visa (e.g. those in certain religious or sporting professions)

•             Global Business Mobility visa, for example the Graduate Trainee or Senior/Specialist Worker visa (which replaces the Intra-Company Transfer visa)

•             Start-up or Innovator visa 

•             Global Talent visa 

The first 4 types of visa applicant will all require a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a Home Office-approved Sponsorship Licence holder. Meanwhile the latter 2 types are for those entering the UK to start a business and those recognised as leaders in their field (for example, Nobel Prize winners).

Recruiting foreign workers after Brexit: What are Skilled Workers?

Any workers entering the UK from overseas must now be classed as “Skilled Workers”. The Home Office uses very specific criteria to define what counts as “skilled”. The good news is that since Brexit it has relaxed its definition to include more workers in a wider range of roles. A Skilled Worker is now someone who:

•             Is qualified to RQ3 level (equivalent to AS-/A-Level) or above. (Pre-Brexit, a Skilled Worker was defined as someone with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.)

•             Earns a minimum salary of £20,480.00–£25,600.00. (Prior to Brexit, the minimum salary threshold for a Skilled Worker was higher at £30,000.00.)

Examples of Skilled Worker roles include:

•             Restaurant and bar managers

•             Social workers

•             Care assistants

•             Civil engineers

•             Nurses

•             Chefs

How does the new points-based system (PBS) work?

Since Brexit, overseas workers entering the UK for employment must now pass a points-based assessment to secure a visa. This makes employing foreign workers in the UK after Brexit somewhat more onerous. Visa applicants need to score 70 points to pass. To achieve the 70 points, applicants must first of all fulfil three mandatory criteria (representing 50 points). These are:

  1. That they have a job offer from an employer with a Sponsorship Licence
  2. The job is sufficiently skilled – RQ3 and above (equivalent to A-Level)
  3. They speak English to the required standard (CEFR level B1)

The applicant can achieve the additional 20 points needed in one of two main ways:

  1. Their job offer meets the Home Office minimum salary requirement (either £25,600.00 per year, £10.10 per hour, or higher at the ‘going rate’ for that type of work)
  2. The job’s salary is £20,480.00–£25,599.00 and the job is either on the skills shortage list or the applicant has a PhD in an allowable subject 

Do we need a Sponsorship License to hire from overseas after Brexit?

Yes, employers wishing to employ foreign workers in the UK following Brexit will need a Sponsorship Licence to do so.

Need further advice?

Our business immigration lawyers are specialists in this area and can give you advice on any aspect of how to employ foreign workers in the UK after Brexit. To schedule a no-obligation chat, leave your details here