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Brexit - How Employers will be Impacted by the UK Immigration Rules


The Impact of Brexit on EU Workers Already Working in the UK

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. If your application is successful, you’ll get either settled or pre-settled status.

Overview of the Settlement Scheme

The deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021. You will need to be living in the UK before the UK leaves the EU to apply. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, you will need to be living in the UK before it leaves the EU to apply, and the deadline for applying will be 31 December 2020. It’s free to apply to the scheme. You will need to apply for European temporary leave to remain if you do not meet the requirements for the EU Settlement Scheme.

If you apply to the EU Settlement Scheme successfully, you’ll be able to continue living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021. You’ll be given either settled status or pre-settled status. Which status you get depends on how long you’ve been living in the UK when you apply. Your rights will be different depending on which status you get.

If you work in the UK but do not live here (‘frontier worker’), you do not need to apply for settled status. You’ll need to apply for a frontier worker permit to prove your right to enter the UK for work after 31 December 2020. Details about how and when you can apply for a frontier worker permit have yet to be advised by the UK Government. Read the guidance for frontier workers to find out whether you qualify as a frontier worker, what your rights will be and what your family members need to do to stay in the UK.

Settled status

You’ll usually get settled status if you’ve started living in the UK by 31 December 2020 (or by the date the UK leaves the EU without a deal) and lived in the UK for a continuous 5-year period (known as ‘continuous residence’). Five years’ continuous residence means that for 5 years in a row you’ve been in the UK, for at least 6 months in any 12 month period.

You can stay in the UK as long as you like if you get settled status. You’ll also be able to apply for British citizenship if you’re eligible.

Pre-settled status

If you do not have 5 years’ continuous residence when you apply, you’ll usually get pre-settled status. You must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020 (or by the date the UK leaves the EU without a deal). You can stay in the UK for a further 5 years from the date you get pre-settled status.

You can then apply to change this to settled status once you’ve got 5 years’ continuous residence.


The impact on Employers Wanting to Employ EU Workers after Brexit

Earlier this month the UK government backtracked on plans to abruptly end freedom of movement on 31 October 2019 in the event of a no-deal Brexit. In a no-deal scenario the government would implement a temporary leave to remain scheme, dubbed European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR). EU citizens arriving after a no-deal Brexit will be able to apply for a three-year temporary immigration status. This will allow them to live and work in the UK beyond the planned launch of any future immigration system which the government hopes to have in place by 2021.

The most significant changes for employers will come into effect from 1 January 2021, when EEA nationals will no longer have preferential access to the UK labour market. Deal or no deal, from that date, any EEA nationals arriving to live in the UK will be treated in the same way as other overseas nationals. If they arrive in the UK for the first time after 31 December 2020, they will need to qualify under the new immigration rules. 

After the post-Brexit immigration system is launched, anyone entering the UK will have to qualify under the new system, details of which remain to be announced, however, the government have indicated that it is likely to be a points-based system.


The Rules Governing Non-EU Workers

Currently Employers who want to hire employees from outside the EU can apply for a Tier 2 visa. Since 2016, there has been a £30,000 salary threshold for Tier 2 visas. The Tier 2 category has a number of requirements related to the applicants Qualifications, Employers will need to apply for a sponsor licence and vacancies will need to be advertised in accordance with the resident labour market test to demonstrate that there are no suitable UK candidates. Employers will have to pay significant fees of up to £8,500 to cover visa fees, the immigration skills charge and immigration health surcharge for the employee for a five-year visa. The growing concern over skills shortages meant exemptions were introduced for certain professions including nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and some secondary school teachers. This is likely to be superseded by the post-Brexit immigration system.


What Actions Should Employers Take

Employees who fail to register by the relevant deadline are likely to be in the UK unlawfully after that deadline so Employers need to ensure that their workforce are compliant with Immigration Laws.

  • Employers need to stay up to date with guidance on immigration issues as the deadlines and rules may change.
  • Employers need to understand which Employees could be impacted by the new immigration laws.
  • Employers need to raise awareness in the workforce about the need to apply for the relevant scheme by the deadline. The UK Government have produced the Employer EU settlement scheme toolkit to help Employers understand the requirements.
  • Employers need to decide what level of support to provide to their employees.
  • Employers should undertake full right to work checks on all employees shortly before the relevant deadline, to ensure they will still have the right to work in the UK.

A2O People produce a regular series of articles designed to keep people informed about the Construction Industry, the UK Energy Sector, the UK Nuclear Sector, the Hinkley Point C project, and HR / Employment Law issues impacting the Construction sector.


Shane Keaney is a director of A2O People a Recruitment and People Consultancy specialising in the Nuclear and Energy Construction sectors. You can follow or connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can learn more about our Recruitment, Business Advisory and Training services on our website, by emailing us at or calling 01278 732073.

If you are interested in job opportunities in the construction sector or on the Hinkley Point C nuclear project you can register your CV.

A2O People are a member of the Hinkley Point C Professional Services Group. We have developed a Guide for Job Seekers for people interested in working in the UK nuclear sector and a Supply Chain Guide e-book for companies interested in working on the UK Nuclear New Build projects.

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