Bishop & Sewell

After much wrangling, the UK left the EU earlier this year on 31 January 2020. However, until the end of this year, nothing much has changed but that is all set to change from 1 January 2021. There will be new rules for UK businesses, and those trading with or employing people from the European Union in the new year. Free movement for EU nationals is ending, and the new points-based immigration system will introduce job, salary and language requirements that will change the way employers hire from the EU. The new system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally.

As of 1 January 2021:

  • All non-British or Irish nationals arriving in the UK to live, work or study will require a visa
  • Those intending to work in the UK may require their employer to sponsor them
  • Employers will require a sponsor licence if they wish to employ non-British/Irish nationals workers to the UK

The Government has begun a multi-million advertising campaign on TV urging employers to get ready for Brexit on 1 January. On 22 October 2020 the Government laid out 500 pages of new Immigration Rules, which will form the basis of the new Points Based Immigration System. Most of the changes will apply to non-EU nationals from 1 December 2020 and to EU citizens arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021. The Home Office has also published several  guides about this new immigration system.

UK Businesses that wish to employ EU nationals will need to apply for and be granted a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office and the migrants will need to be sponsored under the new Skilled Worker visa route (the revamped Tier 2 category), unless the EU national migrant is  resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 and will therefore qualify for a resident document under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Therefore, it is imperative that businesses are aware of what they need to do in anticipation for the end of the Brexit transition period given that the Skilled Worker system is due to go live on 1 December 2020. They will also need to budget for the increased visa costs which they will incur when they recruit candidates from the EU under the new immigration system – charges such as the immigration skills charge, visa application fees, immigration health surcharge and certificate of sponsorship allocation fee will set an employer back over £4000 per migrant for a 3 year visa.

In case all this sounds very detailed, it is, but the changes are at least fixed, and not expected to change in the short term at least.

Speaking to Personnel Today Kevin Foster MP the Immigration minster reinforced this saying:

“People won’t be seeing us make any last minute changes now, and we first put out some details earlier this year to help employers prepare for it.

“We are starting to see an uptick in the numbers of businesses applying to be sponsors. For example, over the weekend of 4 October, 145 companies applied to be sponsors, whereas by last weekend that was up to 193,” said the minister.

“The message to employers is: this is happening, free movement is ending and if you still want to recruit from outside the UK labour market and Irish nationals, you do now need to move towards getting a sponsorship licence.”

If you are a UK business and you do not yet hold a sponsor licence but wish to hire or transfer eligible skilled employees from outside of the UK, now is the time to consider applying for one, as the Home Office anticipates a surge of applications in the new year.  We therefore encourage employers to consider taking the following actions:

  • If you do not already have a sponsor licence, assess your needs and apply for one
  • If you already have a sponsor licence, take this opportunity to ensure that you have sufficient Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) available to meet your needs until April 2021 (when the new allocation period will begin).
  • For EU national employees already in the UK – ensure they apply for residence documentation under the EU Settlement Scheme to ensure they can remain in the UK and work after 30 June 2021

We can provide the necessary guidance and step by step support to register your business as a licenced sponsor. We have experience of advising employers in respect of sponsor licences and associated work visas and are able to assist you prepare in advance of the forthcoming changes.

Our Team
Our Immigration lawyers have the knowledge and experience to guide you through these challenging times and have been ranked in the Legal 500 for their expertise.

If you are in need of advice or assistance on any of the issues mentioned in this article please contact Mariam or another member of our expert Immigration Team on 020 7631 4141 or email

The above is correct as at 24 November 2020. The information above may be subject to change as this is a constantly evolving situation.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.

Category: News | Date: 24th Nov 2020

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