12 January 2021 #Immigration
The unified immigration system came into force in 2021, coinciding with the end of free movement. As the dust settles, many businesses have now begun to grapple with the consequences of the end of unrestricted mobility to the continent. In this article we look at the key immigration routes for 2021:
The Skilled Worker Visa
The Skilled Worker visa is a successor to the Tier 2 visa, or in other words the General Work visa for the UK. It has been used by companies for several years to sponsor non-EU citizens to work for them in the UK. From 1 January 2021, the Skilled Worker visa can also be used by companies to sponsor EU citizens.
Importantly for companies, it is easier to sponsor someone on a Skilled Worker visa as it requires a lower skills threshold, lower salary level and does not require a formalised Resident Labour Market Test.
It is also possible now for applicants to move to the Skilled Worker visa from most long-term visa routes.
The Intra-Company Transfer visa
Previously known as the Tier 2 ICT visa, the Intra Company Transfer visa is key for global companies to transfer employees between their global entities, and to the UK.
A key difference for this route is that it does not allow a route to settlement, but individuals can switch to the Skilled Worker visa to star their 5-year route to settlement.
This revamped route provides additional flexibility by removing the cooling-off period, which means individuals can use this visa on a rolling basis, with upper limits being set for 5 years in a 6-year (rolling) period.
Business Visitor visa
Perhaps the most important short-term route as no prior visa is required for EU nationals to enter the UK on this basis.
However, despite sharing a similar experience to entry to the UK with pre-2021 free movement, companies and their business visitors must be cautious in using this route.
The route does not allow individuals to work in the UK, but are able to engage in other restricted business activities for example attend meetings, conference etc. The rules, however, are specific and a failure to adhere to them can lead to refusal of entry to the UK.
The individual entering the UK may be asked for further evidence of their intended visit, and in some cases, a letter from the inviting company may be appropriate.
Global Talent Visa
The Global Talent visa is an individual-based route, which means it does not require sponsorship from a licenced organisation. It has been an important gateway for highly talented individuals to enter the UK, and requires endorsement from designated competent bodies in the following fields:
This route is also now open to EU nationals from 1 January 2021
Right to Work checks
Right to Work is a key part of an employers’ recruitment process. A failure to conduct an appropriate right to work check can lead to criminal and/or civil sanctions.
Since 2019, Right to Work checks can be conducted online, and with the introduction of the EU Settlement Scheme, they can only be done online for EU citizens with an EU Settlement Scheme Status from June 2021.
As such, employers should now consider a move towards an online-only system, while still providing provision for a manual check where the individual is unable to provide the relevant online information.
The UK has had a separate immigration route for family members of British citizens and those settled in the UK. This will also now be open to EU citizens, who previously did not need to apply under this route owing to free movement. The ‘Appendix FM’ route requires a minimum income from the sponsor, and has an English language requirement, in addition to the other requirements.
Separately, if the sponsor is an EU citizen and has, or is eligible under the EU Settlement Scheme, they may be able to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme family permit rules. The rules, however, require the sponsor to relationship to have begun by 31 December 2020.
If you are an EU citizen and do not fall under any of the above routes, you may still be eligible under another immigration route to the UK. You should seek legal advice, where appropriate.