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The new UK immigration system – advice for employers and employees

There has been a massive overhaul of the UK’s immigration rules as part of the UK’s exit from the EU and the end of free movement for EU citizens in the UK.

New Points Based System

From the start of 2021 EU and non-EU citizens are now treated the same in terms of immigration law (save for Irish citizens who can still freely enter, live and work in the UK). According to the Government website, “the new points based system aims to attract people who can contribute to the UK’s economy.”

Skilled Workers

There are specific rules for ‘skilled’ workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor.

To qualify as a skilled worker you have to tick various boxes including having an occupation that is on the approved list, having qualifications equivalent to A Level, a salary threshold of £25,600 or the going rate for the job you do, be able to speak and write English to an acceptable level and pass relevant checks such as criminal records checks. There are some exceptions such as if your job offer is in a shortage occupation.

There are also some specific types of visas that you can apply for:

  • If you can demonstrate you are a future leader in certain listed professions you may be able to obtain a Global Talent Visa
  • If you are a sporting professional you may qualify for a Sportspersons Visa. To qualify you must have a job offer from an Employer Sponsor.

What’s an Employer Sponsor?

If an employer wants to employ someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK then the employer must obtain a Sponsor Licence and sponsor them. To obtain a Sponsor Licence the employer must obtain an endorsement from its sports governing body (the governing body must be recognised by the Home Office) confirming it is a genuine club or similar organisation and confirming it has a legitimate requirement to bring migrants to the UK as sportspersons.

The sportspersons visa is aimed at those who are at the highest level of their profession. The sports governing body must endorse the application and the Employer Sponsor must show that the employment of the individual will develop the sport in the UK at the highest level. There are some further eligibility criteria that the sportsperson must meet (proof of funds to support yourself, knowledge of English for example).

If an individual is successful in their application for a sportspersons visa, the visa is valid for three years but can be extended for a further three. It also enables your partner and any children under 18 to accompany you as your dependants.

EU Settlement Scheme

For EU citizens who are resident in the UK and were living in the UK prior to 31 December 2020, they can apply to stay in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme. Applications must be made by 30 June 2021.

If successful applicants will receive either settled status (they can remain in the UK for as long as they like and can apply for British Citizenship) or pre-settled status which means you can remain in the UK for five years from the date the status is awarded you can and apply for settled status once you have been resident in the UK for five years.

The application process is free and can be done online. Any partner or children must have their own application.

If an EU citizen fails to make an application by the 30th June deadline, they will end up with no legal right to live and work in the UK.


In 2019 there were over 175,000 applications for British citizenship. Almost a third of these were from EU nationals.

For those wanting to make the UK their permanent home they may decide to apply for citizenship. Applications for citizenship routinely take around six months. The process can be complex and it is best to seek professional advice before embarking on the process to assess your likelihood of success and to help you manage the process.


If you are unsure of your position with regards to the new immigration rules please get in touch.