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New year, new immigration system: what it means for charities

Posted: 08/01/2021

The UK has left the European Union (EU) with a trade deal. Free movement of people from the EU to the UK and vice versa ended at 11pm on 31 December 2020.

In preparation for leaving the EU, the UK Government launched a new points-based system under which EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally. This is the biggest change to the UK's immigration rules and guidance for over a decade and took effect from 1 December 2020, in preparation for Brexit.

EU nationals

EU nationals who were already in the UK by 11pm on 31 December 2020 have the right to continue to live and work in the UK. These individuals will have until 30 June 2021 to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for immigration status. To continue living and working in the UK past 30 June 2021, EU nationals and their family members will need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for status or will need to qualify for status under the new immigration system (see below). Those who fail to apply by this date may find that they no longer have the right to live and work in the UK.

Employing non-UK nationals from 1 January 2021

A new immigration system was introduced on 1 December 2020 for non-EU nationals wishing to work in the UK. This system will also apply to EU nationals who arrive in the UK for the first time from 1 January 2021.

Charities that wish to employ non-UK skilled workers who do not already have the right to work in the UK will need to apply for and hold a Skilled Worker Licence to sponsor new employees under the Skilled Worker route. Charities that held a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence as at 1 December 2020 will have had their licences automatically upgraded to the Skilled Worker Licence. Employees who, at 1 December 2020, held a valid Tier 2 work visa do not need to take any further action where they are continuing in the same role for the same employer.

Skilled workers will need to:

  • have a job offer from a licensed sponsor;
  • be recruited to a role which meets the requisite salary and skill levels; and
  • meet a points requirement.

What is the difference between the new UK system and the previous system?

The table below summarises the main differences between the Tier 2 work visa and the Skilled Worker visa.

Tier 2 (General) Skilled Worker
Sponsorship required from a licensed sponsor Sponsorship required from a licensed sponsor
Annual quota 20,700 No annual quota
Resident Labour Market Test No Resident Labour Market Test
Switching in-country restricted Flexible on switching in-country
Minimum skill level at RQF Level 6 (graduate level roles) Minimum skill level at RQF Level 3 (A-level roles)

Minimum salary requirement:

New entrant - £20,800

Experienced - £30,000

Minimum salary requirement:

New entrant - £20,480

Experienced - £25,600
Cooling off period applies No cooling off period
Maximum stay of six years No maximum stay
Leads to settlement after five years Leads to settlement after five years

In summary, the new immigration system is designed to be quicker and less onerous; however, maintaining a sponsor licence requires charities to be familiar with the duties associated with sponsoring non-UK workers. The UK immigration rules are complex and non-compliance can result in an investigation from the Home Office and potential loss of licence. The loss of a licence can have an adverse impact on any sponsored staff and could affect the charity’s ability to recruit in the future. It is therefore important that those within an organisation who are responsible for the licence are fully aware of their obligations.

For further information on recruiting non-UK nationals, please contact Pat Saini.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

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