Post-Brexit: the new immigration system explained

British and European Union paper flags merging concept

From 1 January 2021 the EU’s Free Movement of People in the UK will come to an end. Freedom of movement gives EU citizens the right to live and work in member states. The UK has introduced a new points-based immigration system, which will apply equally to EU and non-EU citizens. It should be noted that this does not apply to Irish citizens.

This blog will explain the new system and what employers will need to do if they wish to hire employees out of the UK.


What is the points based system?

The new points-based immigration system sets certain requirements foreign nationals must meet to work in the UK. The aim of this is to allow workers to enter the UK if they are in a skilled profession.

To be considered a skilled worker the employee must:

  • have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor
  • be able to speak English
  • have applied for a role that is of a required skill level- minimum of A Level or equivalent
  • be paid at least £25,600 per year


I am an employer and want to hire a skilled worker outside the UK. What do I need to do?

You can use the government’s Employer Checking Service to check that a foreign worker has the right to work in the UK. This is important because you can face penalties of up to £20,000 for employing an illegal worker.

Your business will also need to apply for a sponsor licence from the Home Office to employ foreign workers and sponsor foreign students to study or work in the UK.

You could also explore whether you’re eligible to apply under the government’s Global Talent Scheme. This route has been introduced to fast track immigration for highly skilled scientists and researchers to enter the UK. This route has no cap on the number of people able to gain a visa and individuals on the scheme do not need a job offer or a business sponsor to enter the UK.

The requirements for a Global Talent Visa are:

  • you must be a leader or potential leader in academia, research, arts and culture and technology 
  • you must be at least 18 years old 


I am an employer and my employee wants to work remotely in an EU member state, what should I consider?

Certain legal issues will arise when an employee from an EU member state wants to work remotely for a UK company. 

Firstly, an employee based in an EU member state will be under the jurisdiction of their country of residency. This means that the UK company employing them must follow the other country’s employment law. Therefore, as an employer hiring an EU remote worker you must consider the country’s minimum wage, holiday entitlements, sick pay and procedures for termination of an employment contract.

Additionally, remote working across borders raises tax issues such as whether the employee pays taxes to the UK or their country of residency. Some countries have agreements in place to prevent employees paying taxes in both jurisdictions. You can check which countries have agreements in place on the government’s website

Find out more information on changing employment terms if you want an employment contract to include provisions for Brexit-related disruption. 


What does the new immigration system mean for international students in the UK?

Citizens from the EU, EEA and Switzerland will still be able to apply for student visas. To gain a UK student visa you must:

  • be offered a place on a university course
  • have enough money to pay for your course and be able to financially support yourself whilst studying 
  • speak, read, write and understand English

From the summer of 2021 a new graduate immigration route will be introduced. This means international graduates will be able to stay in the UK for 2 years after graduating to work or look for work at any level or in any sector. Students that have completed a PhD will be able to stay in the UK for 3 years after graduating. 


For more information read how Brexit will affect individuals and how to prepare your business for Brexit

Sara Domi