Home Office issues new guidance on recruiting overseas nationals from 1 Jan 2021

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Posted on 29 Sep 2020

The Home Office has issued further details for employers looking to recruit overseas nationals from 1 January 2021.

Freedom of movement ends on 31 December 2020.  After that date in most cases employers will need a sponsor licence if they want to hire workers from outside the UK and overseas nationals will need a visa to work in the UK.  This does not apply to Irish citizens or to EEA and Swiss citizens you already employ in the UK. EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020, and their family members, can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and must do so by 30 June 2021.  Provided they do this they will not need a visa to work in the UK.

The key requirements for the sponsored work routes are set out below.

Skilled workers 

Anyone recruited from outside the UK for the Skilled Worker route will need to demonstrate that:

  • They have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor – if the employer already holds a Tier 2 (General) sponsor licence they will automatically be granted a new Skilled Worker licence 
  • They speak English at the required level
  • The job offer is at the required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level)
  • They will be paid at least £25,600 or the ‘going rate’ for the job offer, whichever is higher.  If the job will pay less than this - but at least £20,480 – they may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against their salary. For example, if they have a job offer in a shortage occupation or have a PhD relevant to the job they can trade this for a lower salary. There are also different salary rules for workers in some health or education jobs, and for “new entrants” at the start of their careers.

Intra-Company Transfers

Workers transferring to the UK under the Intra-Company Transfer route will need to:

  • Be sponsored as an Intra-Company Transfer by a Home Office licensed sponsor – if the employer already holds an Intra-Company Transfer sponsor licence they will automatically be granted a new Intra-Company Transfer licence
  • Have 12 months’ experience working for a business overseas linked by ownership to the UK business they will work for – there is an exception if they are paid over £73,900 
  • Be undertaking a role at the required skill level of RQF6 or above (graduate level equivalent)
  • Be paid at least £41,500 or the ‘going rate’ for the job, whichever is higher

Permission for workers transferred to the UK under this route is temporary, so they cannot apply to settle permanently in the UK under this route. They can be assigned to the UK multiple times but cannot stay in the UK for more than five years in any six-year period (or more than  nine years  in any ten-year period for those paid over £73,900).

Other work routes

Some visas allow the holder to work in the UK without a sponsor, for example the Global Talent route (designed to attract recognised global leaders and promising individuals in science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology) and the Youth Mobility Scheme (which enables young people (aged 18 to 30 years old) to come to the UK to work and travel). There is also the UK Ancestry route which allows Commonwealth citizens with a UK-born grandparent to come and live and work in the UK. Dependant partners and spouses will also continue to have access to the labour market and be able to work at any skill level.

So it may be possible for your employee to come to the UK under these alternative work routes. We can discuss these with you on a case-by-case basis.

Apply for a sponsor licence

Final arrangements in the Immigration Rules and guidance are yet to be published.  In the meantime, employers who do not already hold a sponsor licence and who wish to employ overseas nationals after 31 December 2020 should apply for a licence now.   

For further information on applying for a sponsor licence and employing overseas nationals after 31 December 2020, please contact our Head of Business Immigration Anita de Atouguia or your usual business immigration team contact

The Government’s guidance can be found in its UK points-based immigration system: further details statement and in its guidance on Recruiting people from outside the UK from 1 January 2021

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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