With the Covid-19 pandemic dominating the news cycle for so long, the end of free movement - a key consequence of Brexit – has, for many, gone under the radar. As travel restrictions continue to lift and UK labour shortages are becoming apparent in food and fuel supply chains, the issue is now at the forefront of many people’s minds.
What has changed for EU nationals now coming to the UK post-Brexit?
EEA and Swiss nationals (“EU nationals”) wanting to relocate to the UK now face a myriad of rules and restrictions that previously didn’t apply to them. They will be treated the same as non-EU nationals and whilst they may visit without prior permission, they and their family members must obtain visas before seeking to move here long-term – and deal with the costs and paperwork that this entails.
So as an EU national, what are my options for moving to the UK now?
It is always worth obtaining advice on your specific situation, as the UK immigration rules are complex and there may be less common routes through which you can apply. Some of the current main categories that will now be relevant to EU nationals are as follows:
For those looking to move to the UK to work, and who don’t have another basis on which to obtain a visa, sponsorship by an employer will be required. Minimum skill and salary levels apply, as does an English language requirement. Sponsoring employers must hold a licence granted by the Home Office and may be required to pay an “Immigration Skills Charge” which in effect is a business levy for each sponsored worker. The role must also amount to a genuine vacancy. For many smaller employers the costs and administrative burden involved with sponsorship will be prohibitive, making job-seeking harder than it used to be for EU nationals - though it is likely that many organisations will have to find a way to meet these costs in order to fill labour shortages. Timeframes for obtaining the necessary permissions must also be factored into any travel and hiring plans.
The ‘Skilled Worker’ route is appropriate for new hires and can lead to settlement after five years. High earners or existing employees of an overseas company with a linked UK entity may qualify under the ‘Intra Company’ route, though this will not lead to settlement.
Those with a spouse or partner who is British or “settled” in the UK may be able to obtain a visa on this basis. In most cases you would need to show a gross annual income of £18,600 and provide evidence of a genuine and subsisting relationship, as well as meeting an English language requirement. If successful, you would have the right to work for any employer and could apply to settle in the UK after five years, subject to having renewed the visa after two and a half years.
Those who have an active relationship with a child who is British or settled can also apply to come to the UK on this basis.
Individuals who are recognised as leaders in their field, or who have shown “exceptional promise” may be able to qualify under the Global Talent route. Applicants need to meet different requirements based on their industry/sector and the bar for success is high. If granted, a Global Talent visa allows any employment or self-employment in the relevant field and in most cases can lead to settlement in the UK after three years.
Other business or investment-based routes
The Investor route requires investment of at least £2m in the UK, with applicants rewarded with flexibility in the terms of their status and the possibility of settlement after five years. Those who invest £10m can obtain accelerated settlement after just two years.
Experienced businesspeople wishing to set up and run a new business may qualify under the ‘Innovator’ route, whilst for those looking to set up a business for the first time, the ‘Start-up’ route may be an option. Both routes require endorsement from an approved endorsing body. Innovators must invest £50,000 in their business and can settle after three years. A ‘Start-up’ visa is only valid for two years and does not lead to settlement.
There is also a separate route for those being sent by an overseas company to set up a UK entity or branch.
London Bridge train station - the "tube" is a great way to travel to, from and around central London.
What if I want to come and look for work before deciding whether to relocate?
Despite reports earlier this year of EU nationals being refused entry or even being detained when seeking to enter to look for work, those looking to secure employment in the UK are permitted to enter the country as visitors to look for jobs and attend interviews. They must however be genuinely visiting the UK and intend to leave and seek the appropriate visa if they are successful in securing a job offer. This has recently been confirmed in updated Home Office guidance for caseworkers, which will hopefully prevent further jobseekers being wrongly turned away on arrival to the UK. Nevertheless, permitted activities for visitors are restricted and it is very important that organisations and individuals are aware of which activities are and are not allowed. Individuals may be questioned at the border on their intended purpose for being in the UK – if a border official believes their visit does not fall within the rules they may be refused entry, which can have an impact on any future visa applications or entry to the UK.
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