The new immigration rules – is your business prepared for the end of free movement?

COVID-19 has put a spanner in the works for many businesses and halting the growth of many companies, in which they may be having to rely upon Government backed scheme to keep them afloat. Furthermore, to add insult to injury there are major changes coming to the Immigration Rules following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, resulting in the end of free movement.

This means that all employers who employ staff from the EU must act now on the new Immigration Rules that come into force on 31 December 2020. In the lead up to changes, we have been running webinar sessions with Employers to inform them of the new requirements and address a range of issues they may face. Also, in this insight article we have put together some key elements to be implemented by Employers to make sure they are complying with the new legislative requirements.

Assess Business Risk

Employers will need to weigh up the risk associated with potentially losing EU nationals from their workforces. This means they should audit their workforce to assess the exposure.

They may find themselves in a position where people do not wish to apply for their EU Pre-Settled or Settled status or are not aware of the need to apply  and as such they may find themselves in a position where they may not be able to employ them post 30 June 2021.

If businesses regularly recruit from the EU they must ensure that they have the relevant processes in place to enable them to continue to recruit from outside the UK after 31 December 2020.

Communicate with EU Nationals

The best practice to adopt right now is to communicate with their EU national employees and update them as to their obligations to apply for EU Pre- settled or Settled status to include their family members before the 30 June 2021.  Whilst currently they are not able to ask to see the evidence of their status, they may want to communicate the fact that it will make it easier for travel and to prove their status when the transition period ends.

Prepare for the end of free movement

Employers need ensure that they are prepared for the end of free movement.  A key change will be the need to apply for a sponsor licence if the business does not already have one. A sponsor licence is now required to employ EEA and Swiss citizens coming to the UK to work, from 1 January 2021, whereas previously a sponsor licence would only be required for non-EU migrants. The Skilled Worker route is being rolled out from the 1 December 2020.

The key elements mentioned are not an exhaustive list and we have attempted to cover the main the features of the new Immigration rules. However, Employers are highly recommended to join our remaining two webinar sessions as various sectors would be impacted differently depending on how their organisation is structured. Our webinar sessions provide a further detailed insight into the new immigration rules to allow Employers to make the changes that they need, sooner rather than later.  Further details of our Immigration webinars can be found on our Brexit Insights hub page here.

Alternatively, for any tailored advice, we are happy to help with all enquires and encourage Employers to contact our dedicated Immigration team with any further queries.


Some of the key questions were not answered in the live session and won’t be covered by the takeaway points.

1. If someone extends a Tier 2 (General) visa after 1 December 2020, will this person be given a visa under the Skilled Worker route or will it be under the Tier 2 (General) visa?

It will be under the Skilled Worker route as they have simply amended the terms. If there is any change in the individual’s role etc this must be considered.

2. What classes as acceptable evidence for settled status?

They would need to carry out an online right to work check as it is a digital status– we will cover how to do this in webinar 3!

3. With the removal of the labour market test, is there any specific recruitment process that we need to meet or is that much more flexible now?

There is no formal resident labour market test but we believe that vacancies must be genuine as defined below:-

A genuine vacancy is one which:

  • requires the jobholder to perform the specific duties and responsibilities for the job and meets all of the requirements of the relevant route
  • does not include dissimilar and/or predominantly lower-skilled duties
  • is appropriate to the business in light of its business model, business plan and scale

It does leave it open to much scrutiny from the Home Office and as such best practice is to maintain good recruitment processes.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.


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