Post-Brexit visa rules: what you need to know

The end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 last year also saw the end of freedom of movement. The UK’s new visa points system now applies to newly arrived EU citizens planning to work here.

So, what does that mean for employers? Well, UK and EU citizens already holding residency in Europe or Britain have the same rights as before.

However, people from the EU now looking to live and work here have to go through mandatory requirements in order to gain a skilled work visa based on the points system that has been introduced. Although that doesn’t affect people coming from the Republic of Ireland.

Employers must have a sponsorship licence issued by the Home Office before they can employ non-UK resident workers coming into the country. Without one they will be unable to hire or extend current visas.

As a sponsor you need to be fully aware of your immigration duties and have processes and system in place to meet them and to maintain records that show you are complying.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents. They may visit your business to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties.

You can sponsor a worker if the job they’re going to do has a suitable rate of pay and skill level, or meets the other criteria needed for their visa.

The licence you need depends on whether the workers you want are filling a long-term job or are temporary. You can apply for a licence covering one or both types.

You also need to appoint people within your business to manage the process when you apply for a licence, using the government’s sponsorship management system (SMS).

The roles needed are:

• authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS
• key contact – your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
• level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS

These roles can be filled by the same person or different people. You and your staff will be checked to make sure you’re suitable for these roles.

You will get an A-rated licence if your application is approved. That lets you start assigning certificates of sponsorship and also means your business will be listed in the register of sponsors.

However, that A-rated licence may be downgraded to a B-rating at a later stage if you do not continue to meet your sponsor duties.

If this happens, you will not be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you’ve made improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating.

You’ll still be able to issue certificates to workers you already employ who want to extend their permission to stay.

You must assign a certificate of sponsorship to each foreign worker you employ. This is an electronic record, not a physical document. Each certificate has its own number which a worker can use to apply for a visa.

When you assign the certificate to a worker, they must use it to apply for their visa within three months.

‘Defined certificates’ are for people applying on a Skilled Worker visa from outside the UK.

You must apply for defined certificates for these workers through the sponsorship management system (SMS). You’ll get access to this when you get your licence.

‘Undefined certificates’ are for skilled workers applying from inside the UK, and applicants on all other visas.

When you apply for your licence, you’ll be asked to estimate how many undefined certificates you’ll need for workers and temporary workers in the first year.

Certificates are free for citizens of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.

For other citizens, you need to pay for each certificate.

You must:

• Check that your foreign workers have the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs, and keep copies of documents showing this
• Only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship
• Tell UKVI if your sponsored workers are not complying with the conditions of their visa

Your licence may be downgraded, suspended or withdrawn if you do not meet these responsibilities and requirements.

You must also have HR systems in place that let you monitor your employees’ immigration status, keep copies of relevant documents for each employee, including passport and right to work information and track and record employees’ attendance.

You also ned to keep employee contact details up to date and report to UKVI if there is a problem, for example if your employee stops coming to work.

And you must also report any significant changes in your own circumstances within 20 working days, for example if you stop trading or become insolvent, substantially change the nature of your business or are involved in a merger or take-over.

You must also tell UKVI if you’re changing your details, like your address or allocated roles.