Posted on: 19 March 2021

Recruiting staff who are citizens of the EU or EEA

When the UK left the European Union in January 2021, free movement of EU nationals officially came to an end. Many businesses in the hospitality, construction and healthcare sector rely on foreign workers, usually due to skill gaps in the UK workforce, so they may be affected by the transition.

Hiring EU citizens is still possible for UK businesses, but the processes to be able to do so have changed. Carry on reading this article to see how you can employ EU citizens for your business.

How to recruit staff from the EU or EEA

Here are some of the things that you will need to do to employ a member of staff from countries in the European Union and countries in the EEA (European Economic Area), such as Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland.

Get a sponsor licence

For someone in the EU to come and work in the UK, they will need a sponsor, which is a person or business that is willing to take responsibility of a migrant worker’s employment.

Businesses who want to employ someone from outside the UK will need a sponsorship licence for anyone who arrived in the UK after 31st December 2020, but won’t need a licence for Irish citizens, EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status or those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

There are a few steps to getting a sponsorship licence to employ non-UK residents:

Skilled Worker Route

If the person you want to employ is a skilled worker, they will need to:

  • Have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor. A licensed sponsor is a business which has taken the above steps.
  • Speak English at a required level.
  • Confirm the job offered requires a skill level of RQF3, the equivalent of an A Level.
  • Confirm the job offer should pay at least £25,600, the ‘going rate’.

The job offer can pay less than £25,600, but only under the following conditions:

  • The job pays at least £20,480.
  • The applicant has other specific qualifications, such as a PhD relevant to the role or has applied for a position in a shortage occupation.
  • Healthcare and education roles will have different salary rules, as will young people starting their career.

At the time of publication, there was no route for businesses to employ anyone from the EU or EEA into a position that paid a salary of under £20,480.

Intra-company transfers

If your company has branches all around the world and a member of staff wants to relocate to the UK, this is possible through the Intra-Company Transfer Route.

To be eligible for this route, the job applicant must:

  • Be an existing member of your company who meets UK skill and salary thresholds.
  • Be part of a Home Office licensed company.
  • Have worked for the company with overseas links for 12 months.
  • Work at a RQF6 (or graduate degree) level.
  • Receive a salary of £41,500, i.e. the ‘going rate’.

However, permission to be transferred to the UK is temporary, with workers unable to stay for more than 5 years in a 6 year time-frame.

Workers paid over £73,900 don’t need to have worked the 12 months prior to moving, and can stay for 9 years out of a 10 year time-frame.

Workers who are on a graduate training programme can come to the UK as part of an Intra-Company Trainee route, which lasts for a year. Requirements for this route are the same as the Intra-Company  Transfer route, except for the rules on the length of experience required and the salary limits.

Other routes for employing an EU or EEA citizen

Global Talent

This is a programme that looks for the best and brightest minds in science, humanities, engineering, arts and digital technology.

Candidates who make it to the Global Talent list will not need a licence to hire, and don’t require sponsorship.

Youth Mobility Scheme

This scheme will allow around 20,000 young people, aged 18 to 30, to travel to the UK for work every year.

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