Brexit developments

31 January 2020          UK formally leaves the EU and the beginning of an ‘implementation’ or transitional
                                         period. EU/EEA/Swiss nationals retain existing free movement rights in the UK
                                         and vice versa

Spring 2020                  UK Government to announce final post-Brexit immigration policy

31 December 2020      End of the transitional period

1 January 2021             New immigration system introduced

30 June 2021                 Extended deadline for settled status applications for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens in the
                                          UK before 1 January 2021

The transitional period is due to end on 31 December 2020. This can be extended, though the Conservative Party’s manifesto during the December 2019 General Election explicitly ruled out seeking an extension.

No. Businesses should continue preparing for the end of the transition period and the introduction of the new points-based immigration system, due to be introduced on 1 January 2021.

Latest guidance from the UK Government can be found here.

If the UK and EU fail to sign an agreement on their future relationship, then on 1 January 2021 the UK be left to trade with the EU on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, which is the same as a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. However, new immigration rules may well come into effect in this scenario, see the section below.

People management and policies

Support EU/EEA/Swiss nationals and their families to apply for settled or pre-settled status under the European Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by 30 June 2021. If unsure, first find out who are and how many affected workers you have in this category. Ensure they receive the support and information they need.

Yes. Have this conversation with your employee’s welfare in mind. Brief your managers to have a simple one-to-one conversation with their team member to find out how they are feeling currently about the UK leaving the EU. Ask if settlement status has been applied for, for them and their family and provide the offer of help to navigate the process and complete the online application.

Policies are likely to require changing from 1 January 2021. The UK Government is planning to introduce a new immigration system for those who want to work in the UK for a period of time. The new system has undergone consultation which CIPD has responded to. A draft scheme is as yet to be announced.

People movement

EU/EEA/Swiss citizens will have to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by June 2021, where they will be granted settled or pre-settled status. Settled status will be given to those who have lived continuously in the UK for five years and enable the holder to remain in the UK indefinitely. Pre-settled status will be given to those who do not yet have five years’ continuous residence. Individuals with pre-settled status can apply for settled status once they have accrued five years’ continuous residence. The application process can be done via any mobile device or computer.

Your employees can continue to split their time between the UK and any other EU country with no changes to arrangements before 1 January 2021. From this date, you may need to support UK employees travelling to the EU to work to apply for relevant visas and permits in specific EU countries, even if working only for a few days. Check what the entry requirements or necessary documents are and have them ready before travelling. 

EU/EEA/Swiss employees travelling to the UK will need to comply with the new business visitor rules from 1 January 2021. The UK will no longer accept national ID cards for entry to the UK for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens from this date.

EU citizen staff who are already in the UK or arrive before 1 January 2021 can continue to work without needing to show settlement status until 1 July 2021.

EU citizens who enter the UK for work from 1 January 2021 will need to meet the UK’s post-Brexit migration requirements.

Post-Brexit immigration and recruitment

The government’s post-Brexit immigration system will be a single system for all nationalities. From 1 January 2021, EU/EEA/Swiss citizens (except Irish citizens) will be subject to the same migration restrictions as non-EU citizens.

The government’s White Paper sets out some of the policies that are likely to feature and include:

  • A minimum salary threshold of £30,000, although there will be some exemptions, especially for public service occupations.

  • A minimum skill threshold of RQF Level 4 (A-level occupations).

  • A Youth Mobility Scheme that will allow 18-30 year-old EU citizens to live and work in the UK for a period of up to two years. It is highly likely that this will be subject to quotas. This will complement the existing Youth Mobility Scheme that covers around a dozen countries e.g. Australia, Canada, etc.

  • A one-year temporary visa for unskilled and skilled workers.

The new system will make it easier to recruit non-EU citizens compared with the current system. Key advantages of the new system include:

  • Lowering the minimum skill threshold from RQF Level 6 (graduate-level occupations) to RQF Level 3-5 (A-Level occupations).

  • Streamlining the recruitment process from 14 weeks to around 4 weeks, which includes a government commitment to process the substantial majority of visas within 2-3 weeks. The quicker timeframe is largely due to the proposed removal of the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and a new digital process.

  • Removal of the migration cap, which removes the risk of a visa application being refused due to over-subscription.

In the majority of cases, the £30,000 minimum salary threshold will apply. However, the proposed Youth Mobility Scheme for EU citizens, which allows 18-30 year-old EU citizens and non-EU citizens from around a dozen countries to come to the UK to live and work without a job offer, would enable employers to circumvent the sponsorship system.

A second option is the one-year temporary visa, which would allow employers to recruit unskilled and skilled workers for a period of up to 12 months. This may also include a 12-month cooling-off period.

These routes will be particularly attractive to employers who need low-skilled workers to meet short-term fluctuations in demand e.g. seasonal workers in the hospitality sector. This is because the minimum salary and skills thresholds will limit greatly visa options for low-skilled workers.

From 2021, employers will also need to be aware of the increased costs involved in recruiting non-UK workers via the skilled route. These include:

  • A sponsorship licence to recruit non-UK nationals, which will apply especially to high-volume users of the system. The current cost for a sponsor licence is £1,536 for medium and large businesses and £536 for small businesses. Future fees are not yet set.

  • An Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) for every worker you sponsor. The ISC is currently set at £1,000 (or £364 for small or charitable sponsors) for the first 12 months of a worker’s employment with a sponsor, and £500 (or £182 for small or charitable sponsors) for each subsequent six months.

  • It is also likely that many employers will absorb other costs incurred by the visa applicant, such as:

    • The Immigration Health Surcharge (HIS). The IHS is currently set at £400/year for non-EEA nationals in the country for longer than six months, with a reduced rate of £300/year for students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme.

    • Visa fees, which will exceed £10,000, for a family of four people.

There will be no need to repeat checks for existing employees from 1 January 2021 when the new immigration system is introduced. However, new employees are likely to need evidence of settled status, pre-settled status or a visa.

Irish and UK citizens will be able continue to travel freely for business travel and to live and work between both countries under the Common Travel Agreement (CTA). Irish nationals currently working in the UK will not need to apply for settled status in the UK.

The CIPD has responded to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) inquiry on the feasibility of an Australian, points-based immigration system post-Brexit and on minimum salary thresholds. This follows previous government reports which have drawn extensively on CIPD research.

The CIPD is a member of the Home Office employers’ advisory group and will continue to work with the MAC and government to help ensure that any post-Brexit immigration policy (to be introduced in January 2021) matches employer need.

It remains to be seen whether the government plans to amend EU employment legislation, such as the Working Time Directive or the Agency Workers Directive.

If you have other queries about Brexit not covered above, please contact the CIPD’s Public Affairs team at