How will Brexit impact the hiring of EU citizens in the UK?

Cyril Moultaka
December 22, 2020


The Brexit transition period comes to an end on the 31 December 2020.

From 1 January 2021, the free movement policy will end and the UK will introduce a points-based immigration system. Therefore, new rules will apply to UK companies from a hiring perspective.

What are these rules? How can you continue to hire EU citizens? That's what we'll see right now!


  1. Rules for companies employing EU citizens
  2. Rules for companies hiring EU citizens from 2021 onwards
  3. Intra company transfer (from EU to UK)

1. Companies currently employing EU citizens

Your company is based in the UK and you currently employ EU citizens? No worries, the new system will not apply to EU citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020.

To stay in the UK, they are eligible, along with their family members, to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and have until 30 June 2021 to do so.

More concretely, this means no major transformations. However, remember to communicate about it to your non-British employees before the deadline.

2. Companies hiring EU citizens from 2021 onwards

Major transformations will impact companies that want to hire EU citizens.

From 2021, in order to hire EU citizens, companies will need to apply for a "UK visa sponsorship for employers" also called sponsor licence.

What is a sponsor licence?

A sponsor licence is the mean by which you'll be able to employ people from outside the UK.

This licence will allow you to be considered as a Home Office licensed sponsor and hire people from everywhere in the world. Without it, you just can't hire foreigners.

💡 Good to know: until now, the sponsor licence was useful for companies recruiting people from outside EU. With Brexit, it's extended to all foreigners including EU citizens (but excluding Irish people).

💡 If you have been recruiting people from outside the EU in the last past months, you probably already have a sponsorship licence. In this case, you'll automatically be granted a new skilled worker licence including EU citizens, and receive an appropriate allocation of certificates of sponsorship.

How to apply?

  1. Check whether your business is eligible.
  2. Choose the **type of licence** you want to apply for (this will depend on what type of worker you want to sponsor: tier 2 for workers with long-term job offers, tier 5 for temporary workers)
  3. Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business.
  4. Apply online and pay the fee (from £536 to £1,476 depending on your business' size)

💡 You will also have to give an estimated number of the foreign workers that you will need to have as many certificates of sponsorship as new foreign recruits.Indeed, you must assign a certificate of sponsorship to each foreign worker you hire (each certificate has its own number which a worker can use to apply for a visa).

👉 Once your application has been submitted, you should expect an average of eight weeks processing time to receive your licence. It can be longer, so be mindful of any strategic deadline.

Congrats, you're now able to hire people from outside the UK! Your licence will be valid for 4 years.

What do your new recruits need to do?

⚠️ Even if you sponsor someone coming to the UK to work, they will need to apply for permission to be sure that they meet the criteria requested by the UK administration.

In concrete terms, being licensed doesn't mean you can hire anyone.

Why? Because the new points-based immigration system will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally and transform the way in which all migrants come to the UK to work.

Anyone coming to the UK to work will need to apply for a work visa.

  • For workers coming to the UK from 1 January 2021, they can check what type of visa they need here
  • If they come to the UK for a long-term job, they will need to apply for a General work visa (tier 2)

During their visa application, your new recruits will have to prove different things:

  • they have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor
  • they meet required English proficiency standards
  • the future position is at the required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level). For instance, software engineers are at RQF6 skill level (which is above RQF3)
  • they’ll be paid at least £25,600 or the ‘going rate’ for the job offer, whichever is higher.

💡 The earliest you can apply for a visa is 3 months before you’re due to start work in the UK.

⚠️ You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks when you apply from outside the UK.

So think about it during your recruitment process to avoid nasty surprises!

3. Intra-company Transfer

If you want to transfer one of your employees from a subsidiary located in a foreign country (including the EU) to a branch in the UK, you'll need to apply for the Intra-company Transfer (ICT).

The ICT is actually a type of sponsor licence specifically designed to facilitate temporary moves into the UK.

It will require applicants to be in roles skilled to RQF 6 (graduate level equivalent), and subject to a different minimum salary threshold from the main skilled worker route (that we detailed in the second part). Find all the info **here.**

How can help you? is a selective, reversed recruitment platform for tech profiles. We are the simplest way for tech candidates to find a job they love and for tech companies to build a great tech team. We select the best tech profiles in Europe.

Since our launch 6 years ago, we qualified more than 100,000 tech candidates looking for a new job on, all across Europe. Sourcing tech talents from the EU gives you access to more available candidates and increases your chances to hire the best ones.

Our Client Executives team in London can support you with all the administrative steps in order for you to continue/start hiring tech talents across Europe.

Key takeaways

It's now time to think about your needs for the future. If you're thinking about hiring EU citizens from January 2021 onwards, you should apply for a sponsorship licence now.

  • If it's for a long term job, you need to apply for a Tier 2 licence.
  • If it's for a temporary work, go for a Tier 5 licence.

If you plan to transfer employees from the EU to your UK branch, you'll need a Tier 2 - Intra company Transfer (ICT) licence.

Need more details? Visit the UK government website:****

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