Employing EU Citizens in the UK

The UK has made changes to its immigration rules which have come into force on 1 January 2021. These affect both EU citizens and other non-UK nationals. This guide is only relevant to EU citizens in the UK.

Similarly, as a result of the new post-Brexit trade deal, the rules on travel to and from the UK and the EU have changed: see our separate Guide Note on this subject, Travelling to and from the EU.

Quick Checklist

  • Free movement with the EU has ended on 31 December 2020.
  • The present UK employment law (based on EU law) will not change, according to the UK government, after the transition period ends. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018(EUWA) provides a new constitutional framework for the continuity of ‘retained EU law’ in the UK, replacing the EU treaties that had until that point applied in the UK. However, it may change in the future.
  • Don’t forget that if you are an EU citizen and a business owner in the UK, the immigration rules also affect YOU.
  • Who is affected?
    • Irish citizens are not affected and can live, work and study in the UK with no change.
    • EU, and EEA/Swiss citizens (and their families) will be affected. Any citizens of those countries who were living in the UK before 31 December 2020 can and should apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. This must be done by 30 June 2021, or they risk losing the right to live, work or study lawfully in the UK.
    • Until 30 June 2021, a valid passport or ID card should be enough to prove the right to work. There is also a government online checking system.
    • Right to work checks will need to be carried out after 30 June 2021 on EU and EEA /Swiss citizens.
    • You can check if a document gives someone a legal right to work in the UK here: https://www.gov.uk/legal-right-work-uk
  • Employers should also consider the sponsorship process for employees who do not have an automatic right to work. Existing sponsorship licences should be checked to make sure they are up to date, because the sponsorship system has also changed.
  • Be aware of how the new ‘points-based’ immigration system works, as this has an impact on hiring staff from the EU after 1 January 2021.
  • Expect increased costs from visas, right to work checks, and other taxes, from 1 January 2021.

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