Since 2020, UK businesses of all types and scales have been struggling to adjust to life without freedom of movement between the UK and the EU. Companies across the UK have been forced to re-evaluate their hiring strategies to ensure they have sufficient skilled staff and to enable growth in the future. Even as of the end of 2022, it is still commonplace to see businesses that wish to continue recruiting staff from within the EU but do not understand the full range of immigration options available. In this article, we will outline some of the most popular work visa and permit options available to EU and EEA citizens.
In some cases, it may be that a suitable EU/EEA-based job candidate may not even need a visa or permit to work in the UK because they may already be eligible for (or even have) Pre-Settled or Settled Status under the EUSS. Pre-Settled status means that a person from the EU/EEA can live and work in the UK and gain permanent settlement after 5 years. Settled status means that a person from the EU/EEA has already lived in the UK for 5 years and can remain permanently in the UK. To gain status under the EUSS, EU and EEA nationals must have been living in the UK before the end of 2020.
The deadline for the scheme was 30th June 2021; however, the Home Office will still process applications where there are reasonable grounds for making a late application. It is also possible for non-EU/EEA family members of EU/EEA nationals who started living in the UK before the end of 2020 to apply under the EUSS (as long as the family relationship existed at that time) regardless of the deadline.
The Frontier Worker Permit allows workers from the EU/EEA who continue to live outside of the UK to work in the UK. This type of immigration arrangement is common within Europe as workers often live in their home country but regularly commute for the purposes of work.
To be eligible for a Frontier Worker Permit, applicants must have started working in the UK before the end of 2020 and have worked here at least once in every 12-month period since. Given the requirement to live outside the UK, this work permit won’t work for everyone, but it may give you an option you had not previously considered.
The Skilled Worker visa and Scale-up Worker visa are both points-based system (PBS) work visas available to applicants with a job offer in an eligible role from a licenced sponsor. These are not exclusively for EU/EEA nationals but allow holders to live and work in the UK, bring their family members, and gain indefinite leave to remain (i.e. settlement) after 5 years.
The difference between the Skilled Worker visa and the Scale-up Worker visa is that the latter allows workers to change jobs/employers, switch to self-employment, or stop working after 6 months. Applicants for both of these visas must meet certain eligibility criteria relating to their annual salary, English language proficiency, and savings to support themselves. The Skilled Worker visa is now the most commonly used work visa for those who wish to work in the UK.
Another work visa option that many overlook is the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa. HPI visa holders can live and work in the UK for up to 2 years and then, if they wish to stay longer, can switch to another visa type. Applicants must have graduated in the last 5 years from a top-ranked university (outside the UK); for EU/EEA nationals, these include the:
The course in which applicants have graduated must be equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, a UK postgraduate degree, or a UK PhD or doctorate. No job offer is required to gain an HPI visa; however, applicants must meet the English language requirements and have enough money to support themselves.
The visa options outlined in this article are only a selection of the wide range available in the UK to EU and EEA nationals. While some visas are only applicable to a small number of people, our aim here is to show you that by understanding the full range of visas, you may be able to more easily hire staff from the EU/EEA using immigration routes you had not previously considered.
For assistance with your immigration law matter, phone us on 0121 777 7715 to make an appointment with one of our SRA Regulated Immigration Solicitors based in Birmingham and London.
Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice.