Despite recent outcries and resignations from key players, business leaders have hailed the government’s Brexit white paper as a “massive step forward” for the UK. The 100-page document aims to outline a framework for the future relationship between the UK and EU by proposing a “common rulebook” to facilitate UK-EU trade and a “customs agreement” that allows the UK to stay in the customs union while simultaneously forging new trade deals with other countries.
But what will it mean for immigration, and how will businesses be affected?
So far, we know that the free movement of people will end as the UK leaves the EU. From here, the Immigration Bill will bring EU migration under UK law, enabling the UK to set out its future immigration system in domestic legislation. In the next few blogs, we’ll be looking into the key points that leaders must consider before and after Brexit in regard to hiring non-UK nationals into their business. These include:
Right To Work Check
Last year, 21 West London employers were charged nearly £500k in Home Office fines for hiring illegal workers in the space of just three months. As it stands, the Home Office imposes a duty on all employers in the UK to complete a ‘right to work’ check on their employees, even when they are a British citizen.
Despite the stringent requirements, it’s clear that many employers are still unaware of their duty to check the right to work of their employees and of the consequences of illegal working in the UK. To remain compliant when employing new staff, both now and post-Brexit, employers should check the employee’s immigration documents before permitting them to complete any work. As well as fines, employers who knowingly hire someone who does not have permission to work – whether they have completed the relevant checks or not – could face up to five years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Currently, employers who wish to hire workers from outside the EU (e.g. Australia, India, America) are required to follow a strict process in attaining a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office. However, a high rеfuѕаl rate suggests that many еmрlоуеrѕ are still struggling tо gеt the application process right. Any business seeking to hire a non-UK national must follow this process in gaining a Sponsor Licence which lasts a total of 4 years. While employers may not need to worry about Sponsor Licences for the time being, if they are employing EU nationals, understanding the process for attaining one will be essential for those wishing to recruit from the EU and beyond following Brexit.
Business Visit Visas For EU Nationals Post Brexit
According to the white paper, free movement as we know it will be replaced by “the mobility framework”, which promises ‘reciprocal visa-free travel arrangements to enable both UK and EU citizens to travel freely for tourism in the future.” But visa-free isn’t as simple as it sounds. To prevent unchecked tourists from staying beyond their departure date, a Registered Travellers Scheme will be established between the UK and the EU.
So, what about those visiting the UK to negotiate a contract or attend a seminar, and what about those outside the EU? As it stands, all individuals who wish to travel to the UK on business can do so through a Standard Visitor Visa: visitors on this kind of visa can only stay in the UK for up to 6 months and are strictly prohibited to work for a UK organisation during their stay.
Overseas Representative Visas
The UK has long proven an attractive place to do business for its proximity with the EU market and its reputation for reasonable corporation tax. For an overseas business, sending a senior employee to establish a presence in the UK can present opportunities such as linking with new suppliers and partners and accessing a wealth of new customers. Since the EU referendum took place, however, the number of Sole Representative Visas granted by UK Visa and Immigration has declined by 11%. Regardless, those who wish to apply for a Sole Representative Visa post-Brexit must still be recruited and employed outside the UK by a company whose principal place of business is outside the UK. Individuals on a Sole Representative Visa can remain in the UK for 3 years initially. This can be extended for a further 2 years leading to an application for settlement once 5 years in the UK has been completed.
We will have additional blogs coming up on Immigration and Employment Law, but if you need any advice or support straightaway, please do not hesitate to get in touch.