New UK Immigration System

To ensure that you are kept up to date with the very latest developments, our analysis will be updated regularly.


Beyond Brexit: The UK’s new Immigration System

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and is now in a transition period, due to end on 31 December 2020. The Government’s position is that EU nationals who move to the UK to live, work and study from 1 January 2021 will be treated, from an immigration perspective, in the same way as non-EU nationals are now. 

A new immigration system is currently being designed for EU and non-EU nationals. Our team is working with the Government on this through various stakeholder engagement projects.

We have provided key information below for businesses, education providers and individuals about the UK’s new immigration system. We will update this information when there are further key developments.

Information for those seeking to move to the UK before 1 January 2021 can be found on the business, education and personal pages of our website.

The EU Settlement Scheme
The EU Settlement Scheme is the process by which EU nationals can apply for pre-settled status (also known as limited leave to remain) or settled status (also known as indefinite leave to remain).

Obtaining settled status, which is granted to EU nationals who can show that they have lived in the UK for at least five years, means that the individual is free from immigration control and does not have to make any further immigration applications (as long as they do not leave the UK for more than five consecutive years, or four years for Swiss citizens). Those with settled status have the same rights to live, work, healthcare and welfare as UK citizens.

EU nationals who have not lived in the UK for five years can obtain pre-settled status. They will have to make a further application under the EU Settlement Scheme for settled status once they have lived in the UK for five years (if they wish to remain). Whilst they have pre-settled status, they have the right to live, work and healthcare in the UK.

Those with pre-settled or settled status can view and provide evidence of their status via an online tool.

Most applicants will commence the application process via the ‘EU Exit: ID Document Check’ app. If a person has a national insurance number, this is usually sufficient for the Home Office to be able to check that they have been residing in the UK. Those who do not have a national insurance number, and this may include newly arrived EU nationals, will need to review the documents that can be provided to support their application.

There are no government fees involved in making an application.

There is no minimum residence requirement. As long as the applicant is in the UK when the application is filed and can provide a national insurance number or meet the documentary requirements, the application will be successful. This is providing the application does not fall for refusal based on criminality grounds. If the applicant lives in the UK but is temporarily abroad, they may be able to submit their application from overseas.

In the case of families, children are not automatically granted status just because their parents have applied for, or obtained, it under the scheme. An application must be made for each family member.

The general information provided here regarding EU nationals will be of relevance to the majority. However, there may be certain scenarios, especially in relation to EU nationals who have resided in the UK for some time or those with complex situations, where other options are more suitable.

EU citizens who move to the UK before 1 January 2021
EU citizens who move to the UK before 1 January 2021 will be able to make an EU Settlement Scheme application. For students and workers, this applies even if their course or job won’t commence until later on. They must submit their application before 30 June 2021.

Importantly, this group of EU citizens will not have to apply under the new immigration system and the employer or education provider will not have to sponsor them.

Example 1: Andras is an Austrian national. He moves to the UK on 28 December 2020 to commence a three-year job starting on 8 January 2021. As long as he has a UK address and meets the documentary and criminality requirements, Andras will be able to apply for pre-settled status, commencing his application via the app. The process is free and generally fast and simple. Andras’ pre-settled status will enable him to work in the UK without needing to complete any further immigration applications. If his wife and children move to the UK with him, they will also be able to apply for pre-settled status. Andras (and his family) will be able to work/study without restriction and will be able to obtain settled status after five years, again at no cost (based on current legislation). 

We are often asked if EU citizens who move to the UK on 31 December 2020 will also be able to make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme. Whilst this will be possible, it may be difficult for them to meet the documentary requirements. We do not recommend that EU citizens leave it to the very last minute to move to the UK if this can be avoided – a delay to a flight, for example, that sees them arrive on 1 January 2021 would mean that they miss the opportunity to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.

It is important that EU citizens are aware that they will need to submit a declaration as part of the application process confirming that any information provided is accurate. Providing false information could have potentially serious future consequences.

It is not possible for an EU citizen who is overseas and who has not come to the UK to submit an application under the EU Settlement Scheme on the basis that they will move to the UK after the cut-off date.

EU citizens who move to the UK from 1 January 2021

As explained above, a new immigration system is being designed which will cover EU and non-EU nationals who come to the UK from 1 January 2021. Most EU workers and students who move to the UK from 1 January 2021 will need to be sponsored and obtain a visa. They will need to pay visa and other associated fees, which can be considerable.

Example 2: Steffi is a Danish citizen. She is intending to move to the UK on 2 January 2021 to commence a course of study on 8 January 2021. Adrienne will therefore miss the cut-off date under the EU Settlement Scheme. She will need to obtain a visa. Under the current rules, a three-year visa to study in the UK costs £348 plus the Immigration Health Surcharge, which will be £1,410 for three years in January 2021. The upfront immigration cost will be £1,758. Steffi will be subject to the conditions of stay as set out in her visa, including restrictions on work rights. Her student visa will not lead to settlement in the UK. If she finds a sponsor and moves to a work visa after her studies, that will cost her around £4,408 for a five year visa, based on today’s fees. If she applies for Indefinite Leave to Remain, that’ll cost another £2,389. If her family move to the UK with her, they will also need to pay for visas and will also be subject to conditions of stay.

As you can see, the difference in the upfront costs for Andras and his family and Steffi and her family are significant. If Steffi wants to eventually settle in the UK, she will need to navigate the UK’s immigration system once she has finished her studies (applying for a graduate visa, work visas, etc.), will need to pay potentially thousands in visa costs and be continuously subject to restrictions before she can eventually apply to settle in the UK. The costs of her decision to move to the UK after 1 January 2021 will be significant and will have repercussions for many years to come.

Steffi is strongly advised to move to the UK before 1 January 2021, in which case she will be able to benefit from the EU Settlement Scheme.

Do employers and education providers need a sponsor licence to recruit EU and non-EU workers and students?
In general, businesses and education providers that wish to recruit EU and non-EU workers and students from 1 January 2021 will need to obtain a sponsor licence, and can make an application for one now. Currently a sponsor licence is needed to recruit non-EU nationals.

In relation to the UK’s schools, currently only independent schools are permitted to hold a sponsor licence to sponsor international students. The Government has confirmed that there will be a change to this. Unfortunately this means that it will not be possible for other schools to sponsor EU students who come to the UK from 1 January 2021. They will be able to continue to teach EU students who have obtained, or are able to obtain, pre-settled or settled status. They will also be able to continue to teach those who come to the UK after 1 January 2021 and who have another type of visa, for example, to accompany a parent on a work visa.

How can our organisation apply for a sponsor licence?
We have been helping employers and education providers obtain sponsor licences since the sponsorship system began in 2008. We will be pleased to help you through the process. Please contact us and one of our team will provide you with information on our fixed fee options.

You can find further information on how we can assist you in obtaining a sponsor licence for workers here, and for students here.

What is the new Points-Based Immigration System?
The Government is rolling out a new system to enable EU and non-EU workers and students to come to the UK. In some cases, as we have seen above, they will need a sponsor and may need to score a certain number of points.

The final design of the new system is still being developed and you can find the details that have been published so far here.

The following new visas will be available to EU and non-EU nationals under the new Points-Based Immigration System:

  • Skilled Worker: for workers who will be sponsored in a job requiring skills that equate to RQF Level 3 (broadly A-level standard). There will be a minimum salary and English language requirement. Detailed information on the requirements can be found in this document.
  • Skilled Workers in Health and Care: for doctors, nurses and other health professionals who work in the National Health Service and wider care sector. This route opens on 4 August 2020.
  • Global Talent: this route recognises top talent in science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology. This route opened in February 2020, replacing the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) rote. You can find more information here.
  • Start-up and Innovator: for those seeking to establish innovative businesses in the UK. You can read about Start-up here and Innovator here.
  • Highly Skilled Workers: for those who are highly skilled this route, which is not expected to open until 2022, will not require them to have a sponsor.
  • International students: for those wishing to come to the UK to study at a universities, colleges, schools and other education providers that hold a sponsor licence.
  • Specialist routes: for temporary workers, those in the creative fields, sportspersons and Ministers of Religion.

A range of other routes will also continue to be open – ancestry, representative of an overseas business, investor, etc.

What about those moving to the UK for family and personal reasons?
The new Points-Based Immigration System covers the majority of routes that will be used by workers and students.

It will continue to be possible for non-EU citizens, and EU citizens from 1 January 2021, to make applications under the family routes that are already open, such as spouse, unmarried partner, fiancé and same-sex partner, adult dependant relative, etc. You can find more information about these routes here.

Where can I find more information?
We are experienced in guiding people through the immigration system.

You can find further information on the current options on the pages of our website dedicated to employers, education providers and individuals.

Our services for businesses and education providers
We offer the following range of services to businesses and education providers that are designed to enable them to offer enhanced support to their employees and HR teams:

  • Beyond Brexit immigration presentations, in person or via webinar, to EEA employees to explain the EU Settlement Scheme and other options available, including how to apply to naturalise as a British citizen;
  • EU Settlement Scheme application filing sessions, in person or via video conferencing, where our team will use our technology to enable employees to submit their applications;
  • preparation of other applications for EEA staff and their family members such as applications for permanent residence documents and applications to naturalise as a British citizen;
  • bespoke training for HR teams and legal advice on how best to manage Beyond Brexit immigration related matters;
  • advice and assistance on Sponsor Licence, Tier 2 and all other work-related immigration matters;
  • information on proposals for the new immigration system due to come into force from January 2021, including how to engage with the Government on the design of the system;
  • advice on conducting compliant right to work checks;
  • discounted rates to employees and further immigration law advice and assistance as required.

We have designed a flexible fixed fee structure which is tailored to the specific services the employer requires.

Our services for individuals

We offer a range of immigration and visa services to individuals who are seeking to move to the UK and you can find further information here.

We will usually be able to prepare applications, for example, under the EU Settlement Scheme, for work and study visas or to naturalise as a British citizen, on a fixed fee basis. If your situation is complex, we will analyse your situation and provide you with legal advice in a cost-effective way working to an agreed budget.

The Legal 500 has said that our team provides ‘that extra bit of listening, care and explanation that engenders the client’s trust and makes them feel comfortable’.

For the vast majority of people, making an application under the EU Settlement Scheme is unlikely to need a lawyer. Do take time to review the scheme before deciding to instruct any law firm. The latest information from the UK Government about the scheme can be found here.

Contact us
If you would like to discuss your Beyond Brexit immigration needs, or would like information about our services and fees, please contact us.

If you would like to discuss your Beyond Brexit immigration needs, or would like information about our services and fees, please contact us.

‘…providing that extra bit of listening, care and explanation that engenders the client’s trust and makes them feel comfortable’.THE LEGAL 500

‘…very conscious of the need to give clients value for money’.CHAMBERS & PARTNERS