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Work in the UK After Brexit: A Guide

If you’re a citizen of an EU country, your rights and permissions to work in the UK will have changed as a result of the UK’s departure from the EU.

For more information on working in the UK after Brexit, whether you’re an EU/EEA citizen who’s already in the UK, looking to come to the UK, or if you’re from outside the EU/EEA, we can help. Call us today on 0333 4149244, or contact us online.

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Overview of Working in the UK After Brexit

Prior to Brexit, all EU/EEA and Swiss citizens had the right to live, work and study in the UK without restriction.

However, this is no longer the case now that the UK has left the European Union. Free movement between the UK and the EU is no longer possible, and EU citizens are now subject to the same rules and restrictions as other global citizens.

This means that EU citizens will now have to apply for specific work visas in order to come and work in the UK for the first time.

If you were already resident in the UK prior to Brexit, you may be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme to allow you to continue living and working in the UK.

The main deadline for the Settlement Scheme has already passed, though you may still be able to apply under certain circumstances.

Alternatively, you may be eligible for a Frontier Worker permit if you were working in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 and you mostly live outside of the UK.

What is the EU Settlement Scheme?

In order to continue to work in the UK as an EU citizen beyond Brexit, you must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

The EU Settlement Scheme is the UK’s dedicated programme allowing EU citizens to continue living and working in the UK. In to this, it also allows EU citizens to carry over much of their rights and entitlements in the UK post-Brexit, such as the ability to:

  • Access the NHS for free (if they were already able to)
  • Study
  • Claim public funds
  • Travel to and from the UK without restriction

The main deadline to apply for settled or pre-settled status under the scheme was 30 June 2021.

However, if you or your family members are EU/EEA citizens, you may still be able to apply if you or a family member were living in the UK by 31 December 2020 under certain circumstances.

It is free to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Who Can Apply Past the EU Settlement Scheme Deadline?

Certain EU citizens may still be able to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme past the main deadline of 30 June 2021.

These include individuals in the following circumstances:

  • EU citizens with a close family member who was living in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • EU citizens who are exempt from immigration control, or you stopped being exempt from immigration control after 30 June 2021
  • EU citizens already in the UK with limited leave to enter or remain in the UK (such as on a work or study visa) that expires after 30 June 2021
  • EU citizens with a family member who is also a British citizen who they lived with in the EU
    • The individual must have lived with them in the EU by 30 December 2020, and returned to the UK with them

You may also still be eligible to apply if you have ‘reasonable grounds’ for not applying before the main deadline, such as any of the following:

  • You have, or had, a medical condition which prevented you from applying
  • You lacked the physical or mental capacity to apply
  • You’ve been the victim of modern slavery
  • You’ve been in an abusive or controlling relationship

In most cases, you will not be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme if you or a family member were not resident in the UK by 31 December 2020. If this applies to you, you will have to apply for a visa to come and work in the UK.

Do Irish Citizens Need to Apply?

While the UK has had to change entry requirements and border control restrictions for much of the EU, one thing that has not changed is the bilateral agreements with the Republic of Ireland. Specifically, the conditions of the Common Travel Area are still unchanged and are notably unaffected by Brexit.

This means that citizens of Ireland do not need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, or any kind of work visa to continue living and working in the UK.

Similarly, UK citizens still retain their right to work and live in Ireland if they so wish as well.

However, note that this only applies to Irish citizens only. EU residents who live in Ireland but are not Irish citizens will be subject to the same restrictions as other EU citizens and will have to seek the relevant permissions to live and work in the UK.

Overview of UK Work Visas for EU Citizens

If you’re unable to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, you will have to apply through one of the UK’s many work visa immigration routes in order to work in the UK.

This applies regardless of whether you wish to undertake unpaid or paid work, or work as a self-employed individual in the UK.

There are numerous work visa pathways available to EU citizens, including occupation-specific pathways, and pathways for high-performing or high-achieving individuals.

Many of these visas will also lead to the possibility of permanent residence through indefinite leave to remain.

Note that EU citizens will not have to apply for a specific visa in order to visit the UK for up to 6 months at a time. Although visitors to the UK will not be able to undertake any kind of paid or unpaid work, they will be able to study or conduct specific business activities within those 6 month periods.

Frontier Worker Permit for EU Citizens

If you’re an EU citizen who was working in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 and you primarily live outside of the UK, you may be eligible for a Frontier Worker permit.

A Frontier Worker permit will allow you to continue working in the UK and also continue to access certain benefits and entitlements, such as NHS services.

You must have been living outside the UK whilst working to apply for this permit. In addition, you must have come to the UK to work at least once every 12 months since starting work in order to be eligible.

You must also continue to live outside the UK and meet the requirements for working in the UK in order to apply.

Frontier Worker permits are only available to individuals who mostly live outside of the UK. In most cases, you’ll need to have spent no more than 180 days in total in the UK over the course of any 12 month period, although there are exceptions to this rule.

A Frontier Worker permit is free to obtain.

Contact us today if you require assistance with your UK work visa application.

Skilled Worker Visa for EU Citizens

The most common British work visa is the UK Skilled Worker visa, which allows EU citizens to live and work in the UK full-time.

As this visa is the UK’s most general employment visa, it also accommodates individuals from a wide variety of industries, professions and skill sets. As an EU citizen, it is likely that your line of work will be covered by the Skilled Worker visa, if it isn’t already by other more specialist UK work visas already.

You will be able to apply for permanent settlement in the UK after 5 years with a Skilled Worker visa, after which you will be able to live and work in the UK without any restrictions. For example, you will no longer have to be sponsored by an employer in order to work in the UK.

What Are the Skilled Worker Visa Requirements?

In order to be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, you must have a valid job offer from an employer who is a Home Office-approved sponsor.

Your job must also have an eligible occupation code for this visa.

In addition, you will have to fulfil a number of criteria in order to gain points in the points-based immigration system. This includes things such as the following:

  • Meeting minimum salary requirements or being paid a certain percentage of the average going rate for your job
  • Speaking English to a minimum standard
  • Having a job in a shortage occupation
  • Having a PhD-level qualification in a subject relevant to your job

You will have to accrue a total of 70 points in the system in order to be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa.

Other Work and Business Visas for EU Citizens

In addition to the Skilled Worker visa, EU citizens are able to apply for a variety of other work and business visas to come and live and work in the UK.

These include the following:

Each of these visas have varying eligibility criteria and permissions as to what you can and can’t do in the UK.

For example, the Innovator visa will specifically allow EU citizens to come to the UK and start a new, innovative business. Your business idea will need to be novel and have potential for growth to be eligible, in addition to being endorsed by an endorsing body.

Meanwhile, the Senior or Specialist Worker visa allows you to come to the UK to work for your employer’s UK-based branch. Your employer will need to be an approved sponsor to allow for your move to the UK, and you must be paid at least £42,400 per annum to be eligible.

There are numerous opportunities for EU citizens to come and work in the UK under existing work or business routes. If you’re unsure as to which one would best suit your circumstances, contact a member of our legal team for expert help and guidance.

Call us on 0333 4149244, or contact us online.

How Can I Work as a Self-Employed Individual in the UK?

There is currently no dedicated immigration pathway targeted at self-employed individuals or freelancers in the UK.

However, there are certain UK visa routes that do allow EU citizens to come and undertake self-employed or freelance work.

For instance, the Innovator visa and Start-up visas allow you to be self-employed in the UK by starting up a brand-new, innovative business that is endorsed by an eligible endorsing body. You will be able to be self-employed either as a director, or as a part of a business partnership.

Meanwhile, the High Potential Individual visa will allow you to come and work in the UK for up to 2 years. You will not have little to no restrictions on the type of work you can do, and you will have the option to become self-employed or work as a freelancer.

You must have been awarded a qualification by an eligible university in the last 5 years to qualify for this visa. However, you will not need an existing job offer, endorsement or sponsorship for a High Potential Individual visa.

The Global Talent visa, meanwhile, allows leaders in academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology to come and work in the UK. You will need to apply for an endorsement to confirm that you are a leader in your field, but you will then be able to work in the UK with little to no restrictions after you do so.

What Are the Guidelines for Business Visitors?

If you’re an EU citizen who is only looking to visit the UK short-term to conduct business activities, you will be able to do so for periods of up to 6 months at a time without applying for a visa.

The types of activities you will be permitted to undertake include the following:

  • Attend interviews, meetings, conferences and seminars
  • Negotiate and sign deals and contracts
  • Attend trade fairs to promote your business (you cannot sell things)
  • Get work-related training if you’re employed overseas and the training is not available in your home country
  • Give a one-off or short series of talks as long as they’re not for profit or a commercial event (you must not be paid)
  • Carry out site visits and inspections
  • Oversee the delivery of goods and services provided by a UK company to your overseas company or organisation
  • Deliver training or share knowledge on internal projects with UK employees of the company you work for overseas
  • Install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on equipment, computer software and hardware, if your overseas company has a contract with a UK company or organisation

You will need to follow the other eligibility requirements that all visitors to the UK must adhere to, such as showing that you will leave the UK At the end of your trip and that you have enough money to support yourself while visiting.

How Can IAS Help?

Brexit has had an undeniably large impact on the UK immigration system and the country’s relationship with the EU and individual EU member states.

This includes the millions of EU citizens who already live and work in the UK, as well as the many more who will be looking to come to the UK in the coming years.

If you belong to either of these groups and require any more assistance, clarification or advice on your rights to live and work in the UK, IAS can help.

We offer complete and comprehensive immigration advice services for EU nationals both in the UK and in EU countries. Our team of legal experts are on hand to help guide you through UK government guidelines and help ensure that you’re fully aware of your rights and entitlements post-Brexit.

We can also help non-EU workers with their immigration status and visa applications to come to the UK.

For more information about the services we offer, and what we could do for you, reach out to us on 0333 4149244, or contact us online.

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