EU workers already living in the UK before 31 December 2020 have been required to apply for the EU Settlement scheme. Settled or pre-settled status gives the holder the right to work in the UK as well as other important rights including access to the NHS and the right to travel in and out of the UK. In most cases, the deadline for EU workers and their families to apply expired on 30 June 2021. It is understood that there was a significant wave of last-minute applications although the government appears to have ruled out any meaningful extension to the deadline.
Home Office guidance states that late applications will be accepted only if an individual has “reasonable grounds” for failing to meet the deadline applicable to them. Reasonable excuses listed in the Home Office guidance include lack of mental or physical capacity, serious medical condition or significant medical treatment care, victims of modern slavery and those in an abusive or controlling relationship. There is also a category for ‘other compelling practical or compassionate reasons’.
Since 1 January 2021, most EU citizens coming to the UK for work are required to apply for work visas and permits in the same way as for non-EU nationals. The new ‘points-based’ immigration system replaced the current rules for workers from outside the UK. The only exception is for Irish citizens. Employers need to have a sponsor licence to recruit any worker from outside the UK, including EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. There are important salary thresholds and skills requirements that must be considered as well as the payment of fees.