In April, the government has advised UK businesses to apply for their UK sponsorship licences now, in order to be able to recruit and employ European workers come January 2021. 

Once Brexit goes ahead, and the UK is no longer part of the European Union, businesses can only recruit and employ EU workers if they have a sponsorship licence in place. Current EU nationals already in the UK, and already working for UK businesses will not need to be sponsored, as they have had the ability to apply either for pre-settled or settled status, allowing them to live and work in the country as they have previously. 

There is no certainty that Brexit will happen on the 31st of December, especially due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, but if businesses aren’t prepared, and Brexit does go ahead, businesses who rely on foreign workers could struggle. 

A business needs a sponsorship licence to be able to hire foreign workers. The licence allows the business to ‘sponsor’ the employee, who must apply for a work permit UK in order to work for your business. In almost all cases an employee can only get a work visa if an employer with a sponsorship licence employs them and is able to sponsor them.

Getting a sponsorship licence in place

Applying for a sponsorship licence and waiting for approval from the Home Office can take time. If there are issues with your application this could take even longer. 

This is why businesses are, despite the coronavirus outbreak, strongly advised to take steps now and get their sponsorship licence in place now, before it’s too late. It is hard to assess the likelihood of this happening, but visa applications and sponsorship applications are expected to go up significantly around the time of the Brexit deadline date. If this happens applications could take much longer to process, and whilst your application has not been approved, you cannot hire foreign workers.

Businesses must meet a certain number of criteria in order to be able to apply for a sponsorship licence. Business immigration solicitors can help you go through all the requirements of a sponsorship licence, and help you apply ensuring you the best chance of a successful outcome. 

Recruiting foreign workers without a sponsorship licence

You can only recruit foreign workers without a sponsorship licence if they are already in the UK legally with an immigration status that allows them to work. This is the case for EU nationals on pre-settled and settled status, and non-EU nationals that have a visa such as a spouse visa or dependent visa. Those on a study visa are likely to have the ability to work but they are restricted in certain ways.

If you recruit foreign workers without the right to work in the UK and you do not have a sponsorship licence in place you are likely to incur significant fines and penalties. If it can be assumed,you were aware you were recruiting workers that do not have the right to work in the UK you could even face a prison sentence.

If you aren’t sure on how to proceed, get in touch with an immigration solicitor for further advice.