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Hiring and People

Understanding the changes to employing EU citizens.

Employing people from the EU 

The way employers hire someone from outside the UK changed on 1 January 2021, when the transition period ended.

There is now a points-based immigration system, which has skill, salary and language requirements that change the way you hire from outside the UK. This does not apply to Irish citizens.

The system allows UK employers to sponsor and recruit skilled workers from around the world through a variety of immigration routes.

The points-based immigration system, means when recruiting from outside the UK there will be: 

  • A need to make sure your employees meet certain requirements (salary, language, skill).
  • A need for a business to have a sponsor licence. 
  • A need for a business to do right to work checks.

Sponsor Licences

Your business will usually need a sponsor licence to employ someone to work for you from outside the UK. You'll need a separate sponsor licence for each person you want to hire.

The type of sponsor licence depends on a number of things, including whether you want to hire someone on a temporary basis or offer someone a long-term or permanent job.

Anyone coming to the UK to work will need a job offer from a licenced sponsor in advance and will need to meet certain skills and salary criteria. The new system treats EU and non-EU citizens equally and transforms the way in which employers recruit from outside the UK.

  • Further details about sponsor licences and applying for them can be found here.
  • Guidance on who businesses can hire with a sponsor licence can be found here.

The new system doesn’t apply when hiring Irish citizens, or EU citizens who have succesfully applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, similarly some immigration routes, such as Global Talent, are ‘unsponsored’, meaning you don’t need a licence to hire employees with an unsponsored visa. 


To hire someone from outside the UK, excluding Irish citizens, the job you are advertising must meet minimum skill and salary thresholds:

  • the minimum skill level will be set at RQF3 (equivalent to A level)
  • the minimum salary threshold will be the higher of £25,600 or the ‘going rate’ for that job – some employees may be paid less than £25,600, for example if their job is in a shortage occupation
  • applicants must also meet English language requirements

Find out more.

Right To Work Checks

You should conduct a right to work check before you employ a person to ensure they are legally allowed to do the work in question for you. If an individual’s right to work is time limited, you should conduct a follow-up check shortly before it is due to come to an end.

  • You can no longer accept EU passports or ID cards as valid proof of right-to-work, with the exception of Irish citizens.
  • To carry out an online right to work check, you will need the applicant’s date of birth and their share code, which they will have obtained online. You can then complete the check online by visiting GOV.UK.
  • You do not need to retrospectively check the status of any EU, EEA, or Swiss citizens you employed before 1 July 2021.
  • You should carry out a right-to-work check for every individual you employ.
  • You can face a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegally employed worker who does not have the right to work in the UK and where correct checks were not undertaken.

Find out more

Contact the Growth Hub