As it stands, just 2% of UK organisations will be able to employ overseas workers from January 2021, when the points-based immigration system is set to be introduced.
This is according to immigration law firm Migrate UK, which found that only about 31,000 of 1.4 million private sector organisations were on the government’s register of licenced sponsors.
After 31 December 2020, both EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally under the UK’s new immigration rules and organisations will require a sponsor licence, issued by the Home Office, to access talent from abroad.
“This is not only worrying for the future of individual UK organisations having the talent in place to thrive and grow the other side of the current pandemic, but for the future of skills in the UK as a whole,” said Jonathan Beech, managing director at Migrate UK.
“Putting in place plans now to be able to attract and hire the specific skills you need will ensure that your business is Brexit-ready for the radical shake up to the UK immigration system next year.”
Migrate UK warned that organisations still hoping to apply for a sponsor licence before the end of the year were “cutting applications to the wire”. Usually, applications for a licence take around three months to process, but are taking much longer due to the coronavirus crisis.
Employers were still required to provide certain original or certified copies of documents to support their applications, potentially making the process even lengthier.
Beech said: “With Covid-19 causing significant disruption to business and many directors focused on the here and now, it’s easy to forget Brexit. But for organisations that rely on overseas talent or face skill shortages, it’s imperative to start applying for a licence now, especially with the anticipated sheer volume of applications. If not, businesses may unwittingly miss out on the talent pool and EU workers are already choosing potential employers based on whether they hold a licence or not.”
Beech also reminded employers to identify EEA workers currently at their organisations and ensure they are registered to remain in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme.
The cost of a four-year sponsor licence is £536 for a small company, or £1,476 for a medium to large organisation. Organisations will also need to pay an up-front fee of £7,500 to hire a worker from overseas.