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Recent developments have revealed several potential avenues for non-EU nationals to work in the UK post-Brexit.  

Changes to the Tier 1 visa scheme has seen the closure of the Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur visas, with the creation of two new potential pathways designed to allow skilled talent into the UK from overseas. The new ‘innovator’ visa is aimed at experienced individuals looking to start a business in the UK. To qualify they will need to have been endorsed by a government approved body and be prepared to invest £50,000 into the business. Alternatively, the ‘start up’ visa has no initial funding requirement and is open to those looking to start an endorsed business in the UK for the first time.   

The Home Office has also confirmed they will be extending the existing Tier 2 general salary exemption to include crucial roles such as nurses, paramedics, medical secretaries and certain secondary school teachers. This means foreign nationals seeking jobs in these categories will only need to meet a minimum salary of £20,800 per year as opposed to £30,000 in order to be eligible to work in the UK. 

Staying on the topic of visas, it was revealed as part of the 2019 Spring Statement that foreign nationals applying for PHD level roles will be exempt from the UK’s annual visa cap of 20,700 from this Autumn. This means it will be easier for research and academic institutions to recruit highly skilled individuals from overseas in the face of an ongoing talent shortage.  

Whilst much of the developments have focused on highly skilled workers, provisions are also being introduced to supplement the UK’s need for low-skilled employment. Having initially been announced in 2018, a pilot scheme for hiring seasonal workers is now operational which will give up to 2,500 non-EU migrants the opportunity to engage in agricultural work in the UK for a 6-month period. Depending on the success of this pilot, a similar scheme may be rolled out across the country in the future to help satisfy the ongoing demand for seasonal staff.

As well as the above provisions, efforts have also been made to make it easier for organisations to complete right to work checks on foreign nationals, and for these individuals to prove their right to work in the UK. The Home Office’s new online right to work checking service will reduce the burden on employers to request and maintain physical evidence of an individual’s right to work in the UK and instead allow them to refer directly to the online database for confirmation.

The hope is that these developments ensure the UK remains an attractive and accessible location for migrant workers following the country’s departure from the European Union. Whilst freedom of movement will come to an end, these measures will hopefully guarantee organisations have the ability to continue to hire key staff from overseas in business critical roles.

Further information:

Foreign nationals - overview and in-depth