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Can U.K. Companies Employ EU Citizens After Brexit?

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There are several advantages of employing foreign workers from the highly skilled European talent pool. EU workers can provide access to a wider range of skills and unique perspectives for your business. However, following Brexit, you may be wondering if you can hire top EU talent to work in the UK. 

Brexit has had a massive impact on the UK’s economy. It is estimated that there are roughly 333,000 fewer workers in the United Kingdom as a result of Brexit, and sectors such as transportation, hospitality, and retail have been particularly impacted. 

With remote work becoming more popular, companies in the United Kingdom may be wondering if they can still hire employees from the European Union. Companies can still hire international talent, but there are some important logistics to consider, so UK businesses can benefit from partnering with an EOR to hire workers compliantly. Here’s everything you need to know when hiring European employees post-Brexit. 

How and When Did Brexit Happen?

On January 31, 2020, the UK government officially withdrew from the European Union after a previous referendum in June 2016 where 51.9% of votes supported leaving the organization. The referendum is commonly known as the EU referendum or Brexit referendum.

This decision, known as Brexit, has impacted various areas of policy and the economy, including international trade markets, national labor supply, migration, and more. 

Some of the major consequences of Brexit include changes to the legislation regarding freedom of movement between nations. Before Brexit, UK and EU citizens were able to work or live in these regions without restrictions or requiring specific credentials. 

So, can EU citizens work in the UK after Brexit? Despite some major political and economic changes, a citizen of an EU country can still be employed in the UK. However, the hiring process is slightly less straightforward now. 

What’s a UK Citizen and a European Union Citizen?

After the referendum, UK and EU citizens lost the right to free movement, resulting in more strict regulations for immigration and employment opportunities for both UK citizens and those from EU countries. 

The United Kingdom is made up of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. So, Welsh, Scottish, British and Irish citizens can freely work anywhere in the UK.

Citizens of the Republic of Ireland also don’t require visas to live, study, or work freely in the UK because of the Common Travel Area (CTA) and only need a passport. 

European Union citizens are individuals who are from EU member states, including countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Italy, and others. United Kingdom employers trying to hire workers from these European countries to work in the UK now need to complete a right-to-work check to ensure compliance and avoid potential penalties from the British government. 

Sponsorship License for International Employees

To legally hire EU citizens to work in the UK after Brexit, UK-based companies must apply for a sponsor license. With a sponsorship license, your organization can sponsor international employees when applying for a visa and grant them the right to work. Each successful sponsorship license is valid for 4 years and only requires you to apply online and pay the required fees.

Applying for a Sponsorship License

To successfully apply, your company will need to operate in the United Kingdom, sponsor an international worker, and have no immigration violations or criminal offences such as fraud or money laundering. Your company must not have had a license revoked within the last 12 months to be eligible. An application can take up to eight weeks to process. 

There are different kinds of permits depending on what kind of worker you plan to engage, including visas for temporary or permanent resident status. You may also need a sponsorship license for international volunteers, short-term workers, or charity workers. 

Who Is Exempt from Sponsorship? 

It’s important to remember that some applicants are exempt and don’t require sponsorship. You do not need to issue a certificate of sponsorship if you want to hire:

  • Irish citizens
  • EU workers who applied for the EU Settlement Scheme prior to June 30, 2021
  • Individuals with indefinite leave to stay in the UK or Settled Status
  • Primarily remote employees who will work in the EU after Brexit

What is a Right-to-Work Check?

A right-to-work check is a measure that ensures an employee is legally allowed to work in the United Kingdom. This is typically done early in the hiring process before the worker begins their employment. 

Following Brexit-related policy changes, European citizens can no longer use just an EU passport or national identity card to legally work in the UK. Employers can carry out a prospective employee’s right-to-work check by obtaining:

  • Their date of birth
  • A share code
  • Other supporting immigration documents if required

A share code is a unique identifier that shows an applicant can legally be employed. The employee must apply for a code from the UK government’s website. Each share code only lasts for 30 days. 

Right-to-work checks are an important part of the hiring process and must be done for most EU employees. As an employer, the checks are your responsibility, and failure to comply could result in a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. 

Companies in the UK should also be sure to follow the code of practice for employers and avoid unlawful discrimination when carrying out a right-to-work check, which includes judgments based on race, age, gender, or religion. 

UK companies who want to hire EU citizens post-Brexit must also meet several other requirements to remain compliant with the new regulations. 

Right-to-work Check Exemptions

Some EU citizens can legally work in the UK after Brexit without requiring a right-to-work check under certain conditions. For example, the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) allows workers from the EU, European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland who lived in the UK prior to December 31, 2020, to continue to live and work there without requiring a worker’s permit. 

Additionally, fully remote employees living in European countries do not require a right-to-work check to work for UK companies. 

UK Work Visas for Foreign Nationals

After Brexit, EU citizens no longer have freedom of movement and must obtain a worker’s permit to work in the UK. The United Kingdom has also moved to a newer points-based immigration system with specific guidelines, meaning potential international workers must meet certain requirements to be considered. 

General Qualification Criteria

European Union employees need a total score of 70 points to legally work in the UK. There are several criteria that need to be met for a successful application, including: 

  • A valid job offer from an approved UK company
  • Being able to speak English at a required level
  • A minimum salary requirement of £23,040 or 90% of the average rate for the profession
  • Education qualifications depending on the job

Additionally, the position you wish to fill with an international worker must meet a required skill level. Every job has a determined Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and will need at least an A-level or RQF3 qualification to be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa. This is required for the Skilled Worker and Scale-Up visas. 

It’s possible to obtain a worker’s permit for lower-paying roles between £20,480 and £25,600 if the job is in a specific shortage occupation or if the candidate has a PhD that’s relevant to the position. This is also only required for workers who are going to permanently live in the UK and doesn’t apply to remote employees who work in the EU post-Brexit. 

There are several types of work visas with different requirements that can be issued for EU citizens to work in the UK after Brexit. 

Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker Visa is a common employment permit that enables a migrant EU citizen to work an eligible job within a skilled occupation for a UK-based employer. 

To be eligible, new hires must obtain a Sponsorship certificate from their company that includes details about the organization, information about the role, and the total length of the employment contract. 

EU workers must also meet certain requirements to work in the United Kingdom following Brexit, including:

It’s also important to know that applicants must pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge, and the sponsoring employer is responsible for paying an Immigration Skills Charge. Each successful application is valid for up to five years, and there is no limit on how many times the permit can be renewed if the criteria are met. 

Temporary Worker Visa

In contrast to the Skilled Worker Visa, which is meant for longer-term work agreements, the Temporary Worker Visa is designed for short-term employment. 

This permit applies to EU citizens seeking temporary jobs with UK companies after Brexit, and there are a few different types of visas.

  • Creative Worker visa: for non-permanent international employees working in creative industries such as film, entertainment, music, and more
  • Seasonal Worker visa: for horticulture or agriculture workers who stay for up to six months
  • Charity Worker visa
  • Religious Worker visa
  • Government Authorized Exchange visa: for individuals moving to the UK for an internship or other specialized training program
  • International Agreement Worker visa: for work agreements that are covered by international law

In all cases, potential international employees require sponsorship from a licensed UK sponsor. 

Global Talent Visa

The Global Talent visa is primarily designed for experienced professionals who are leaders in certain fields, such as digital technology, research, academia, or arts and culture. 

In contrast to other types of visas, it doesn’t require a formal job offer or sponsorship from a licensed UK-based employer and doesn’t restrict work or movement, allowing for greater flexibility. 

Each successful application can last for up to five years and can be extended an unlimited number of times. 

To be eligible for the Global Talent visa, you need: 

  • To work in an eligible field
  • To have successfully applied for an endorsement to prove that you are a leader or potential leader in your field

Highly skilled EU citizens can also apply for this visa and work in the UK after Brexit without an endorsement if they have won an eligible award. 

Family members can travel and live in the UK with the primary visa holder in this category. 

Start-Up and Innovator Visa

The Start-Up visa enables younger entrepreneurs to start and operate a business in the UK while still being able to work and support themselves financially. In order to apply, the employee must: 

  • Be aged 18 or older
  • Have a business that’s been endorsed by a recognized UK body
  • Be able to speak and read English at a certain level
  • Have at least £945 in their bank account for a minimum of 90 consecutive days before applying

A successful start-up visa work permit is valid for 2 years, although it cannot be extended or renewed. After an EU citizen’s start-up permit has expired, they must apply for the Innovator visa. 

The Innovator visa is designed for more experienced entrepreneurs and allows them to run an endorsed business in the United Kingdom. To be eligible, applicants need to prove that their business is: 

  • Not an already existing entity or company
  • An original and innovative business that’s unlike everything else on the market
  • Viable and able to grow
  • Scalable and can create jobs

Approved Innovator visas can last for up to three years and can be renewed an unlimited number of times depending on the organization’s needs or goals. 

High Potential Individual Visa

The High Potential Individual visa is designed to allow skilled EU citizens who have graduated from top-ranked schools to work in the UK after Brexit. A successful application provides the right to work for up to two years, or three years if the candidate has a PhD. 

Workers cannot extend or renew this worker's permit but can apply to change the type of visa without needing to leave the country. Additionally, potential applicants do not require an existing job offer, UK degree, or certification of sponsorship to be eligible. 

In order to qualify for an HPI visa, the EU citizen will need to meet certain requirements, including: 

  • Holding the equivalent of a UK bachelor’s degree, PhD, or a professional degree such as a Doctorate in Business Administration from a top-ranked university not located in the UK
  • Have obtained the degree within the last five years
  • Meet minimum language requirements
  • Have at least £1270 in personal savings as financial maintenance
  • Be aged 18 years or older

Hiring Remote EU Workers for Your UK Company

After Brexit, employers in the UK had to adapt to new regulations to remain compliant with the updated immigration and employment policy. Luckily, hiring remote EU employees is simpler than bringing workers to the UK. Remote workers do not require a certification of sponsorship or a visa to work for your company. 

Despite the more streamlined legal process, there are still several considerations to keep in mind when hiring a remote EU worker for your United Kingdom-based company. 

When considering employment opportunities for workers in the EU post-Brexit, you need to think about the labor laws in your employee’s country of residence. This includes minimum wage requirements, mandatory holidays, sick pay policies, and termination or severance if necessary. 

It’s important that you also take your employee’s country’s tax policies into consideration. Each country will have its own laws and your new team members may not have to pay UK income tax but will likely be liable for local taxes in their home country. 

Other Important Considerations for Hiring EU Citizens After Brexit

UK-based companies who employ remote workers may also face additional complications or regulations that they need to meet. In-person workers reside in the United Kingdom and can easily be added to your company’s payroll system, streamlining payments and tax withholding. 

However, this may be slightly more complicated for international remote workers in countries that have different minimum wage laws, currency, or other employment-related policies. 

Partnering with an Employer of Record

To minimize complications and avoid the risk of noncompliance, companies can use an employer of record (EOR) when hiring European citizens to work in the EU after Brexit. An EOR is a convenient solution that takes on employment liabilities and risks, and can help you monitor full-time and temporary international employees.

EORs act as the legal employer  to ensure compliance and simplify the hiring process, optimize your international payroll, and manage other relevant employment policies such as statutory benefits or taxes. 

EORs ensure you can legally attract high-end talent from across the globe. This makes an employer of record especially important if you wish to add EU talent to your workforce without needing to worry about logistics or changing policies

Partner with Borderless

Borderless can help you attract high-end talent from across the EU and in over 170 countries around the world without needing to worry about local labor laws or regulations. At Borderless, we offer a range of EOR services that make it easier to hire global talent and grow your business. Book a demo today to see what we can do for you. 


Borderless does not provide legal services or legal advice to anyone. This includes customers, contractors, employees, partners, and the general public. We are not lawyers or paralegals. Please read our full disclaimer here.

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