BREXIT: Recruiting overseas teachers from January 2021

From the 1 January 2021, the UK will no longer be in the EU and free movement will come to an end. In readiness for this date, the Government have recently published guidance for schools on hiring overseas teachers.

Schools should already be preparing for the new immigration system coming into force on 1 January 2021 in which EU and non-EU nationals will be treated the same. EU nationals arriving from this date will therefore require sponsorship to live, work and study and we have answered common questions that many employers have regarding this change here. Guidance has now been published specifically for teachers coming to work in UK schools from next year and we have explored the key points below.

What the guidance saysSponsorship of teachers

The guidance starts by helpfully detailing the different methods of employing overseas teachers. The first is through sponsorship, which requires a school to have a sponsor licence in place and the overseas teacher to apply for a work visa in order to work for that school. If you anticipate a reliance on recruiting teachers from outside of the UK, we are urging schools to obtain a licence now to avoid delays. There are alternatives to having to sponsor overseas teachers. For example, those on a student visa who have completed their degree in the UK will be able to obtain a Graduate visa from summer 2021 which will enable them to work for any employer for up to 2 years after completing their studies. This may be a particularly useful option when recruiting NQ teachers. Other alternatives to sponsorship include the Youth Mobility Scheme visa and employing an overseas teacher in the UK on the basis of their family life, such as on a spouse visa.

International Teacher Recruitment Programme

The guidance then moves on to detail the ‘International Teacher Recruitment Programme’ which has been implemented to help state-funded secondary schools and academies recruit maths, physics, computer science, general sciences and modern foreign language teachers. Countries included in the programme include Australia, Canada, Jamaica and Spain. Teachers recruited through the programme will be qualified in their country and the DfE will provide them with support. Schools must still however pay recruitment costs, the teacher’s salary and costs associated with sponsoring workers.


Guidance is also provided on how overseas teachers can obtain qualified teacher status (QTS) which is dependent on their experience. There is a further reminder that overseas teachers can teach in maintained schools and maintained special schools without QTS for up to 4 years. Schools should therefore remind individuals of this 4-year limit and the need to obtain QTS once this has been reached.

Safeguarding checks

The safeguarding checks required for overseas teacher candidates are also summarised which include conducting safer recruitment checks outlined in Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE).  Interestingly, a new step outlined by the DfE is that schools ‘can’ ask candidates to provide proof of their past conduct as a teacher as issued by the professional regulating authority in the country in which the applicant has worked. This check is not yet contained in KCSIE however it is important to note the wording used being ‘can’ rather than ‘must’ ask this of candidates. Further detail in awaited on this new check as it is not yet clear what the situation is for teachers whose country of origin does not have a regulating authority to confirm such information.

Implications for schools

With many schools currently struggling to recruit teachers across multiple subject areas, it is likely schools may have to recruit from outside of the UK to fill shortages in the workforce. In light of this, we would encourage schools to read the guidance in full to ensure they are familiar with the changes from 1 January 2021.

Our immigration team at Stone King have also developed a Brexit ready tool to help organisations ensure they are ready for the end of free movement on 30 December 2020, and if not, what you can be doing now to be fully prepared. Further information about the tool can be found here and we will be launching a specific tool for the education sector in the next few weeks. Please do contact our Head of Immigration, Julie Moktadir for further information.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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