As we move closer to Brexit, the reality of the UK's departure from the EU is starting to become a little clearer, and one of the key questions is what will happen to European Economic Area nationals in the UK education market when we leave? Senior Associate Julie Moktadir, an immigration expert at national law firm Stone King, considers the impact and likely legislation change on the UK's education market.
The Migratory Advisory Committee released its report on European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and migration in August 2018, recommending that people from the EEA should face the same immigration rules as those from outside the EEA. This ties in with Prime Minister Theresa May's plans to end freedom of movement and adopt a skills-based migration policy.
But what could this mean, in practice, to schools that employ overseas nationals? EEA nationals need to be sponsored. Any school that currently sponsors overseas nationals to work or study in their organisation will be aware of the duties under the immigration rules with regards to sponsorship. Organisations must hold a licence and ensure that they are compliant at all times. However, there are concerns that EEA nationals who fill lower-skilled jobs would not satisfy the criteria for sponsorship, which may lead to a shortage of workers needed for unskilled labour.
The end of free movement will mean that people from the European Union (EU) will need to consider the possibility that they may require a visa to be in the UK. Therefore, schools with a sponsorship licence could be in a more advantageous position in the future if EEA nationals require sponsorship.
Transitional arrangements will be in place following the UK's departure from the EU in March 2019 until December 2020. This means all EEA nationals will need to register as settled if they have been in the UK for more than five years and pre-settled if their period of residence in the UK has been less than five years.
For the many schools that continue to recruit from overseas, there are plenty of considerations - for example, they will need to think about their staff and recruitment practices, and their school community. For schools that have a large number of EEA students, the changes to the rights of free movement are likely to have a significant impact on the number of students enrolled.
Admissions staff will need to be aware of the changes to the rights of EEA children accessing education, which may well mean that these children will need sponsoring as any international student would. Given the fact that state schools are unable to sponsor students, EEA nationals would therefore have to move into independent schools. Schools with sponsorship licences to sponsor Tier 4 students may be in a more advantageous position because they will be able to allocate Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies to EEA students if the need arises.
For schools seeking to begin recruiting and employing overseas nationals, you should consider the cost implications, legal duties and time constraints. The type of licence you will need will depend upon whether you are looking to employ a skilled worker for a longer period or in a temporary position. These two categories are known as Tier 2 and Tier 5.
To register and apply for your licence as a Tier 2 sponsor (to employ a skilled worker long term or permanently), you will need to submit an online application form and provide a number of original documents to prove that you are suitable and eligible. A sponsor licence will ordinarily be valid for four years as long as the licence is not revoked or surrendered.
As a Tier 2 Sponsor, you will need to accept a number of responsibilities and keep good employment-related records, as well as notify the Home Office of changes or issues relating to Tier 2 employees. The Home Office may also make site visits to ensure that the sponsor is complying.
The transitional arrangements for EEA nationals are currently being trialled with NHS employees in north-west England, and the results will inform how the scheme will be rolled out nationally. Further information about what to expect post 2021 is likely to be released in the coming months, and we will continue to pub Lish information and keep clients updated about these developments.
Information was correct at time of going to press.
Orginally published in ISBL The Voice | Spring 2019 issue.
Stone King can offer support to ISBL members in preparing letters to EEA national employees to deal with their immigration status, as well as offer support and advice on all types of immigration including licence applications, the use of the Sponsor Management system and advice on EEA nationals within an education setting.
Stone King is an ISBL Approved Partner; however, there are other suppliers in the market providing similar services, and ISBL recommends you research the market fully before making any changes.