Key steps employers need to take to hire EEA nationals from January 2021

Dec 11, 2020

Published in People Management 10 December 2020.

Masterclass: How to apply for a sponsor licence


Karendeep Kaur, Migrate UK’s immigration manager, runs through the key steps employers will need to take if they wish to hire EEA nationals from January.

A sponsor licence allows employers to hire skilled nationals from non-EEA countries. From January 2021 it will be needed to hire EEA nationals when the transition period after the UK’s departure from the EU ends. Any business that is a genuine employer operating lawfully in the UK can apply. If approved, the licence will be valid for four years and can be renewed before it expires.

hire EEA nationals from January

Karen Kaur

The main point for organisations to bear in mind is UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has reiterated that holding a sponsor licence is a privilege and not a right, so there will always be eligibility criteria that employers will have to satisfy.

UKVI recommends that firms considering applying for a licence to hire from overseas in early 2021 should do so as soon as possible to ensure their licence is confirmed in time. Applications typically take eight to 10 weeks to be reviewed and the pandemic has caused significant delays.

Businesses wishing to apply will have to complete an online form and send extra evidence to UKVI – the exact evidence they need to submit depends on the type of organisation they are. The evidence needs to reach UKVI within five days of the application, or the process will have to be started again. There is also an application fee to be paid.

Firms can expect a pre-licence visit from a UKVI compliance officer, but this is quite common as part of a pre-licence audit and isn’t something to worry about – they just want to make sure the organisation has the correct processes in place.

With this in mind, companies should also make sure they have people in place who are ready to take responsibility for their role within the sponsor management system. These individuals need to be aware of the latest terms and rules, and they must ensure that their record-keeping, reporting and right-to-work checks are up to date. This includes notifying UKVI of any changes within the organisation and with regards to a migrant’s employment within a specified timeframe.

The rules around the maintenance of a sponsor licence are quite strict and, in severe cases, if a firm is found in breach UKVI may issue a fine of up to £10,000, and the company could also face prosecution.

Competition for overseas talent is fierce, and candidates are able to check the register of licensed organisations. So employers that don’t apply soon risk potential hires backing out of jobs in favour of firms already granted a licence.


Migrate UK has been assisting businesses for over 25 years and have extensive knowledge of UK legislation, procedures, and solutions. We can help you put the processes in place to enable your business hire EEA nationals from January 2021.


Contact Migrate UK on 01235 841 568 or email

hire EEA nationals from January

Migrate UK immigration lawyers