UK Visa Entry 2021: An EU
citizen’s perspective

At 11pm on 31 December 2020, the Brexit transition period came to an end and the UK fully implemented its new points-based immigration system. The new ‘one size fits all’ approach now treats both EU and non-EU citizens equally under a single set of rules for the first time in decades.

The new rules mean that all overseas citizens coming to the UK for skilled work must hold a confirmed job offer from an approved sponsor, and will need to score sufficient points against set criteria such as their salary and qualifications in order to be granted a visa.

More red tape for European Skilled Workers

European nationals who have previously enjoyed the right to live and work freely in the UK using nothing more than a valid passport or national identity card must now comply with Home Office requirements to secure a Skilled Worker visa before arriving in the UK.

For some EU citizens and their employers, navigating the strict eligibility requirements and visa application processes has proved challenging, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic where visa centre closures and travel restrictions have added further delays and complications to the process.

Since January, Smith Stone Walters has been receiving daily enquiries from European clients and their employers seeking support in applying for work permits, and we have already successfully helped numerous applicants from many of the 27 EU countries to secure Skilled Worker visas.

To understand more about the experiences that these early EU applicants have had whilst interacting with the UK’s immigration system, we spoke to three of our clients to ask them what they thought of the process, and how it compared to their expectations.

LK from Poland, SDH from France and PN from Portugal all recently partnered with Smith Stone Walters to secure a Skilled Worker permit. Here, they share their thoughts and advice for fellow EU applicants.

Q – How did you feel about the ending of Freedom of Movement and the new requirements placed on Europeans to secure UK immigration clearance prior to relocating?

LK: “I’m definitely not comfortable with the loss of freedom to cross the UK border. I visited the UK many times before during business trips when entry clearance simply required a short, one-minute border control process with only a personal ID check. Now the process is several times longer and requires a large amount of documents.”

SDH: “The new requirements placed on Europeans to secure UK immigration and the ending of Freedom of Movement were consequences that I was expecting due to Brexit. Of course it is more difficult than before and there were new constraints that European citizens must take into account before planning any travel.”

PN: “We have to respect the authority and decisions of an independent country. If new rules are implemented and if people still desire to move to the UK, they must follow the legal procedures. I think people should not be concerned about the new requirements, because if someone really wants to move, they will adapt to the new circumstances. It is all part of globalisation.”

Q – Did the imposition of new immigration restrictions impact on the timing of your planned move to the UK?  

LK: “Of course yes, the timing was extended by around two weeks, plus COVID-19 restrictions also impacted the timing.”

PN: “Yes, it did a bit. I didn’t know what the requirements were, but I had an exceptional team that helped me out of it and advised me about all the legal procedures. In the end, it all went well.”

SDH: “From my point of view, the restrictions did not impact on the timing of my planned move to the UK. However, I am able to say this because my visa application process began sufficiently early to be finished on time, thanks to the great help of my employer and Smith Stone Walters.”

Q – Was the immigration process more or less onerous than you anticipated?  What were the major challenges you faced in applying for your Skilled Worker visa?

LK: “I found the process complicated and not straightforward. My application required several documents that without assistance would be very hard to handle. From an applicant’s point of view, it is also difficult to keep track of the process of obtaining a visa – there is no tracking application where all inputs are stored and visible, were I can track the status of my visa and Biometric Residence Permit etc.

What is more, some physical visits were required to obtain a visa. I had to attend the visa application centre in Warsaw to register my biometrics, and the Post Office in Inverness to collect my BRP. I was concerned that these visits may have contributed to COVID-19 exposure.”

SDH: “My visa application was much less onerous than I anticipated. The only ‘major’ challenge I faced in applying for my Skilled Worker visa was the English test to certify my B1 level.”

PN: “The whole process wasn’t hard. I think the aspect which concerned me the most was the international recognition of my English level, but this wasn’t too difficult to achieve. On the other hand, the pandemic situation which everyone lives with at the moment was something difficult to deal with, especially with the flights.”

Q – Do you have any advice for fellow Europeans who are maybe thinking of working in the UK but perhaps discouraged by the new immigration controls?

SDH: “My first piece of advice for European people wishing to work in the UK is to begin your application process early enough to get your visa before your departure, and do not hesitate to find some help if needed.

My second piece of advice is to take into account the English test while applying for a visa, and to ensure you book the test in advance. There is a great demand for these tests, so the number of places available within a month may be very limited. Even though the B1 level is not very difficult to secure, you should not neglect the preparation.”

PN: “The whole process can be done ease and smoothly. Everything that is planned with time, in the end, can be realised.”

Get support with your Skilled Worker visa application

Smith Stone Walters would like to thank our clients for taking the time to share their experiences with us. As we heard from the above, every applicant’s experience when applying for a visa is different, and some may face more hurdles to overcome than others during the process.

Here at SSW, we understand that each case is unique. With this in mind, when partnering with us we will work closely with you from initial consultation to delivery of your visa, to understand your individual needs and provide tailored support.

To find out how we can help you or your business with immigration support, please contact us today.

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