Is Brexit again causing problems? Surely not… – Work visas


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We have all heard of the problems the major airlines are currently facing in the UK – there are delays with security and baggage at airports, flights face long delays or are cancelled, and families were unable to travel on their planned vacation. This has led airlines to ask the UK government to relax its post-Brexit immigration rules in the hope that we can attract aviation workers to the UK.

At the time of writing, the government has not announced any changes, but as a UK immigration lawyer, I thought I would write down my thoughts on the situation:

  • Two options are available for EU nationals who were present in the UK before 31 December 2020:
    • The EU settlement program remains open and individuals can still apply for pre-settlement or settlement status. We will need to provide a reason for applying late (deadline was June 30, 2021), but I recently helped a French national receive confirmation that he held established status due to a continuous period of 5 years he had spent in the UK in the past.

    • EU nationals who worked in the UK before 31 December 2020 and whose domicile remains outside the UK can apply for a cross-border worker permit. This will allow the individual to travel to the UK for work, but they will not be able to settle in the UK permanently, nor will those with a frontier worker permit be able to settle United Kingdom.


  • EU and third country nationals can travel to the UK as visitors for up to 6 months. Visitors can undertake certain business activities in the UK, such as carrying out site visits and inspections, but under current immigration rules visitors cannot undertake work as a ground crew at an airport.

  • Individuals can be sponsored to move to the UK, either as skilled workers (working for a UK company) or potentially as senior workers or global business mobility specialists (if already employed by an organization international with an office in the UK), but the UK business role should be recognized as a skilled occupation or a shortage occupation. Airline pilots could be sponsored, as could air traffic controllers/assistants, as well as cabin crew, customs and immigration officers (some roles as skilled workers only), but baggage handlers and security officers are not eligible for sponsorship – the roles are not considered to meet the skill level required and are not recognized as shortage occupations in the UK.

  • What other options do people wanting to work at UK airports currently have?
    • An overseas business might consider branching out to the UK – the recently introduced UK Expansion Worker category could help with this. This would essentially allow a senior manager or specialist employee (not a baggage handler) to move to the UK to set up a business and begin trading. However, if the organization plans to recruit baggage handlers to solve the problems faced by airports, the organization will have to rely on local labor to recruit – as mentioned above, lower skilled jobs cannot be sponsored.

    • Anyone hoping to move to the UK might wonder if they qualify for a visa on an unsponsored route – perhaps a late EU Settlement Scheme application (explained above), as a member of the family of a Briton or a person settled in the UK, or based on ancestry.

    • People between the ages of 18 and 30 from Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Iceland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea or Taiwan could potentially get a Youth Mobility Scheme visa allowing them to settle in the UK for up to 2 years. Migrants in the Youth Mobility Scheme can take up employment in the UK, so they could fill any role at an airport.

    • Graduates who have completed specific training in the UK could be granted a 2 year postgraduate visa, although these people will likely want to get skilled work as skilled workers, as they will likely want to be placed on a pathway to establishment as soon as possible.


  • I don’t know if the government will relax its immigration rules to help airports at the minute. If they did, I imagine temporary measures would be introduced, similar to the visa regime that was introduced for poultry workers, butchers and HGV food drivers last year. This program has allowed workers to come to the UK for up to 6 months, basically to make sure we can all enjoy our Christmas! Whether such a system would attract many workers if they could only travel for a short time and then had to leave – I’m not so sure. It won’t help permanently either – won’t we face the same problems every summer when everyone wants to travel abroad for summer holidays?

I wonder if we will ever get to the end of the problems caused by Brexit? !

If you would like to speak to one of our experts about moving to the UK or recruiting long or short term workers call us now on 0044 161 234 6800 (Manchester) or 020 7046 7185 (London) or complete our online request form.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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