The changing landscape of our relationship with the EU and the end to freedom of movement is now a reality, and with it comes serious implications for games studios who are looking to hire non-native talent from any of the remaining EU member states. Aardvark Swift spoke to Laurence Keir-Thomas, senior associate solicitor at Fragomen LLP, to discuss the concerns and costs of the new rules and regulations.
“I’ve been practising immigration law for nearly 12 years now, having previously worked with asylum claimants. For the last five years, I’ve specialised in business immigration. My particular specialism is within the games industry, making sure that UK studios and publishers understand what is required to allow people to live and work in the British Isles,” says Keir-Thomas.
Fragomen LLP is a global immigration law firm, with offices all over the world. The need for their UK services has seen a noticeable spike since the end of 2020, when we officially left the European Union. “Before Brexit, hiring talent was much more straightforward. Before the 1st of January 2021, EU nationals enjoyed the right of free movement. This meant studios could hire in exactly the same way as if they were a UK citizen.”
Those entering the UK (from the EU) for the first time will now find that they require a relevant visa to live or work. There are some positives for those already residing within the UK. “EU, EEA (European Economic Area), and Swiss citizens can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme until June 30th. The scheme is part of the transitional agreement and has been put in place to protect those EU nationals (and their family members) who were in the UK prior to 31st December 2020.”
The scheme allows those who have resided here for five years or more to apply for indefinite leave to remain. Those that have been here for less time can be awarded pre-settled status as a bridge to become settled at a later date. “It’s a really important scheme because it means the candidate in question doesn’t need to concern themselves with getting work permits or worrying about being able to stay within the UK. We’d implore games businesses with EU nationals already working for them who could qualify for this scheme to apply as soon as possible.”
Missing the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme has a number of fairly serious consequences for the person in question which will make staying within the UK difficult. “You may not be able to open a new bank account. You may find your bank account is closed. You won’t be able to rent new property as you won’t be able to prove your residency within the UK. You may also find it incredibly difficult to access any kind of health care,” adds Keir-Thomas.
For studios looking to hire new talent from the EU moving forward, they’ll soon learn that the costs involved have increased dramatically, with a complicated visa process replacing the old system. “The most appropriate option is going to be the Skilled Worker visa. This visa type requires the applicant to score a number of points based on a number of variables and personal circumstances.
“Be aware, the Skilled Worker visa carries serious cost implications. To put this into perspective, if you’re a large studio who is looking to hire a developer from Spain for five years, and they don’t have a spouse or a dependant, you’re looking at just north of £9000 in government fees. If the applicant has family that they want to bring across with them, visa fees will be chargeable for each of them. You’re looking at close to £17,000 for that family group.”
Listen to the full conversation with Laurence Keir-Thomas, learn more about the full implications of hiring post-Brexit, and hear what can be done about the new rules, in an upcoming episode of the Aardvark Swift Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, third party apps, and the aswift.com website.