Contractors get tips on working abroad amid no freedom of movement

Guidance on contracting in the EU under the UK’s Brexit deal – so without freedom of movement -- appears to be quickening in pace.

In fact, law firms, umbrella companies and overseas work advisories have all issued new resources in recent days on contracting abroad.

The updates coincide with Portugal being given the all-clear from the UK government to be removed from the coronavirus ‘red list’ of banned countries.

Scheduled for this Friday, the removal of the contracting hotspot from the list of destinations requiring a covid hotel for UK returnees comes ahead of a report next month to Boris Johnson.

The report will set out to the prime minister precisely how and when overseas trip should resume, alongside a recommendation of whether the UK’s earliest possible date to travel abroad for leisure purposes, May 17th, should be kept in place.

'Work permits for all'

But it is Brexit and not covid which is inspiring contractor advisories to issue their own recommendations.

“As far as people wanting to work in the UK, or Brits who want to work in Europe, post the end of the transition period [December 31st 2021], they are all going to need a work permit,” advised Access Financial, in a new webinar.

“There is no exception to this unless they were previously living and working in the EU, or EU nationals working in the UK, and who were registered at the time.

“[However] there is a grace period up to June 30th within which time those who were in the UK, or in Europe at the date, will be able to register, or will be able to live and work as they did prior to the transition period.”

'Multitude of regulations'

In a similar advisory but addressing recruiters and clients as opposed to candidates, Liberty Bishop International said the pandemic had led to more overseas working on a remote basis.

“If [agents or end-users] have sourced an overseas candidate to come and work in the UK, UK law would apply as the candidate would be physically completing work within the UK,” the umbrella told ContractorUK.

“However, if the overseas candidate is now permitted by the client to work remotely and stay within their home country, the local laws of their working location would now be applicable.

“This brings into effect a multitude of regulations that can affect the entire supply chain, with associated risks to all parties concerned if handled incorrectly.”

'Significant impact on UK tech industry'

In a nod to the many complexities in play, Brabners has drawn up a 20-point checklist to help the UK technology sector “navigate” new rules that have put an end to freedom of movement.

Obtained by ContractorUK, the law firm’s Brexit ‘tech-list’ states: “From 1 January 2021, EU nationals -- aside from nationals of the Republic of Ireland -- are now subject to the UK’s visa regime in the same way as non-EU nationals have been historically.

“There is no doubt that this will have a significant impact on the UK’s technology sector, not least because approximately 8% of those currently working in the sector are EU nationals.”

Pointing to the potential need for organisations to hire contractors, boxes in the checklist include: “Have you considered how the new visa requirements impact on your recruitment model or talent pipeline?”

The contractor-friendly checklist continues: “Do you need to upskill your existing workforce or find alternative routes for filling vacancies from within the UK labour force?”

'Interesting case'

But in his firm’s webinar, Access Financial’s Kevin Austin said it was a contractor eyeing Belgium who had to find an alternative route.

“We had one interesting case of a contractor who finished in Germany just before the end of the year, and contacted us at the end of 2021 to say, ‘I’ve now decided I’m going to go to Belgium to work.’

“And he said, ‘I’m going to do this because I can under my Schengen visa.’ Unfortunately, we had to point out that this wasn’t possible, because the Schengen visa is not a work visa," Mr Austin said.

"It entitles people to travel for tourism purposes and for a business meeting. But [despite its name] you cannot take remunerative work or live in the Schengen area with a Schengen visa.”

Potentially explaining the assortment of recent UK-EU work resources, Mr Austin added that he had received enquiries from “a number of people” not grasping Schengen’s particulars, nor the particulars of contracting overseas without freedom of movement.

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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