Brexit Immigration Update: EU citizens in the UK.

By Oliver Morgan, Solicitor in our Corporate & Commercial team

Last month, a joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the UK government was published, describing progress made during phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations. While significant progress has been made on EU citizens’ rights, the parties stressed that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. The headline points for UK employers are:

EU nationals resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay (this is also expected to be extended to EEA nationals (i.e. nationals of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland));
All EU nationals will need to apply for settled status or a temporary residence permit. Applications for these documents will open prior to 29 March 2019 and be open for at least two years thereafter. An individual who reaches the five years’ residence requirement to apply for settled status at a point during the transition period is able to apply then; the five years’ residence does not need to be attained prior to 29 March 2019;
EU nationals who currently hold a permanent residence card will still have to apply for settled status;
There will be a two-year transition period following Brexit during which EU nationals can continue to come to the UK to live, work and study. After 29 March 2021, EU nationals will be subject to immigration controls which have not yet been decided;
EU nationals in the UK by 29 March 2019 will still be able to bring family members to the UK. This will also apply to non-EEA spouses, so long as the couple were married before 29 March 2019. There have not yet been any details released of how a future spouse will be treated, i.e. where an EU national living in the UK marries a non-EU national after 29 March 2019; and
EU nationals with settled status can be absent from the UK for up to five years without losing it (currently it’s only two years).
While EU nationals you employ before 29 March 2019 can continue working with you, there are still many unknowns, including the immigration system that will be in place for EU nationals after 29 March 2021. You should plan for any staff and skills gaps that you are likely to experience after this date, should you not be able to easily employ EU nationals. With no indication yet of what requirements EU nationals will be subject to post Brexit, and what entitlements they will have, there is a risk that EU nationals could be reluctant to take employment in the UK.

If you have any queries regarding the joint report or the above, please contact us.

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