16 April 2018
Brexit - reassure and secure your EU national employees
Approaching two years since the Brexit referendum, Chris Brazier, business immigration lawyer, comments on whether the UK government has changed its approach to immigration and whether EU nationals should still apply for permanent residence?
The short answer is that they should.
Since the referendum, there have been a number of high profile discussions between the European Commission and the UK government about Brexit and the status of EU nationals in the UK.
The latest announcement states that EU citizens must apply for what the Home Office refers to as ‘settled status’ if they wish to remain in the UK. They say that this includes people who have already applied for and obtained a “permanent residence document”. Anyone who fails to do so by 29 March 2019 will be committing a criminal offence if they continue to stay in the UK. Whilst the process itself is far from “settled” the message continues to be that EU nationals should wait before doing anything.
However, the situation continues to be subject to the respective parties reaching agreement on so many other issues. Moreover, timelines and guidance around the process to apply for settled status has not been provided and EU nationals continue to be in limbo about their future. The ever decreasing number of EU nationals entering (and increasing numbers who are leaving) the UK emphasises the effect this uncertainty is having.
Therefore, as we rapidly approach the March 2019 deadline, and before any further details on how to apply for settled status comes to light, applying for permanent residence continues to be a sensible option for EU nationals to take a positive step to secure their status.
Aside from this still being the only route available, government guidance indicates that if an EU national has a document certifying permanent residence, they will automatically be able to ‘swap' this for settled status, removing much of the uncertainty from the as-yet unidentified process. With this in mind, my advice remains that eligible EU nationals who want to remain in the UK should take steps to protect themselves and their families now by applying for permanent residence.
Advice for employers
As the uncertainty continues, it is worthwhile for employers to carry out an audit on the immigration status of their workforce to identify who could be caught by any new immigration controls. Having a plan in place to assist and hopefully protect those employees, will help to show that they are valued and will assist in maintaining a robust and settled workforce which will continue to contribute to the growth and productivity of your business.
As touched on above, this is even more important considering that the number of EU nationals leaving the UK has risen from 95,000 to 130,000 in the three months to February 2018. To put this into context, this figure hadn’t risen above 100,000 since 2010. If companies that rely heavily on EU workers do not have a contingency plan in place to help EU workers remain in the UK, there is a very real possibility that there will be fewer people to do their jobs - in the short term at least. This is particularly true when EU migration to Britain is down to its lowest level at 220,000, which is not surprising considering that EU workers have no certainty about their future.
Whether it's a feeling that EU citizens aren't wanted in the UK or uncertainty about their future, there has been a noticeable shift from EU nationals coming to or staying in the UK. Employers could mitigate the risk this poses to them by engaging and informing their EU national employees about their rights.
If you’re a company or individual affected by the issues raised in this article, B P Collins can help. Please contact Chris Brazier on 01753 279029 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.