05 December 2018
Get ahead of the immigration game and advise EU employees on securing ‘settled status’
The U.K. and EU member states have reached agreement in principle on withdrawal from the EU, which sets out a vision for close economic ties and includes a declaration on future relations.
From the perspective of affected citizens, the withdrawal agreement also commits to:
- Protecting the rights of more than three million EU citizens living in the UK and around one million UK nationals living in the EU.
- Ending free movement and introducing a new skills-based immigration system (although detail on the new system is awaited).
- Implementing visa-free travel for tourism and temporary business activity, to ensure businesses can continue to provide services and move their talented people.
The next (significant) hurdle for the Prime Minister will be getting the withdrawal agreement through Parliament and there is a high level of uncertainty as to whether that will be possible.
If this doesn’t happen, the prospect of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit will come sharply in to focus, with little time to properly prepare for that eventuality. However, focussing on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and the 1.5 million Britons in the EU - it seems highly likely that after March 2019 they will still remain protected if they apply for the proposed “settled status” as it generally accepted that it is not in anyone’s interests to force 3 million EU nationals to leave the UK en masse.
The current position is that the proposed settled status for EU nationals living in the UK is the only offer that the government has on the proverbial table.
The Home Office has already invested a lot of resources into preparing for its introduction, including the development of a mobile phone app for completion of the necessary application which automatically checks government databases (HMRC/DWP) to assess whether the applicant meets the necessary criteria. This is currently being piloted and is due to launch as soon as possible. It is currently envisaged that the application fee will be £65.
A timetable for wide scale roll out is still being finalised and EU citizens should ensure they keep on top of updates so that they can make their application as soon as possible.
So what exactly is settled status?
- The detailed rules for settled status are contained within Appendix EU of the Immigration Rules
- If the settled status application is successful, the applicant will be granted indefinite leave to remain. The main qualifying requirement is that EU citizens must have been continually resident in the UK for five years.
- No other qualifying requirements will apply (unlike Permanent Residence) although general “suitability” grounds will be assessed at application stage.
- For EU nationals who have spent less than five years in the UK, they should still apply, but will (if successful) only grant limited leave to remain until they reach five years.
What is still unclear are the more marginal but equally important elements of its implementation. For example, how long will the government give people to apply for settled status; who will have the right to apply for settled status (at the moment, the focus is very much on those who can prove their residence in their own right); will EU nationals arriving after March 2019 be allowed to remain for five years in the UK before applying for settled status? The position will become clearer as we approach 29 March 2019, but EU citizens should expect timeframes to be shortened if there is no deal.
Because of this lack of clarity, employers should be advising their EU employees to keep up to date with the progress of implementation of settled status. Ultimately, this is (currently) the only route that will secure the status of EU citizens in the UK post 29 March 2019 and if EU citizens do not take steps to secure their status, there may come a point that they’re regarded as illegal workers, attracting the significant penalties and sanctions that go with it.
This is obviously not good news for families or for the survival and growth of many businesses that rely on an international workforce and steps should be taken now in readiness to take action as soon as possible when the application is opened up to the many EU citizens in the UK.
Chris Brazier leads the Business Immigration practice at B P Collins and is a member of B P Collins’ Brexit team. He is regarded as an associate to watch by Chambers UK and regularly advises CIPD’s magazine, People Management on immigration issues.
If you or your employees have any immigration concerns, please contact Chris Brazier on 01753 279029 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Chris can visit your workplace for a seminar and hold 1 to 1 meetings for those with specific concerns.