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Brexit: Implications for Immigration

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit continues to be a source of concern for EU nationals and their family members.

EU nationals can still exercise their free movement rights to enter and reside in the UK until the UK formally leaves the EU. The current date of Brexit is set as 31 January 2020.

Applying under the EU Settlement Scheme?

In order to safeguard the rights of EU citizens after Brexit, the UK government has introduced the EU Settlement Scheme. This is an online registration system set up specifically for EU nationals resident in the UK prior to Brexit. The application can be completed on an Android or Apple phone followed by an online form and takes approximately 25-45 minutes. In many cases confirmation of immigration status is issued within a few weeks.

EU nationals and their family members who have been resident in the UK for at least five years at the point that they apply will be granted Settled Status. Those who have been resident for less than five years will be granted Pre-Settled Status, which grants the right to live and work in the UK for a period of five years and is convertible to Settled Status once they have been resident for five or more years.

What will happen if the UK leaves the EU with a deal?

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal then, under the terms of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, free movement would continue during an implementation period until 31 December 2020.

EU nationals and their family members who were already residing in the UK prior to Brexit, or who entered the UK prior to 31 December 2020, will be eligible to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme and they will have until 30 June 2021 to submit their applications.

What will happen if the UK leaves the EU without a deal?

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 January 2020 then freedom of movement in its current form would come to an end immediately.

EU nationals and their family members who were resident in the UK before Brexit will be eligible to remain in the UK and will need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. They will have until 31 December 2020 to submit their application.

EU Citizens who enter the UK between 31 January 2020 and 31 December 2020 will enter the UK as they do now, with either a valid passport or national identity card. If they wish to remain beyond 31 December 2020 then they will need to apply for a new status known as European Temporary Leave to Remain, which will be granted for a period of 36 months. EU citizens holding European Temporary Leave to Remain will be eligible to apply to switch into a route that leads to settlement under the new immigration system. Time spent under this category can be counted towards the qualifying period for settlement.

The Future Immigration System

The government has announced that a new Australian style points-based immigration system will be introduced from January 2021. The intention is that this will offer no preferential treatment to EU nationals and it will be aimed at attracting those whom it considers have the most to offer the UK. The UK government has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the Australian system and other international comparators to make recommendations for which system would best suit the UK. A response from the MAC is expected before the end of 2019.   

In the past, the MAC recommended widening Tier 2 of the points based system and bringing EU migration into this scheme. The MAC also recommended lowering the skill level to include more non-professional and non-managerial jobs, which would ensure that more roles are eligible for sponsorship. They also recommended that the Government maintain the minimum salary levels and the current Immigration Skills Charge. The only low skilled visas would be for seasonal agricultural workers.

The UK General Election

A General Election is due to take place in the UK on 12 December 2019. Each of the main political parties has a different view on Brexit. Depending on the outcome of the election, this could lead to the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 January 2020, to a further extension, or to the UK revoking Article 50 and remaining within the EU.

The outcome of the General Election is also likely to influence the future UK immigration system.

What should employers be doing?

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, there are some steps employers can take now in order to support and retain their existing EU workforce and to plan ahead for those who are due to commence work in the UK after Brexit.

  • Existing Employees: We would advise that all EU citizens and their qualifying family members resident in the UK on or before 31 January 2020 take steps to register under the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • New Hires: Where possible, we recommend bringing forward the UK start date of any new European hires or secondments so that they arrive in the UK before 31 January 2020. This will allow them to benefit from the EU settlement scheme.

How we can help?

We are able to offer:

  • Assistance with registration under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Workplace seminars to advise staff on how to register themselves
  • Drafting communications for employees

British citizens in another EU member state

British citizens who are living and working in another EU member state will also need to take steps to register their residence. The exact steps to be followed will depend on their country of residence and whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal.

It is a time of uncertainty and change within UK immigration and as we look towards Brexit and the UK’s future immigration system, the immigration team at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP will be pleased to work with you to adapt to these changes and plan for the future.