Approximately 3.5 million European Economic Area (EEA) nationals live and work in the UK, and the government has set out its plan for transitioning these nationals into UK domestic immigration law post-withdrawal in March 2019. Multiple white papers have been published by the Home Office detailing ‘The United Kingdom’s Exit from the European Union,’ with one published in June 2017, a further joint UK/EU report published on 8 December 2017, and a statement of intent issued on 21 June 2018.
However, although the UK and EU have agreed in principle the arrangements for EU nationals already in the UK, the UK must agree the arrangements with the member states of the EEA, including Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, as well as with Switzerland.
EU nationals’ rights
Under the proposed arrangements, EU nationals who legally enter the UK prior to 29 March 2019 will be permitted to remain but must make an application to evidence their right to live and work in the UK. Those who have been resident in the UK for five years will be allowed to stay indefinitely by applying for settled status. EU nationals who arrive before 29 March 2019 but have not been in the UK for five years will be required to apply for pre-settled status until they have reached five years, after which they can apply for settled status.
The application fee will be £65 for adults and £32.50 for children. The application process will be launched on a phased basis and is intended to be fully operational by March 2019. There will be a grace period until 30 June 2021 for EU nationals to apply for either status.
Applicants will need to provide information confirming their identity (e.g. details from their passport), eligibility (e.g. details of their stay in the UK and their national insurance number) and suitability (e.g. details of any previous criminal convictions). It is intended that the application will be submitted online or via an app and the approval will be electronic (meaning applicants will not have to surrender their original passports).
EU nationals who already hold a certificate evidencing permanent residence (issued under the current EU regulations on the basis they have already resided in the UK for five years) will have to submit an application for settled status but they will complete a simplified application process and will not pay an application fee.
EU nationals who arrive in the UK during the transition period between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020 will also be able to live and work in the UK but will be required to register within three months of arrival. Details of the registration scheme are yet to be announced. Thereafter they can apply for pre-settled status.
EU nationals who arrive after the end of the transition period in 2021 will not automatically be eligible to apply for settled status, and their future will depend on the immigration arrangements to be announced. A report from on Migration Advisory Committee on the future arrangements is due to be published later this month.
Pointers for employers
Employers should identify EEA nationals working in the UK, UK nationals working elsewhere in the EU and check when employees first arrived in the UK or abroad. They should also review long-term recruitment and succession planning, proposed secondment and rotations and decide how to support applications and how much they are able to invest in the application process. If they have already completed five years’ residence in the UK, employees may consider applying for permanent residence under the current EU regulations.
Employers should then plan employee communications, provide information to employees on the proposed changes, communicate key application deadlines and advise on what needs to be done and when.
Nick Hobson is a partner at Morgan Lewis