During a joint conference on 19 March, the UK and the EU announced that they have now agreed, in principle, some key aspects relating to citizens' rights on the UK's withdrawal from the EU. The most pertinent point coming from this announcement was that the transition period will run from 29 March 2019 until 31 December 2020.
Now that we have a degree of clarity on citizens' rights and the transition period – and with only six months until the system to apply for residence documentation launches – employers should start planning their own Brexit transition.
What does the draft agreement say about EU workers?
- During the 21-month transition period, EU nationals will continue to have free movement. During this time, EU workers will be able to enter the UK and work, but they will be required to complete a registration process within three months of arriving in the UK.
- EU nationals who are living in the UK before 29 March 2019 will need to apply for residence documentation – either settled status or a temporary residence permit – within six months of the end of the transition period (ie by 30 June 2021). The system to apply for residence documentation is due to launch in September 2018.
- EU nationals with either a temporary residence permit or settled status will continue to have the same access to healthcare, pensions and other UK benefits as they currently enjoy.
- EU nationals who arrive in the UK before 29 March 2019, but who will not have accrued five years' lawful residence in the UK by the end of the transition period, will need to obtain a temporary residence permit by 30 June 2021, which can be ‘upgraded’ to settled status once they have accrued five years' residence.
- Those EU nationals who arrive in the UK during the transition period will need to complete a registration process (as is common in other EU countries) and obtain a temporary residence permit. Once they have accrued five years' residence they too can ‘upgrade’ their status to settled status.
- Family members who live with, or join, EU nationals in the UK by the end of the transition period will also be on a pathway to settled status after five years’ residence. Family members who join an EU national in the UK after the end of the transition period will be able to stay in the UK if their relationship with that EU national exists on the date the transition period ends, ie 31 December 2020. However, this is restricted to close family members only – spouses, civil partners, dependent children and grandchildren, and dependent parents and grandparents.
- It is anticipated that evidence of residence status for EU nationals will be in digital form.
- Should there be any technical issues with the application system (either in the UK or elsewhere in the EU), the deadline to apply for residence documentation can be extended by up to 12 months.
While this announcement is welcome news for many, employers are likely to be eagerly awaiting detailed information on the application process for residence documentation and further clarity on post-Brexit immigration policy. Though the key aspects above have largely been agreed by the UK and the EU in the draft withdrawal agreement, nothing is certain until this has been ratified. Watch this space…
Helena Rozman is a senior associate at Dentons