At this stage, it is unclear what changes will come into force but there are two main options for the UK Government:
- The UK could give notice under Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. This is a formal process for a Member State to withdraw from the EU and would trigger a period of negotiations which could last up to 2 years. It appears this will not happen until at least October 2016.
- The UK could delay giving notice in order to enter informal negotiations with the EU before initiating the formal withdrawal process.
In either option the UK will remain in the EU until the withdrawal process has been completed and as a result EU nationals in the UK, or considering moving to the UK, will still be able to exercise rights of free movement. There has been suggestions that the UK Government could seek to impose temporary restrictions on this right but there are no concrete proposals.
EU nationals who have lived in the UK for 5 years may have acquired a right of permanent residence in the UK and can apply for confirmation of this, which is the first step towards becoming a British national.
Once the UK leaves the EU, the position will depend on the outcome of negotiations with the EU but possible options include:
- The UK could join the European Economic Area (EEA) and would likely have to agree to some form of free movement arrangements;
- The UK could enter into individual agreements with particular countries to allow for free movement of workers; or
- The UK could apply its normal immigration rules to EU nationals, this could involve several elements:
Individuals already in the UK could be forced to apply for alternative visas, or the UK Government could make alternative arrangements to allow those in work to remain in the UK.
Employers looking to bring in new workers from the EU would likely have to consider obtaining a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence and complying with the Resident Labour Market Test. There is a cap on the number of these visas available each year and this may need to be reviewed.
Individuals looking to come to the UK to study would need to qualify for Tier 4 visas and would likely no longer be eligible for Home Student fees so they would be treated in the same way as other international students.
At this stage there is a great deal of uncertainty about what changes will be made to immigration law in light of the Brexit vote. You can keep up to date by following @MFImmigration on twitter and our website.
If any individual or business has questions about the impact of the Brexit vote, or the process of applying for permanent residency, or British citizenship, please get in touch.
Stay up to date on all our Brexit news & views here.