With the prospect of a General Election in the near future, this has led to a lot of clients asking me what it means for immigration. While the law could change following any election, the position, for the time being, is as follows:
EU nationals already living in the UK
The position for EU nationals, and their family members, already living in the UK is unchanged. People who have lived in the UK for the last five years can apply for Settled Status, and those with less than five years residence can apply for Pre-Settled Status.
The deadline for these applications to be made is unchanged by the recent extension, and while it could be changed in the future, our recommendation is that clients apply as soon as possible and certainly before:
- 30 December 2020 if there is a no deal Brexit;
- 30 June 2021 if there is a deal.
People entering the UK between 30 October 2019 and Brexit day
Any EU national, and their family members, entering the UK between 31 October 2019 and Brexit day will also qualify for Pre-Settled Status, and will eventually become eligible for Settled Status after they have lived in the UK for five years.
For businesses, this means that they can continue to recruit EU nationals in the knowledge that they will be able to remain long term.
People entering the UK after Brexit day but before 30 December 2020
The position for EU nationals, and their family members, entering the UK after the UK leaves the EU but before 30 December 2020 will be dictated by whether or not there is a deal.
In the event that the UK leaves the EU with a deal, this period of time will be used as an implementation period and the current rules will continue to operate. This means that any EU national who enters the UK during this period will be eligible for Pre-Settled Status and can eventually obtain a right to live in the UK permanently.
In the event that there is no deal, EU nationals will still be able to enter the UK using their passport and begin work but should apply for Temporary Leave to Remain if they intend to stay for more than three months. Employers have been told they will only need to check EU national's passports for Right to Work Checks during this time, but they need to be aware new entrants will only be allowed to stay for a maximum of three years before qualifying for a different visa.
In the no deal scenario, recruitment could become harder as there will be no guarantee about an individual's right to live in the UK for more than three years.
Post December 2020
The UK is still considering what a future immigration system will look like, although recent suggestions of Points Based System offer some encouragement for employers.
What should employers do now?
It would be easy for businesses to choose to wait and see what happens over the coming months before taking action, but in my view that would be a mistake. Since the deadlines for existing employees to register are unlikely to change, employers should be using this time to focus on procedures to encourage and monitor registration, in order to protect against any employees becoming illegal workers. Businesses also may wish to consider if they should accelerate recruitment of EU nationals to protect against the potential for a no deal Brexit.
If you would like to discuss how to prepare your workforce for Brexit, please get in touch.