- Until Brexit EEA citizens will continue to evidence their right to work by providing their passport or national identity card. This will not change.
- With the exception of Irish citizens almost all citizens of European Economic Area countries must apply for ‘settled status’ following the UK’s departure from the European Union. Obtaining settled status will demonstrate their right to live and work in the UK from 2021 onwards.
- British and Irish citizens can continue to live and work in the UK and Ireland, and vice versa.
- In the meantime EU citizens can apply for settled status. The on-line settlement scheme fully opened on 30th March 2019. In the first weekend of its launch more than 50,000 applications were received. So far there have been no refusals under the settlement scheme. Employers cannot force employees to apply for settled status – it must be voluntary. Please note that no document is issued to say that a person has settled status making if difficult for employers to monitor.
- The aim of the settlement scheme is that those already here prior to Brexit can remain and that the process of applying for settled status is easy and free. The application process for settled status is often straight forward and can be done on-line or using an app. The app takes approximately 10 minutes. The main benefit of the app (as opposed to an on-line application) is that passports / documents will not have not have to be posted. Please note that currently the app can only be used on android devices. Further information is here: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/eligibility. Applicants simply need to prove their:
- Identity – scan a passport / national identity card & upload a facial photograph
- Demonstrate their residence in the UK – provide a National insurance number if available. Alternatively other documentation may be provided.
- Declare any criminal convictions – complete the criminality check by declaring and criminal convictions
- Typically takes 5-10 working days to get a response (can be as quick as 24 hours).
- To obtain settled status EU citizens and their family members will generally need simply to have lived continuously in the UK for five years. Those with less than five years’ residence will be granted pre-settled status until they accumulate their five years.
- What can employers do (please note there is no legal obligation to help):
- Assist in making application for settled status
Encourage employees to apply and assist them with getting settled status e.g. train someone (e.g. who speaks in the mother tongue of your employees) in the application process so they can provide help to employees in completing their application using the app or on line; consider should the business provide an android device to ease applications for settled status using the app; note that employees tend to trust their employer more than a government body. It is probably in your interests to show that you care and provide assistance, where necessary.
- Communicate information about settled status
Many EEA employees in the UK are sceptical and have misconceptions about the application process. Create an immigration champion to watch out for legal changes and help employees. Download the right to remain toolkit from Gov.uk: https://righttoremain.org.uk/toolkit/. and cascade to EU employees through appropriate channels. This can be customised to help inform your workforce. Are misapprehensions about Brexit widespread? Communicate information about Brexit to staff and be positive in terms of your desire to retain EEA Workers. For example you might consider publishing FAQs.
- Continue with your usual Right To Work checks
You cannot discriminate against someone who does not have settled status.
- Identify your risks:
- How much will your business suffer if you cannot retain non-UK or Irish workers?
- Are EEA Workers already identified in HR record-keeping? If not identify them from right to work checks.
- Are current EEA staff leaving? If so, assess the reasons and address any issues from the feedback.
- Are fewer candidates from the EU applying for roles since the Brexit referendum?
- Do you rely on contractors who rely on EEA workers? If so, are they identifying their risks as above?
- Are any areas of the business particularly vulnerable? If so, can workers be persuaded to stay or to return; what are the alternatives to EU workers? (e.g. different ways of working, different sources of talent).
- Do you have frontier (cross-border) workers i.e. those who work in one state but live in another state? How many days do they spend in the North, South and EU? Is it business critical? Different rules will be applied to ‘frontier workers’ who work and live on different sides of border – take legal advice if you have employees who regularly work outside NI/UK and map out employees who travel outside jurisdiction to assess potential problems.
- There is no current requirement to check for settled status but you can check someone’s right to work if they have settled status if they give you their share code https://www.gov.uk/view- right-to-work.
- If no deal is reached for the UK to leave the EU, Settled Status applications would still be necessary but the rights of those arriving post-Brexit would differ.
- A new immigration system will come into effect from 1st January 2021. EEA citizens arriving in the UK can visit for 3 months visa free. Those who wish to stay longer will need to make an application for European Temporary Leave to Remain.
- Under the new immigration system post Brexit employers who wish to engage EEA workers will need to obtain a Sponsorship The salary threshold of £30,000 will cause recruitment problems in NI. The average salary in NI is £22k – £24k not like in London where it is £30k. There is currently discussions in government about this.
- Note that immigration law in the UK is regulated. If you are not a qualified lawyer or registered immigration adviser you could be prosecuted for giving advice.