Since the Brexit referendum, there has been uncertainty amongst employers about the status of their EU workers.
The Prime Minister has now unveiled a “fair and serious offer” concerning EU citizens living and working in the UK.
In the government paper, it was revealed that until we officially leave the EU, the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK will not change. Upon our exit, all EU citizens will be required to apply to the Home Office to obtain a residence document. This document will prove to employers that they have permission to live and work legally in the UK.
EU citizens who have lived continuously in the UK for five years by a “cut off date” will be able to acquire a “settled status”. This means that they will be able to live permanently in the UK and work or study freely.
The cut off date has not been confirmed. It will be no earlier than 29th March 2017 (the date article 50 was triggered) or later than 29th March 2019 (the day we are scheduled to leave the EU). It will need to be agreed as part of the negotiation with the EU.
It is worth noting that “settled status” is not the same as citizenship. Those EU citizens with settled status and six years residence will be able to apply for citizenship.
EU citizens who arrived and became resident before the cut off date but have not lived here for five continuous years at the time of the UK’s exit can apply for temporary status to remain resident in the UK until they have clocked up five years. Then they are free to apply for settled status.
Those EU citizens who arrived after the cut off date will be permitted to remain in the UK for “at least a temporary period and may become eligible to settle permanently, depending on their circumstances”. The government also added that this group “should have no expectation of guaranteed settled status”.
Those who come to the UK after Brexit will be subject to the new immigration rules, which have not been published yet.
EU citizens with professional qualifications acquired in an EU country before we withdraw from the EU will continue to have their qualification recognised in the UK. This means that, for example, Spanish engineers will have their qualifications recognised and be able to work in the UK.
Trying to assuage employers’ concerns about the administrative burden, the government has stressed that the application process will be “as streamlined and user-friendly as possible” and fees will be “reasonable”.
EU citizens do not need to apply now for their new British settled status before our withdrawal from the EU. However, the government is planning to introduce a scheme whereby those eligible citizens can apply for their residence document before our exit. Details will be announced “in due course”.
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