Are EU nationals living and working in the UK now safe?

We examine whether the UK government's recent ‘agreement’ with the EU means that European nationals living and working in the UK can now breathe a sigh of relief.

14 December 2017

On 7 December 2017, the government stated that an agreement had been reached with the EU on the rights and protection of EU nationals and their family members who are currently in the UK.

The key elements are as follows:

  • EU nationals who have lived in the UK continuously and lawfully for 5 years by 29 March 2019 will need to apply for “settled status”. Individuals with settled status will be free to live in the UK, have access to public funds and services and go on to apply for British citizenship.
  • EU nationals who arrive by 29 March 2019, but who haven’t lived in the UK for 5 years by that date, will need to apply to stay under a temporary residence permit until they have reached the 5-year threshold. They can then apply for settled status.
  • Family members who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK by 29 March 2019 will also be able to apply for settled status after 5 years in the UK.
  • There will be a transition period after Brexit, currently expected to last for 2 years. Any EU nationals arriving in the UK during this transition period will be able to live, work and study in the UK but will need to register with the Home Office.
  • The government has promised a streamlined, online application process for settled status and applications are expected to open in autumn 2018.

What should European nationals be doing?

EU nationals should consider whether they wish to apply for permanent residency under the existing arrangements or whether they will rely on the new system. While the new system might be less onerous, reasons to apply for permanent residency now include:

  • Certainty – there are no guarantees that the government's proposal, or something similar to it, will be implemented if there is 'no deal'.
  • Citizenship – obtaining British citizenship is the ultimate objective for some European nationals and, at present, permanent residency is a pre-requisite for making an application.

What should employers be doing in light of the recent announcement?

Employers should be explaining the government’s agreed position to their workforce in an easy to understand and practical way – this could include town hall presentations, briefing notes and FAQs – so that their EU workers understand their options.

EU nationals will want to consider whether they want to bank on a deal being done and the government’s ‘agreed’ position being honoured or whether they want to plan for the worst case scenario of ‘no deal’ and a possibly more onerous immigration system by applying for permanent residency and/or British citizenship now.

Huw Cooke is Head of Business Immigration in Burges Salmon's employment team.

Key contact

Huw Cooke

Huw Cooke Senior Associate

  • Employment
  • Business Immigration Services
  • Data Protection

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