This report covers the U.K. government’s latest plans to accommodate EU nationals coming to (or already in) the U.K. to live and work, in light of the U.K.’s planned exit from the European Union.
On 21 June 2018, the U.K. government published its Statement of Intent,1 which provides much anticipated details on the application process EU nationals and their family members will need to follow to continue living in the U.K. permanently following Brexit.
The Statement of Intent confirms the agreements on citizens’ rights laid down in the Draft Withdrawal Agreement2 and the mechanism by which EU nationals who are already resident, or arrive in the U.K. prior to 31 December 2020, can apply to obtain an immigration status document. The U.K. and EU previously guaranteed a number of rights for EU citizens within the Draft Withdrawal Agreement, which means that EU nationals who arrive in the U.K. before 31 December 2020 will continue to benefit from the same rights of residence, work, and access to health-care and benefits under the new scheme.
The U.K. government has confirmed in detail its plans to create a new EU Settlement Scheme for EU nationals and their family members. This means it will become mandatory for EU nationals living in the U.K. (excluding nationals from the Republic of Ireland) to make an application to obtain an immigration status document as evidence of their future rights to live and work in the U.K. post Brexit. The new digital application system will open as part of a phased roll out from late 2018 and should be fully operational by 30 March 2019 (the date the U.K. leaves the EU). European Union nationals will have a flexible period to apply for their document, but they must have submitted their application by 30 June 2021. Global mobility managers, international HR professionals, and immigration counsel should take note and be prepared for the extra administration and altered procedures this will entail.
Furthermore, with the launch of the new scheme, employers may want to consider how they plan to communicate this to their UK-EU cross-border workforce and think about what assistance and support they could offer them regarding the upcoming changes and the requirement to make an application.
Finally, employers will need to start preparing for additional right to work checks in 2021.
Applicants will not need to provide evidence of their activities in the U.K. or demonstrate that they hold comprehensive private medical insurance, which is required of some EU nationals under the current rules.
The government announcement provides greater certainty on what EU nationals and their family members should expect during the lead-up to Brexit and during the period until 31 December 2020. Whilst all EU nationals will need to obtain a form of status document as evidence of their future right to live and work in the U.K., the exemption from having to submit original documents to the Home Office for some applicants and provide evidence of economic activity in the U.K., i.e., employment, study, self-sufficiency etc., should help to reduce the administrative burden on EU nationals, organisations, and employers. However, we do not yet know exactly who will be able to use the simplified system and who will need to provide more complex evidence. At the moment, it seems likely that only people whose records for the five years can be verified with HMRC will completely avoid having to submit supporting documents.
It is also unclear what the position will be for people who qualify for pre-settlement status but subsequently do not spend sufficient time in the U.K. to qualify for settled status within five years. The Draft Withdrawal Agreement suggested people who exercised EU Treaty rights before Brexit would have a life-long right to continue to enjoy free movement. The Statement of Intent is silent on how this will work after pre-settled status permits applied for before 30 June 2021 expire.
Employers should plan ahead given the timeframe and start preparing their EU employees for Brexit and beyond. There will be a flexible period for EU nationals to obtain their documents, but employers will have a stake in establishing the right to work of those EU nationals in the future and may want to consider how best to start preparing their EU workforce and HR / recruitment functions for this change.
In the meantime, if employees wish to apply for U.K. citizenship or want peace of mind now, the current EU system for applying for permanent residence is still open and in many situations it is recommended that applications be submitted sooner rather than later.
1 See the EU Settlement Scheme: statement of intent (21 June 2018).
2 See the “Joint Report from the Negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government” (PDF 475 KB) (8 December 2017).
The KPMG Legal Services – Immigration Team has a wealth of experience in transactional, advisory, and compliance assurance services. We will be able to advise your business in relation to practical considerations in light of the above changes, as well as what this means for your long-term recruitment and compliance strategies.
* Please note the KPMG International member firm in the United States does not provide immigration or labour law services. However, KPMG Law LLP in Canada can assist clients with U.S. immigration matters.
The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in the United Kingdom.
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