The new immigration system

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. A transition period applies until 31 December 2020, during which time there are no practical changes to immigration between the UK and Europe. The transition period therefore gives employers more time to prepare for the impact of Brexit.

To be able to make informed workforce planning decisions, it is important that businesses understand how Brexit will affect EEA nationals residing in the UK, and what those individuals are required to do to protect their right to stay.

What do we know

  • From 1 January 2021, the free movement that we have become used to will become a thing of the past for UK nationals and Europeans in the UK
  • European Econmic Area (EEA) nationals have been able to come to the UK for up to three months without conditions. After this time, they have the right to remain as a worker, job-seeker, student, self-employed person or self-sufficient person, without requiring a further application for permission. This is known as “exercising a Treaty right”.
  • EEA Nationals already in the UK and are exercising a Treaty right at the end of the transition period (31 December 2020) will need to apply for a status under the EU settlement scheme. The deadline for applying for the settled or pre-settled status is 30 June 2021
  • EEA nationals already in the UK who are not exercising a Treaty right by 31 December 2020 will need to apply under the Immigration regime in the UK.
  • UK nationals seeking to move to or within Europe after 31 December 2020 will need to apply under the immigration regime in the destination country.
  • After the end of the transition period, EEA business travellers to the UK and UK national business travellers to Europe will be treated as third country nationals, much like Americans or Canadians. A visa should not be required, but individuals will need to make sure that they do not stay longer than the rules in place allow and that their activities are permitted in their destination country.
  • FA new UK’s point-based immigration system is likely to be launched in January 2021 and a phased approach to the delivery of the new system is likely to be a phased approach.

UK nationals working in the EEA

The agreement between the UK and the EU also applies to UK nationals living in the EU on 31 December 2020. It is expected that they will be able to attain a right equivalent to settled status in the country in which they reside. The EEA countries have not released details of the equivalent schemes under which UK nationals will be required to register, to evidence that they were exercising a Treaty right before the end of the transition period. Employers should aim to make UK nationals exercising a Treaty right in the EEA aware of the relevant requirements as they become available.

What should you consider

Prepare, prepare and prepare! Do you hold reliable data on  your employees for example, which of your employees are EEA nationals in the UK or British nationals in the EEA – including:

  • Nationality (including dual nationality)
  • Location
  • Lob role
  • Start date with the Company in the UK and other EEA country
  • Contact details
  • length of residence in the UK or EEA country

Hold a “bring your passport to work day”. This could help you collect complete and accurate data

  • Communicate to all employees, provide reassurance to those who may be feeling unsettled
  • Help employees with their application for immigration status
  • Review all internal policies – in particular your right to work policies
  • Workforce planning – there could be potential future skills gaps caused by talent from EEA needing immigration permission. What is your contingency plan?

For further information on what you should be considering for your business or to discuss a Brexit workforce audit, please get in touch.

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