Brexit employment update: the UK Government’s offer for EU citizens in the UK

The UK Government published its offer for EU Citizens living in the UK and their ability to stay in the UK long term

The UK Government this month published its offer for EU Citizens living in the UK. You may want to be familiar with the terms of this offer as it will impact a number of EU national employees and their ability to stay in the UK in the longer term if the terms are agreed.

The terms have not yet been agreed with the rest of the EU but the offer gives an indication of what the UK Government would like to see as part of the Brexit negotiations. The rights of EU nationals to remain living and working in the UK are a fundamental part of the Brexit negotiations and millions of EU nationals in the UK have been keenly awaiting the detail of what is proposed.

What does the offer for EU Citizens in the UK say?

The Government has proposed the following:

  • EU citizens who have been continuously living in the UK for five years as at the date that the UK leaves the EU will be able to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’ and will be able to apply for British citizenship. They will be free to live in the UK and have access to public funds and services;
  • People who arrived before the cut-off date, but won’t have been in the UK for five years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the five year threshold. After this point they can then apply for settled status;
  • People who arrive after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under future immigration arrangements for EU citizens which have yet to be confirmed. Therefore the position of EU citizens who were not in the UK before any cut off date will be uncertain in terms of whether they will be able to stay in the UK in the long term; and
  • Family dependants who are living with or join EU citizens in the UK prior to Brexit will also be able to apply for settled status after five years in the UK; the cut off date will not apply here.

What is the cut-off date?

The cut-off date for EU Citizens under the current system has been a central concern for employers and EU Citizens alike. The most recent proposal by the UK Government is that the date will not be earlier than 29 March 2017 or later than the date that the UK leaves the EU. There is therefore still substantial uncertainty regarding the date. Whether or not the EU agrees to this date or these arrangements remains to be seen.

The intention of the UK Government is that access to healthcare, education, benefits and pensions for EU citizens with settled status and temporary permission to stay, will remain broadly the same.

What is the process for applying?

The Government is planning to launch a scheme whereby people can apply for settled status, at an early stage, before the UK leaves the EU. The application will be made to the Home Office. David Davis recently gave reassurances to EU Citizens living in the UK that their rights and status would be enshrined in UK law by the withdrawal agreement - adding that it would be a new low cost, administration process. He also said that any EU citizen in possession of a permanent residence card would not have to go through the full application process again as there will be a straightforward process for them to obtain settled status. There is therefore a benefit for EU nationals to obtain a permanent residence card if they can.

What does it mean for me?

EU nationals should be encouraged to apply for permanent residence cards if they qualify. Otherwise, watch this space as we do not yet know whether these proposals will be agreed.

The most up to date details of the offer can be found on the Government's website.

Elaine McIlroy (elaine.mcilroy@weightmans.com) is a Partner and Erin McLafferty (erin.mclafferty@weightmans.com) is a member of the Employment Pensions and Immigration team based in Glasgow.

If you have any questions about the Government’s proposals or any other aspect of workforce planning in the context of Brexit, please do not hesitate to contact Elaine for expert employment and immigration law advice. Alternatively, please get in touch with your usual Weightmans advisor.

Tier 2 or 5 sponsor licence? Our Immigration specialists can carry out mock compliance visits for a fixed price, helping you to prepare for a UKVI visit. Request more information

Share on Twitter