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Immigration

The UK’s exit from the EU will not only impact on a business’ ability to recruit EU staff but will also restrict the ability of EU nationals to freely enter the UK to live and work as well as restricting UK nationals from living and working in the EU. Should any “deal” reached between the EU and the UK be approved by Parliament, this will include a proposed two year “implementation period” lasting until at least 31st December 2020. During this period there will still be freedom of movement of EU workers to the UK and UK workers to the EU. However, in the event of a “no-deal”, this transition period would not take place and freedom of movement would come to an end on 29th March 2019. Should that be the case it has been suggested the new immigration system would have to be “tapered in” as it would not be ready by 29th March 2019. The short term priority would then be how to deal with the everyday movement of people to the UK, including in relation to work visas and border controls, with the longer term issue being how EU workers will be treated and what visas they will need to be in a position to work in the UK.

For organisations wishing to take on EU migrants, the Government’s recently published Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) Report offers a potential glimpse into the UK’s future immigration system. Whilst no firm agreement has been reached, the current recommendation is for EU citizens to be subject to the same immigration controls as those wishing to come to the UK from outside the EU (i.e. no special treatment for EU citizens). For businesses that are heavily reliant on EU migrants and who are not already a licensed sponsor under the points-based system and registered with the UK Visas & Immigration, this could pose a risk to your businesses’ ability to operate.

One area of the government’s prospective post-Brexit immigration policy that is a bit clearer is the treatment of EU migrants who are already living and working in the UK. The Home Secretary has set out plans for a process, the EU Exit Settlement Scheme, which generally speaking means that EU migrant workers living in the UK by the end of 2020 can apply to live and work in the UK indefinitely once they have been resident in the UK for five years. If the EU migrant has already lived in the UK for five years they can apply for settled status as soon as the process is made available. Whilst this scheme will open fully by 30th March 2019, some EU migrants may be eligible to take part in the current pilot. Businesses with EU migrant workers should ensure any EU employees have full information to take advantage of this process and safeguard their immigration status.

For more information please contact Lynne Adams.

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