Newsflash: Post-Brexit – status of EU workers working in the UK

brexit-250Do you employ EU nationals in the UK? If so, you might be getting queries from employees anxious as to their status following the recent UK decision to leave the EU.

In association with our partner in business immigration law, leading immigration expert Natasha Gya Williams, here are some key pieces of advice:

  1. Nothing has changed now as regards freedom of movement for EU worker, but with the possible changes ahead to the free movement rights, you can start preparing now.
  2. Review your current work force, and identify those relying on EU free movement rights. These could be EU nationals, but some might be less easy to spot for example family members from outside the EU who are in a relationship with an EU national.
  3. Encourage staff who rely on EU free movement rights, to obtain formal documentation from the Home Office regarding their residence rights in the UK. This could be an application for permanent residence, registration certificate or residence card, depending on how long they have exercised free movement rights in the UK.
  4. Take copies of passports and other ID documents before the staff member submits an application to the Home Office. This is because the Home Office application process could take over 6 months, and depending on what changes are introduced to EU nationals working in the UK, proof of their identity may be needed before their documents are returned.
  5. Once a staff member has submitted an application to the Home Office, contact the Employers Checking Service, to confirm their application is pending. Go to: https://www.gov.uk/employee-immigration-employment-status
  6. If the EU staff member is critical to the business, you will need to follow the developments on free movement carefully as this will be one of the major aspects of the Brexit negotiations.

If free movement rights change, it is likely that priority will be given to skilled workers who have resided in the UK for over 5 years, but no one really knows how the government will decide who can stay and who must go. This is why it is important that relevant staff apply for formal documentation now rather than waiting until the end of a possible 2 year exit period once the government officially requests to leave the EU. By then it may be too late, if the government chose to prioritise those who had formal documentation on the date Article 50 was triggered.

At present there is no certainty as to how, if at all, free movement rights will be affected by the UK’s exit from the EU but it is best to be as prepared as possible.